Having your phone stolen can be incredibly distressing, but, thanks to your phone’s unique IMEI number, there is a way to track its location and hopefully recover it.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
This unique identifier assigned to each mobile device can be a crucial asset when it comes to locating a stolen phone and potentially apprehending those responsible.
In this comprehensive guide, we explore what an IMEI number is, how it can be used to track stolen phones, and the step-by-step process to track down your device after theft.
What is the IMEI Number?
IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity. It is a 15-17 digit unique number assigned to every single mobile phone, including smartphones, feature phones, and tablets.
The IMEI number helps to identify valid devices on cellular networks. Carriers use this number to deny network access to blacklisted stolen phones.
You can find the IMEI number by dialing *#06# on your phone. It is also printed on the phone box or inside the battery compartment. On smartphones, you can find the IMEI under Settings > About Phone > Status.
How Does the IMEI Number Help Track Lost and Stolen Phones?
When your phone is reported lost or stolen, the IMEI number is flagged in the global GSMA blacklist.
Operators and carriers worldwide use this list to block listed devices from cellular connectivity.
So as soon as a lost/stolen phone is blacklisted using its IMEI number, it can no longer connect to any mobile network anywhere in the world. This makes the phone untraceable over carrier signals.
The IMEI number also helps track stolen phones that are still on and connected to a network before they are on a blacklist.
Law enforcement agencies can trace the cell tower location signals from an active IMEI number to track the device.
Step-by-Step Guide to Track a Stolen Phone Using the IMEI Number
Follow these steps to track your phone if it’s ever lost or stolen using the IMEI number:
1. Find and Note Down Your Phone’s IMEI Number
If you do not have your phone’s IMEI number readily available, try any of these methods to retrieve it:
- Check the phone box, warranty card, or documentation for the IMEI number printed on it.
- On Android phones, install a trusted IMEI tracker app to remotely extract the phone’s IMEI number.
- Call your cell provider’s customer service – they can find the IMEI number linked to your SIM card.
- Check your order invoice or receipt from when you purchased the phone.
Once you have retrieved the 15-digit IMEI number, save it in a safe place for reference.
2. Immediately Contact Your Mobile Carrier
Once you realize your phone is lost or stolen, immediately call your cell phone carrier and report it to them using the IMEI number. Request them to blacklist the device on their network to block access.
This prevents the thief from using your SIM card on the stolen phone. Continue paying your phone bills so they don’t reassign your number.
3. Report the Theft to Local Law Enforcement
Contact the local police to file an official report about your stolen phone. Provide them with the IMEI number and any other relevant details about the theft.
The police report is necessary documentation for insurance claims. Police can also attempt to track the stolen device using the IMEI number if it is still active and powered on.
4. Add the IMEI Number to Global Blacklisting Databases
After informing your carrier, report the IMEI number of your stolen phone on industry blacklisting databases like:
- GSMA’s Device Check: https://www.devicecheck.gsma.com/iphoneregister/search
- Wireless Alliance: https://www.wirelessalliance.com/imsi-imei-assignment
- blacklistDB – https://www.blacklistdb.info
This makes your device’s IMEI number visible to carriers globally so the phone can be denied network access worldwide.
5. Contact Your Phone Manufacturer
Additionally, inform your phone’s manufacturer about the lost or stolen device using its IMEI number. Provide relevant details like when and where the phone was stolen.
The manufacturer can assist with blacklisting on a global scale to ensure the phone is deactivated and can’t be misused.
6. Talk to Your Mobile Insurance Provider
If you have mobile phone insurance, contact your provider immediately to file a theft claim using the IMEI number of your stolen phone.
Follow their documentation process for blocking the device and getting an insurance payout or replacement.
Having valid insurance vastly improves your chances of getting your phone blacklisted and recovering losses from the theft.
7. Install and Activate IMEI Tracker Apps
If there is still a chance the stolen phone is on and connected to the internet, install IMEI tracking apps like Find My Device by Google or Find My Mobile by Samsung by remotely logging into your Google or Samsung account from another device.
Activate lost mode to track the phone’s IMEI number and attempt to lock, locate, and wipe data remotely. The app can alert you if the SIM card gets changed or the device comes online.
8. Keep Monitoring the IMEI Status
Keep checking the IMEI tracking tools periodically to monitor if your stolen phone comes back online. Location tracking is only possible while the thief is still using the phone and is on.
If it appears on a network again, contact law enforcement immediately to track and recover it before the thief disables it.
Persistence maximizes the chances of getting your phone back successfully after a theft.
Can You Change an IMEI Number to Avoid Blacklisting?
IMEI numbers were originally irreversible to prevent misuse. However, with advances in technology, there are now techniques that allow changing a phone’s IMEI number to bypass blacklisting, including:
- IMEI Repairing – Manipulates the device firmware to generate a new IMEI number and identity. This hides the original blacklisted IMEI.
- IMEI Reprogramming – Replaces the original IMEI on the phone’s memory chips with a new number using unofficial software tools.
- Dual IMEI Phones – Some phones have two IMEI numbers – one on the external modem chip and one internal. You can change the external IMEI while retaining network access.
While some thieves resort to these tactics, they are complex to execute and unreliable. IMEI numbers are still the most dependable way to blacklist and permanently block stolen phones.
Other Ways to Track and Recover Your Stolen Phone
Along with the IMEI number, here are some additional options to help track and recover your stolen phone:
- Locate with GPS – If GPS is on, remotely activate location services to pinpoint the thief’s location.
- View Deleted Data – Cloud backups and phone recovery software let you see wiped data that could hold clues about the thief.
- SIM Card Tracking – If the SIM is still in the stolen phone, track its location via the cellular signals its using.
- Wallpaper Customization – Set a custom wallpaper with your contact details that can help identify the phone.
- Social Media Monitoring – Watch for your phone appearing in the thief’s social media photos or is place for sale.
- Seek Help From Contacts – Share the IMEI number and details of your stolen phone with your contacts and community. Someone may find leads.
- Physical Searches – Canvas local phone repair shops, second-hand markets, and online trade groups where the phone may surface.
Protecting Your Phone from Theft
Here are some tips to keep your phone secure and avoid theft in the first place:
- Be discreet and wary when using your phone in public places. Avoid leaving it unattended.
- Install security apps that can track, remotely wipe, find, lock, and back up your phone.
- Encrypt your phone memory and activate phone locking mechanisms like PINs, patterns, biometrics, etc.
- Register the IMEI number with carriers and manufacturers so they can backlist it if its stolen.
- Avoid adding sensitive or personal data to the phone. Backup data periodically.
- Buy adequate mobile phone insurance to cover losses in case theft or damage does occur.
Read Also: How to Remove a Hacker from My iPhone
To Sum Up
The unique IMEI number associated with your phone is the key to blocking and tracking stolen devices.
If your phone is ever lost or stolen, ensure you file reports with local law enforcement, your carrier, phone manufacturer, and insurance provider right away using the IMEI number.
Blacklisting through global databases greatly increases the chances of bricking the phone before the thief misuses it.
With persistence and the right tools, there is a possibility of tracking and recovering your stolen phone.
Protecting your phone from theft in the first place remains ideal to avoid this hassle altogether.
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