So, you're on the way back from a restaurant and realize you left your iPhone there, but you're late for a meeting and can't go back yet. You may as well kiss that iPhone goodbye, right? Not yet, as long as the right person gets their hands on it first. But that potential do-gooder won't know to contact you, and that's where Find My iPhone's "Lost Mode" comes in handy.
Using the Lost Mode feature in Apple's Find My iPhone, you'll be able to remotely set a message on the lock screen with your contact information, so that good samaritan will be able to call you at the number you specify. If the business found it, you'll likely get it back without opening up your wallet, while some people might expect a finder's reward of sorts. We'll leave that part up to you.
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Of course, there are cases where a message and contact info won't be enough to retrieve your iPhone. If it was stolen, it's likely the thief won't care about your pleas for a safe return, and all it will do is cause them to power down the iPhone so it can't be tracked, at least, until they figure out what to do with it. In those cases, you'll need to use Find My iPhone's other tools, but if you think a less sinful person can locate it first, Lost Mode works great.
To set this message remotely with Lost Mode, you're going to need to open Find My iPhone. You can use the iOS app on your iPad or a friend's iPhone, or you can visit the web app in a desktop browser on a computer you have access to via iCloud.com. We've found that Find My iPhone's functionality is greatly reduced or not even accessible from mobile browsers on iOS and Android, so you'll have to stick with a desktop browser if you're not using the iOS app.
If you have access to another iOS device, this is the simplest way to use Lost Mode. If the app isn't already installed on the device in question, you can install it yourself from the App Store (it's been a non-removable stock app since iOS 9, so chances are it's already on the device).
- App Store Link: Find My iPhone (free)
When you find the app, open it up, and if you're using someone else's device, make sure to sign out of their Apple ID account if they were already signed in on Find My iPhone. Next, simply sign in with the Apple ID and password tied to your missing iPhone, then move on to Step 2.
We've tested the web app version in multiple Android and iOS browsers, and all of them failed to let us access the necessary tools after logging in (your mileage may vary), so we're sticking to the desktop browser and suggest you do the same. Also, if you're using a friend's or public computer, it's best to use Find My iPhone in a private browser so your credentials won't accidentally be saved to the browser.
Visit iCloud.com/#find, then log in to your Apple ID account associated with the lost iPhone. Alternatively, you can log in on the main iCloud.com page, then on the two-factor authentication screen, click on "Find My iPhone" at the bottom of the page — you don't need full access to iCloud to use Find My iPhone, so don't worry about the verification code.
If you just log in to iCloud.com using the 2FA verification code, you'll need to click on the "Find My iPhone" app from the list of iCloud web apps in the Launchpad screen. If you're using a friend's or public computer, make sure to hit "Don't Trust" right after entering the verification security code — there's no reason to trust it.
With the map showing up on the screen, you're all ready to go. However, while the process for accessing Lost Mode is very similar in the iOS app and web app versions of Find My iPhone, there are a few small differences worth pointing out below.
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Tap on the location bubble of the iPhone that's lost, then tap on the expanded bubble to access the available tools you can use remotely on the device. If you can't seem to find the iPhone in question, tap "All" in the upper left, then choose the iPhone from the list of devices. Next, you're going to want to select "Lost Mode," tap "Turn on Lost Mode," and continue to Step 3.
Keep in mind, if you know the person who stole or found your iPhone might know your passcode, you may just be better off tapping "Erase iPhone" next to "Lost Mode." Better to wipe your device than to have its data compromised. This is just another example as to why keeping recent backups is so important.
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Click on the location bubble of the iPhone that's lost, then click on the info (i) button in the white box that pops up, which will show you all the tools available to use remotely. If you can't find the iPhone on the map, click "All Devices" up top, then choose the iPhone from the list of devices. Next, select "Lost Mode" from the list and continue to Step 3.
After turning on Lost Mode, in both the iOS app and web app, you'll be asked to enter the phone number you'd like the person to call you on.
