What NOT to do if your iPhone or iPad is lost or stolen

UPDATE: Since the release of iOS7, Apple have made it impossible for a thief to reset/format your iDevice without your iCloud Username and Password. This means to secure your device it’s important that you do set up and use iCloud on it. 

A little over two weeks ago I had my iPad stolen. It was  peak hour on a Saturday morning and I had found a park with rockstar written all over it, meaning it was in the heart of the city and literally 40 metres from where I needed to be. With a Mick Jagger-like swagger I strutted off, leaving my car alone for no more than twenty minutes. Upon my triumphant return from getting a haircut, missing from my car was my 32GB WiFi iPad, which had been hidden in a baby bag that surely, I thought, nobody would ever steal.

Having this sort of thing happen to you is not common and it can effect people differently, but the one reaction we all feel when it happens is a strange sense of panic and surrealism. The panic leads us to think and act irrationally, which is precisely what I did.

If this happens to you take a deep pause and ignore every instinct you have. I reacted emotionally and lost all chance of recovering my iPad.

So what did I do?

The only possible defense I had installed on my WiFi-only iPad was Apple’s iCloud. Due to my iPad not having 3G iCloud would only allow it be located when it was online, which meant I had to wait for the thief to take it home (or sell it) and for someone to start browsing the web on the device without formatting it.

As the iPad almost never left my house I had no lockscreen password activated, which meant that the thief had full access to it’s contents and my personal information (photos, address book, calendar etc). This is probably the thing that caused me to over-react the most. Having some scumbag looking at your most intimate family photos is an infuriating thought.

In my emotional state of surrealism here’s what I did:

  • I immediately went home and changed every password I had (Gmail, Facebook, Live, Path, Twitter…….). This took me about 15 minutes.
  • I logged into iCloud and used the Find My iPhone feature to see if the iPad had shown up at all. It was my first time actually using iCloud and I found that it gave me only a few, limited options.
    • I could request an email to be sent to me to let me know when the iPad went online.
    • I could lock the iPad when it went online.
    • I could format the iPad when it went online
    • I could make it ring out loud and send it a message… when it went online!

Fearing any further perusal of my personal information I elected to have the iPad lock itself, email me, and then send a message to the thief, the contents of which I won’t disclose.

Almost exactly 48 hours later I received an email from iCloud informing me that the iPad was online and in use. It’s location was some 45 minutes from me, and it was only an approximate location which was certainly not as accurate as I needed it to be.

It’s important to note that iCloud does not provide an IP address or any other details which will help you actually identify your thief. It basically shows you a map of where the item is and that is all. It’s literally like asking someone on the street where the nearest [whatever] is, having them point at a series of two or three buildings and telling you, “It’s over there”. Big fucking help.

Seeing as I was at work I could do nothing about it and within half an hour the iPad went offline and hasn’t come back online since.

The thief’s perspective is important

Unfortunately for them many thieves still have their heads in a time when we could steal shit and it was their’s forever. Many aren’t actually conscious of electronic tracking, or the fact that they can be busted months after they steal something if they’re not tech savvy about it.

Consider the sequence of events from the thief’s perspective. They went online with this shiny new stolen iPad thinking it was their’s and they could use it to their heart’s content. If left alone they would have used it for the next few months accumulating all of their own personal and incriminating information on it.

Yet instead of this thief’s expectation, the first time they used my iPad it immediately locked itself, made a loud sound and sent them a message effectively saying ‘you’re busted’. They started to freak out not knowing how to proceed as, at least in this case, they were technically ignorant and became instantly paranoid.

The next and only step for them was to turn the iPad off and get it as far away from them as they could, in all likelihood promptly selling it to a more knowledgeable and tech-savvy buyer who would have instantly formatted it. As I have received no more notifications from iCloud I am certain that this is exactly what happened.

So what were my mistakes and what should I have done?

My biggest mistake was not having patience. Had I allowed the iPad to go online with no immediate consequences to the thief they would have continued to use it as if it was theirs. They most certainly would have used the Facebook and Gmail apps, and considering that both services record our IP addresses and make them available to us (links are at the end of the article) I would have had a twice verified IP address to give to the police.

Then, using iCloud I could have gone to the thief’s approximate location with an iPhone or internet connected MAC and discovered the almost exact location of the iPad by watching both dots on the map. Once the dot of the iPhone neared the dot of the iPad I would have been in earshot of the iPad. Once in earshot I could have made the iPad play sounds out loud so as to hopefully discover it’s exact location (like which apartment it was in). This would have lead to my telephoning the police, recovering my iPad and serving justice to a thieving piece of shit.

So if you care about recovering your device, what’s my advice?

