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How to find the owner of a lost or stolen iPhone or iPad

Suppose you find someone’s lost iPhone somewhere and you want to return the device as soon as possible. How could you go about it? Would it be easy to find the owner of the lost iPhone?

Most iPhone owners use a passcode on their device to protect their data and privacy. Nevertheless, these tricks can help you find out who the owner of a lost iPhone is.

Find the owner of a lost iPhone or iPad: If the iPhone has no passcode

If you find an iPhone or iPad with no passcode, you can check their Contacts

Usually, at the top of the list is My Card that has the number, email, and other details of the lost iPhone’s owner like Spouse, Mother, Father, etc. You can call or text one of them about the situation. Alternatively, you may also take a glance at the Contacts list and see if you can connect with a ‘Wife,’ ‘Brother,’ ‘Dad,’ etc.

You could also check the call list and try to contact the most recent incoming or outgoing number. Alternatively, you can go to the lost iPhone’s message inbox and contact someone they regularly chat with.

Though these steps are an intrusion of privacy, they’re necessary for the greater good of contacting and returning the iPhone—as long as you don’t overstep.

Overall, tracking the owner of an unlocked iPhone is pretty easy. But what about contacting the owner if the device is locked with a password?

Get a lost iPhone back to its owner: If the iPhone has a passcode enabled

If the iPhone has a passcode enabled, it’ll be a bit tougher to find the original owner. Luckily, some options are still open.

1. Check Medical ID

If the iPhone has a Medical ID set up, you can access it from the lock screen. Their Medical ID will have an emergency contact number that you can call and organize the return of the lost iPhone you found.

Check Medical ID to Find the Owner of Lost iPhone or iPad

2. Ask Siri for the lost iPhone owner’s details

If the above method didn’t work out, launch Siri on the lost iPhone by holding the Home button or Side button. Now ask Siri to “Show my Contact Card”. Siri will show the name of the person and, in most cases, other details like their email, etc.

You can also ask Siri to “Call the last dialed number”, or “Call the last received number.” Once you connect to the person, ask if they’re a family member, friend, or co-worker and explain the situation.

Alternatively, you can ask Siri to “Call Mom, Dad, or Home.” And if there are contacts saved by these names in My Card, Siri can help connect you to a related member.

Ask Siri to know the Lost iPhone Owner Details

Note: Siri needs an internet connection to work. If mobile data is switched off on the lost iPhone’s, you can turn it on by asking Siri to “Turn on Mobile Data” or use the Control Center. To open Control Center:

  • On iPhone X and later: Swipe down from top right corner
  • On iPhone 8 and earlier: Swipe up from bottom of the screen
  • Now tap the icon that looks like a mobile tower to switch on mobile data

3. Keep the lost iPhone on and answer incoming calls

If you’re still not able to find the original owner of the lost iPhone or iPad, keep the device powered on so that the owner can call it. Their relatives or friends may call too, and you can inform them that you have their lost device. It may sound odd to answer a phone that isn’t yours, but we’re doing this with the best and harmless intentions in mind.

4. Wait for the Find My iPhone lock screen message

iPhone owners are smart. The moment a person loses their phone, they’ll use Find My or iCloud to lock the device, erase it, and/or display a lock screen message on the lost iPhone. This message can be their name, address, or a number they want you to call to establish a connection. Wait for this message and hope for the best.

5. Insert SIM card of lost iPhone in another phone

If you couldn’t get a hold of the owner’s number and the person has no generic contacts like Dad, Mom, Brother, Wife, Boss, etc. this solution may prove useful. 

Take out the SIM Card from the lost iPhone and put it in a spare phone of yours. If there are a few contacts saved in the SIM card’s memory, try calling them and explaining the situation.

6. Connect the lost iPhone to a PC or Mac to know the name

Suppose you find a device abandoned in a café or local restaurant. 

It’d be helpful if you knew the name of the person to whom the iPhone belongs. If you couldn’t see the name via Siri, connect the iPhone to a computer. 

Open iTunes on PC or Finder on Mac, and you’ll be able to see the iPhone’s name. Most people have their name set like ‘Arshmeet’s iPhone.’ Now you can put up a sign or spread the message with the person’s name.

Connect Lost iPhone to PC or Mac to know the Owner of Lost iPhone

7. Contact the iPhone’s carrier

On iPhone 8 and earlier, the carrier’s name appears in the top left of the screen. 

On iPhone X and later, swipe down from top right to open the Control Center. In the top left, you can see the carrier name. Though the carrier may not be able to give you the owner’s details, they may be able to track down the owner in their system.

iPhones (and most other phones) have a unique number called an IMEI imprinted inside the SIM tray. The Carrier can use the IMEI information to track the owner and contact them about their lost iPhone.

8. Contact the authorities

Lastly, if nothing has worked, contacting the local police is the best option. 

The “finder’s keepers” rule doesn’t work for phones, especially iPhones. You have a duty to inform the police and hand over the device to them in the event you cannot find the owner in a short duration. Why? Read the next heading!

A word of caution regarding lost iPhones

The moment you pick up an iPhone regardless if it’s locked or unlocked, powered on or off, there can be potential legal action held against you. A person who loses their phone will most likely inform the police from their end, along with their carrier to report it lost or stolen. Once that happens, that iPhone cannot be activated on most networks.

If you pick up a lost iPhone even with the best intentions, your actions may be considered theft if the owner tracks you using law enforcement or Find My iPhone. The authorities may treat you as a person with a stolen iPhone in your possession. So, when you come across a misplaced phone, keep this in mind. Your best intentions may go against you!

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  • Marcus

    Marcus Mears III is a lifelong technology enthusiast with half a decade of experience developing prose that keeps readers in the know. With hundreds of reviews, buying guides, and how-to explainers across a number of tech and lifestyle publications like How-To Geek, MakeUseOf, and iGeeksBlog, Mears’ work helps readers around the globe learn to make the most of their devices and software. He uses a 2016 MacBook Pro as his daily driver laptop and a self-built Windows PC for gaming and productivity.

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