The phone number should be something you or someone else can answer right away, and you can change the phone number later if you move locations. Anyone who finds your iPhone will be able to see the phone number, so make sure it's something you're okay sharing.
If you don't care about entering a phone number, you can also leave this field blank — it's not required. Tap or click "Next" when done.
After selecting "Next," you'll be asked to enter a message that will be displayed on the missing iPhone's lock screen along with your contact number if you added one. You don't have to include a message, but it's a good idea to do so if you want somebody help return the iPhone to you.
What you write should depend on the circumstances. If you have no clue where your iPhone is, "This iPhone has been lost. Please call me" is a good option (and the default one). However, if you know someone stole your iPhone, you might want to try something more like, "I know you stole my iPhone, the police are on their way."
Threatening police action could spook the thief and either force them to drop the iPhone and run or call you to profess their innocence and arrange for the iPhone to be returned. They could also just turned off the iPhone and leave their current location until they figure out what to do with it, so be careful what you write.
When you're finished, tap or click "Done."
After selecting "Done," Lost Mode will activate, and it will lock up your device and stop anyone without your passcode from using Notification Center, Control Center, and Widgets from the lock screen. It can also be used to remotely disable Apple Pay.
The message and phone number you chose, if any, will be displayed on the lock screen until either your iPhone's passcode is entered (disabling Lost Mode) or your battery runs out. The phone number will not only appear on-screen, but your iPhone will also allow whoever picks it up to call that number right from the device by tapping a large green "Call" button.
You will automatically be subscribed to email updates when the lost iPhone's location changes, so you can always keep track of where it is and decide whether it's time or not to wipe the device or not.
At any time, you can log back into Find My iPhone and select the "Lost Mode" tool to update the phone number and/or message. Hit "Done" when finished. You can also unsubscribe to location updates via email as well as stop Lost Mode this way.
While we're on the subject, a dead iPhone battery isn't necessarily prohibitive to good security. In fact, Apple has a tool you can use that will send your iPhone's last known location when the device is nearing a low-battery shutdown. It's a helpful feature that just might save your iPhone, should it go missing on five-percent.
This article was produced during Gadget Hacks' special coverage on smartphone privacy and security. Check out the whole Privacy and Security series.
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To find your device, sign in to iCloud.com/find. Or use the Find My app on another Apple device that you own. If your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch doesn't appear in the list of devices, Find My was not turned on. But you can still protect your account if Find My was not turned on.Can you display a message on a lost iPhone? ›
Using the Lost Mode feature in Apple's Find My iPhone, you'll be able to remotely set a message on the lock screen with your contact information, so that good samaritan will be able to call you at the number you specify.What does remote lock mean on iPhone? ›
The new feature provides another way to protect data on a lost or stolen iPhone. Remote Lock lets you add a passcode or change your existing one, locking your missing iPhone's screen from afar.Can a locked stolen iPhone be used? ›
Even if your iPhone is fully erased, the person who has it can't use it. Activation Lock stays on and there is no way to bypass it. As soon as the iPhone boots up, it asks for an Apple ID and password and it won't go past the activation screen without the information.Can an iPhone be locked remotely? ›
There are three ways you can remotely lock an Apple device: with Activation Lock, by locking a Mac remotely, or by using Managed Lost Mode. Activation Lock: When Activation Lock is turned on, it's difficult for someone else to use or sell an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple Watch if it's ever lost or stolen.How do you track a stolen iPhone that is switched off? ›
After signing in, click the All Devices option at the top of the screen, then select your phone from the list. The map will refresh, taking you to the current location of your phone. If the device has been turned off, the last known location will be shown.How can I remotely track my iPhone for free? ›
Find My iPhone: If you misplace your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac, the Find My iPhone app will let you use any iOS device to find it and protect your data. Simply install this free app, open it, and sign in with the Apple ID you use for iCloud.Does Apple text you about Lost iPhone? ›
Apple does not send text messages regarding lost/stolen devices. The message will be from someone who has found/stole the phone, and is attempting to obtain the iCloud credentials. It is a phishing attempt.Is my phone being remotely accessed? ›
Signs That Someone Has Remote Access to Your Phone
It shuts down or crashes often. The battery drains quickly even when not in use. Higher data usage than usual. Noises in the background when you're on a phone call.
