Even with the best of intentions, you might find it difficult to know how to proceed when you find a lost or stolen iPhone. Thankfully, there are a few simple steps you can take to help return the device to its rightful owner.
There’s no exception when it comes to other people’s property, so holding onto something that isn’t yours could be theft. Plus, all modern iPhone models are useless thanks to the Activation Lock feature. So here’s what to do if you’ve found a lost iPhone.
1. Is the Lost iPhone Charged?
What to do: Purchase or borrow a charger and keep the device switched on and charging.
Modern smartphone batteries don’t last for long, so in most cases, a lost device has a day (at best) before it runs out of battery. If there’s no charge, try Pressing down the power button (a single button on the right-hand side) to see what happens.
If the iPhone is off, you’ll first need to charge it. If you are not an iPhone user, you’ll either need to borrow or purchase a new Lightning cable.
2. Does It Have a Passcode Lock?
What to do: Check for a passcode, but don’t try to brute-force it. Check the call log and registered Apple ID for contact details if you can access them.
Once the iPhone boots up, a lock screen will appear. Pressing the Home button or swiping up at the bottom of the screen—depending on which iPhone model you’ve found—will probably ask you for a passcode, Touch ID, or Face ID.
But there’s a slight chance the phone will unlock. This may happen if the owner didn’t set a passcode, which is recommended for all iPhone owners.
If by chance the iPhone does unlock, there are two options to get more information. The first is to go to Settings > iTunes & App Store to see what the owner’s registered Apple ID email address is. You can then send an email to the owner, letting them know that you found their iPhone.
The second is to go to Phone > Recent and check the call log. You should be able to determine an appropriate contact to call so you can let them them that you’ve found this iPhone. You should also be able to find the owner’s name listed at the top of the Contacts list in the Phone app.
3. Look to Medical ID for More Information
What to do: Access the Medical ID feature, even with a locked iPhone.
If you’re still searching for the owner of a lost iPhone, give the Medical ID feature a try. While its core use is to provide important medical information to first responders in case of an emergency, it can also give you additional hints about the identity of the owner.
To reveal the Medical ID function, access the lock screen on any iPhone and then tap on Emergency button located at the bottom-left hand of the display. A number pad on the screen will appear. On the bottom-left of that screen, tap on Medical ID.
If the owner has configured the feature, their name and more information about them will become available. With any luck, that will help you trace the owner.
4. Is the Phone in Lost Mode?
What to do: Look for a message and make contact using the provided details.
Someone else’s iPhone is unusable to anyone other than the owner, so long as Find My iPhone is turned on. A feature called Activation Lock prevents the iPhone from being used even after a software reset, and the same feature allows the rightful owner to locate lost devices.
If the iPhone has been put into
the owner has signed into iCloud.com and marked the device as lost. You should see a message letting you of this, accompanied by a message left by the owner. This should include a contact number or email address you can use to get in touch with the owner.
If the iPhone connects to the internet, the owner will receive its location through iCloud. It’s always a good idea to have Find My iPhone enabled on your own device under Settings > [Name] > Find My. Make sure to take a closer look at
our explanation of the Find My app
and everything you need to know about it.
5. Try Asking Siri
What to do: Command Siri to provide you with information to locate the owner.
As long as the iPhone is online, Siri can perform numerous tasks even if the device is locked. This will only be possible if the phone was turned on when you found it, though.
After a restart, Siri is deactivated until you first unlock it. Pressing and holding the home button will activate Siri, which then gives you a chance to ask a question to help find the owner.
You could try asking the following:
- “Call my wife”—Or husband, mum, daddy, boss, etc.
- “Read my call log”—This may show you a recent call, so you can then ask Siri to call the contact (by name).
- “Read my last message”—This will provide the contact’s name plus the message contents.
- “Who owns this iPhone?”—This will give you the name stored in the owner’s contact entry.
- “What is my email address?”—You could also try phone number, Twitter handle, and so on.
Apparently, Siri has a boundary on the amount of information disclosed before requiring a passcode. As such, asking Siri to read the call log, then calling any contacts you find, might be the best action you can take.
6. Take a Photo
What to do: capture a photo of your contact details that will sync online.
Most iPhone users have iCloud Photos enabled. That feature backs up every photo and video taken by devices using your Apple ID to iCloud. This lets you access your pictures on any iOS device, or a Mac, with the same Apple ID. That can come in handy when trying to find an owner of a lost iPhone.
The iPhone doesn’t have to be unlocked to capture a photo or video. On the lock screen, select the camera icon or swipe from right to left to reveal the camera. You can then capture a photo. The best idea would be to snap a photo of your contact details.
Hopefully, the photo will be backed up to the iCloud Photos account of the owner and they’ll see it on another device they use.
Found an iPhone? Make Contact or Hand It In
Note: if you find a lost iPhone, Activation Lock will inhibit you from using it if the Find My iPhone feature is enabled. It’s essentially a paperweight for as long as you have it in your possession. So don’t expect to use an iPhone you’ve found.
If none of the above methods work, you may need to eject the owner’s Sim Card and note their carrier and the number written on the SIM card. You can then contact the carrier, give them the number, and they might be able to assist contact the owner of the device.
If you’ve tried all the above possibilities with no luck, your last option is to take it to the police station that’s closest to where you found the iPhone. Explain that you’ve found the iPhone and you’ve tried making contact to no avail.