How the police track your stolen iPhone

iPhone theft is a scourge. About two weeks ago a good friend of mine had her iPhone stolen. She was in her work canteen, and after she finished her meal she handed her tray in. Just before she got out of the canteen she realised she had left her brand new iPhone 5 on the tray, and so turned back and asked the tray back – but it had now vanished! Nobody knew anything about it, and when she tried to call the phone it was now mysteriously turned off. She went to speak to the office security but they were helpless too – so she ended up in a police station, having to bear testimony of the stolen iPhone, and then deal with her insurance company. A lot of hassle for not watching her iPhone carefully for five seconds!

What should you do if this happens to you?

If this happens to you (or worse, someone snatches it from you), then you need to be prepared to do the following in order to help the police to find your stolen iPhone:

1. Call your network provider and block your iPhone from being used and charged for calls. You need to provide them with this information:

  • Date and time it was stolen
  • IMEI number (which can be found on your iPhone box or make a note now from your iPhone (Settings > About – scroll down and then you can see it). IMEI means International Mobile Station Equipment Identity.

 2. Go to the closest police station and report the theft within 48 hours, and they will register your details, IMEI number and provide you a crime reference number.

3. Call your insurance (if you have purchased one) within 48 hours to make a claim and tell them your details plus the crime reference number.

What happens now?

Ok, now you probably want to know what’s going to happen next. Nothing? “I had a phone and now I don’t and there is no person or authority to take an action” Well, it’s maybe a bit more hopeful than that. The NYPD developed an approach that has been adopted by other countries too. In the UK, the Police work with Apple to reduce the number of the stolen iPhones. According to a report from New York Post:

Every time an Apple device is stolen, detectives attempt to get tracking numbers from the victim or online records… That number, known as the International Mobile Station Equipment Identity, is then shared with the officers in Police Headquarters who pass it on to Apple…The California-based company then informs the police officers of the device’s current location — and it can track it even if it was reregistered with a different wireless provider.
So, there is hope. Even though some people have criticised Apple for not doing enough, Apple does provide support to report a lost or stolen Apple product. And what about my friend? Well, After she followed all those steps listed above she received a phone call from a police detective informing her that they had found her iPhone! It had been thrown in some bushes near her workplace – the thief probably discovered that it wasn’t going to work correctly after the steps that my friend had taken. And so there was a happy ending in this case! For the rest of us, my advice for you is: watch your iPhone all times, don’t forget to install and activate Find My iPhone and read our post about “iPhone theft or loss: four ways to protect your iPhone and personal data”. Did you experience a similar story? Share it with us!
March 30, 2013