When you switch on Lost Mode, Location Services will be turned on. This allows you to track your device. iPhones and iPads will also be put on Low Power mode to preserve battery life and increase your chances of tracking it down. Devices in Lost Mode never display notifications on the lock screen.
The Remote lock device action locks the device. To unlock the device, the device owner enters their passcode. You can remotely lock devices that have a PIN or password set. Devices that don't have a PIN or password can't be remotely locked.What do thieves do with stolen iPhones? ›
They will try to wipe out the data including photos, videos, documents, audios, etc. from stolen iPhones for resale. Thieves know several techniques to erase everything from the stolen phone. Plus, thieves are also capable of tricking the buyer that stolen iPhone is clean and unlocked.Can a locked iPhone be tracked? ›
Activation Lock prevents the iPhone from being used even after a software reset, and the same feature lets the rightful owner track down lost devices.Can a stolen iPhone be reset? ›
It can't be factory reset without information the user won't have. Anyone can use iTunes or finder to erase a device. There is no way to stop anyone from doing that.How do you locate stolen phone that is turned off? ›
Visit Google's Find My Device website on a computer or another phone. Log into the same Google account as the one on your stolen or lost phone. You can view compatible devices to the left, including your lost Android phone with its last known location to the right.How can I track my stolen phone with IMEI number? ›
To track your lost Android phone with the IMEI number, you need to download a third-party IMEI tracking app, such as IMEI Tracker-Find My Device. However, we recommend using this method as your last resort. Google's Find My Device is usually the best way to find a missing Android phone.Can you track an iPhone without a SIM card? ›
The answer to that is a simple yes! All phones, whether an iPhone or an android, can be tracked down without a sim card or network. Still, they will need to have a secure Wi-Fi connection to be accurate.How can I track my phone remotely for free? ›
- Google Map. Google map is a web-based location tracker. ...
- Find My Device. Find My Device is another Google app to track a cell phone location for free. ...
- AirDroid Free Cell Phone Location Tracker. AirDroid Parental Control app has the function of a location tracker. ...
- Mobile Number Tracker. ...
- Mobile Tracker. ...
- Where's My Droid.
What is the distance an individual AirTag can track with Bluetooth? Apple has not specified the exact Bluetooth range of an AirTag, but it's believed that each AirTag supports Bluetooth 5.0 (same as the latest iPhones), which means it should be trackable within 800 feet. Do you have to charge an AirTag?How do I Find My lost iPhone without iCloud? ›
Another helpful method to find an iPhone without iCloud is by using your iOS device IMEI number. You might ask, what's the iPhone IMEI number? IMEI is a unique 15-digit code of your iOS device, and you can access this number by using the code '*#606#.
For up to 24 hours after you turn off your iPhone, these components have power and tracking is still active. This is by design, so you can find your iPhone if it's lost or stolen and gets powered off. However, some hackers with system-level access can use this to gain control of your iPhone even when it's powered off.Can Apple disable stolen iPhone? ›
The good news is that Apple has software that can make it easy to track down a lost iPhone, and if it has been stolen you can use that software to wipe the iPhone and lock it down so that your data is protected.Can Apple do anything about a stolen phone? ›
Is your iPhone lost or stolen? If it's covered by AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss, you can sign in with your Apple ID and file a claim for an iPhone replacement. Use the Find My app or go to iCloud.com/find to mark your iPhone as lost.Does Apple have a lost and found? ›
Apple doesn't get involved at all with lost or stolen personal property. Other than turning it over to the police, nobody can do a thing about tracking its previous owner. And since it's been erased, the owner themselves cannot track it or post a screen lock message using lost mode.How does someone hack your phone remotely? ›
- Through public Wi-Fi networks: Cybercriminals create fake Wi-Fi networks, and when you connect to them with your phone, they redirect you to malicious sites.
- SIM swaps: Hackers transfer your phone number to their device and gain access to your account.
Code to check for call forwarding number: *#67# Code to check all call forwarding information: *#004# Code to check if phone is tapped: *#21#How can I remotely monitor a cell phone? ›
Enabling Lost Mode on iPhone or Android devices, completely locks it down to a screen showing a message, contact number, and a call button. The message can be customized to indicate that the device is lost and the person finding the device can contact the number specified.How do I unlock my screen remotely? ›
Unlock a screen
- In the Remote Desktop window, select a computer list. ...
- Choose Interact > Unlock Screen.
- Click Unlock Screen.
Remote wipe and remote lock are terms used in the industry to refer to the administration of mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop PCs, among other things, particularly in the space of Mobile Device Management (MDM).
If you lose an Android phone or tablet, or Wear OS watch, you can find, lock, or erase it. If you've added a Google Account to your device, Find My Device is automatically turned on.How do I permanently disable my stolen iPhone? ›
- Track, Lock & Erase your iPhone with Find My iPhone. Go to iCloud.com > Login. ...
- Permanently lock your stolen iPhone. Complete the steps above and choose the Erase option to delete all data from your stolen iPhone. ...
- Secure Your Apple ID if you did not have Find My iPhone Enabled.
You cannot lock or track a device with its IMEI number.Can a stolen iPhone be tracked if turned off? ›
If you're using iCloud.com/find, you can't see your device's location if it's powered off, the battery has run out, or more than 24 hours has passed since its last location was sent to Apple. Learn how you can still protect your information.Can a stolen phone be recovered? ›
Locate Your Phone Using Find My Phone
By default, both iOS and Android devices turn on the Find My Phone feature—provided the user is logged into their Google or iCloud account. It is a built-in security feature to find, lock or erase data on your device in case of theft or loss.
- Can You Track a Phone That Is Turned Off? ...
- Use Find My Device to Locate Your Android Phone. ...
- Trace Your Steps Using the Google Maps Timeline. ...
- Track Your Phone Using Third-Party Apps. ...
- Find Your Lost Android Phone.
- Apps. Settings. Google. Google services. .
- To allow the device to be remotely located: Tap. Location. . ...
- Tap. Security. .
- Tap the following switches to turn on or off: Remotely locate this device. Allow remote lock and erase.
If you have AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss, do not remove your lost iPhone from your account until your claim has been approved. Go to appleid.apple.com to remove the missing device from your list of trusted devices.Can thieves change IMEI number? ›
An IMEI number is a 15 digit long number printed on the backside of your phone as well as on the mobile packaging box and is used to track the device when lost or stolen. Each IMEI number is unique to a mobile set and can never be changed or replaced, unlike a SIM card.Can a SIM locked iPhone be tracked? ›
The answer to that is a simple yes! All phones, whether an iPhone or an android, can be tracked down without a sim card or network. Still, they will need to have a secure Wi-Fi connection to be accurate.
Through this CEIR (Central Equipment Identity Register) database, you can trace your lost or stolen mobile by following a few steps. The portal requires only the 15-digit IMEI number of the lost phone (which you can find on the packing or the bill). You can also block your phone using the same website.Can iPhone be tracked if Internet is off? ›
Even without cell service, Android devices and iPhones can be tracked. Your phone's mapping apps can track your phone's location without an internet connection.Can people track your phone if it's turned off? ›
The simple answer is YES. You can track a phone that is turned off. The police and network provider can track a switched-off phone using an IMEI number, while you can use other ways to locate your lost or stolen cell phone.How do police track a stolen iPhone? ›
Yes, the police can track a stolen phone using either your phone number or the phone's IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity). Whether or not the police prioritize looking for your stolen phone is another matter.