  • Firstly, if you have a wireless-only device ala the iPad or iPod touch (or an iPhone with data turned off) don’t use a lockscreen password. The second the thing gets lost or stolen whoever has it won’t be able to use it at all and you guarantee that the only way they can use it is to format it, at which point it’s gone forever.
  • Make sure you have iCloud setup and activated today. It’s free and there is no reason not to use it. Without it or a paid equivalent if you lose your device you’ll have a much harder time finding it, and likely won’t find it at all.
  • Be patient. Don’t do anything yet. It is more likely than not that the thief will go online with it at some point and when they do you want them to have free use of the device. Let them get comfortable and then grab them by the balls.
  • You should be using Gmail. Primarily because it’s significantly better than any other webmail service in existence, but also because it records their IP address. Once you have their IP address you can make Gmail log out on the device easily and non-suspiciously.
  • Same goes for Facebook.
  • Get onto the police early.  I had trouble with the police because I was going away for the weekend and didn’t have time to report my iPad as stolen. When it showed up and I called them the first thing they asked for was the police report number. Not having one means you will have to file a police report on the spot and it’s always a time consuming pain in the ass.
  • Don’t rely on Apple for anything. They don’t give you an IP address, they don’t give you any decent advice, and even though your device’s serial number is forever registered to you they still won’t tell you who has it. I spoke to a so-called ‘Genius’ and he advised me as such, followed up by ‘Do you know how many iPads get stolen!?!’.  iCloud is the best they will give you, and even then it’s second-rate. It doesn’t give you exact location information, it doesn’t let you access the device remotely, and it doesn’t take pictures of whoever is using it. Basically iCloud is a piece of shit and Apple should be embarrassed.

What if you have an internet-connected device?

You should be able to find it pretty quickly. In my case I knew my device was gone within minutes. Using iCloud’s Find My iPhone feature I would have found the asshole walking the street with it and taken it back. If your device is internet enabled I DO recommend using a lockscreen password. This way the thief has to carry it with them until they can get somewhere where they can format it meaning you will have time to track them.

In the event that they turn it off they will likely turn it back on to format it so it will show up at their place of residence or a bricks-and-mortar establishment. The only way you won’t be able to track it is if the thief turns it off and formats it in recovery mode, which is becoming a common process as thieves become more tech-savvy.

Here are some useful links I recommend reading before you get your shit stolen.

How to activate and use iCloud’s Find My Phone feature

How to check who’s logged into your Gmail account and force them to logout

How to check who has logged into your Facebook Account

A great paid alternative to iCloud called Prey

If you have a Jailbroken device (and you should!) I recommend installing iGotYa

And lastly, everybody should watch this at least once:

70 Responses to “What NOT to do if your iPhone or iPad is lost or stolen”

  1. igor
    January 9, 2013 at 12:14 AM #

    super

  2. Randi
    April 3, 2013 at 5:45 PM #

    I just had my iPad stolen from my car yesterday. It sucks. I basically did the exact things you did but the person who stole it has not connected to wifi so I haven’t received a notice. I have already locked my iPad prior to reading your article.

    A few things I would add is prior to leaving the house with your iPad I would have a password on Restrictions therefore a person can not reformat your iPad. I don’t know that I had one on mine (I don’t believe I did).

    Remove your home address from your contact list, its typically under In Case of Emergency. If you keep your calendar on your iPad they now know your schedule.

  3. Andy
    May 18, 2013 at 4:32 PM #

    I think you’re continuing the react emotionally. Getting something stolen sucks, but a $500 piece of electronics is cheap compared to the cost & hassle of identity theft or the risk of violence when comforting a thief. Be careful w/ your stuff, use Find My iPhone/iPad, see if your homeowners/renters insurance will cover it or if it’s lower than your deductable and/or pay for insurance from your mobile carrier if you’re that concerned about replacement cost and dear lord DO USE A LOCKSCREEN. If you accidentally lose it you can send it a message & get it back if a nice person finds it otherwise you’re getting a forced upgrade to the latest & greatest device while still in control of your personal data & health which is what is far more valuable than a few hundred bucks. Getting something stolen sucks but your revenge fantasy is a very bad idea

    • Toma
      May 18, 2013 at 4:35 PM #

      Fair comment. Everything except the revenge fantasy part. It’s not like I have some ninjas on standby. My tax dollars pay for police, they’ll do fine.

      • Carl
        October 23, 2013 at 5:03 AM #

        This is info great stuff for thieves as well as the victims. Any criminals seeing this will say OK I will erase it with iTunes then.

      • Tina
        December 9, 2013 at 3:02 PM #

        Ha! I live in Toronto, and just called the police when I tracked my stolen iPad (30 mins ago) they won’t budge! I hope you’re in a better place :)

        • Amanda
          December 19, 2013 at 2:58 AM #

          I have a question if I lost my ipad or iPod and I had find my iPod/ipad and the location is off. An I still be able to find it

    • Brent
      June 15, 2013 at 1:08 AM #

      Very true, I agree with this wholeheartedly. My only qualm is whether the criminal has malicious intent and wants to spread your photos around without any permission from you. In my case, I haven’t lost any significant data, because all of it is also on my Mac, but I would not like for the thief to have access to any of my pictures, music (my original music), or notes.

    • Zagnit
      April 9, 2014 at 3:36 PM #

      Nay, I’m gonna go with the revenge ” reality.” Thieves suck, so shortening their lifespan is something we truly should consider in society today.

  4. melike
    May 22, 2013 at 6:28 PM #

    If lost iphone, ipad and ipod trust me I won’t bother myself. I let it go…. but if I use find my iphone and go to the spot where my phone is what will be a consequence or a reaction from the thief ?
    One thing he knows, he will go jail if if he get caught by a police. He will do anything possible to get away. May be he will kill you for 500.00 piece of junk.
    Report to the police and do anything possible from home and don’t confront with thief. That it …..

  5. chelsea
    May 30, 2013 at 5:53 PM #

    my iphone got stolen the other day i didnt read this article aswell before the phone was wiped i put the password on it through icloud. anyway they did connect to my internet and facebook. but have been offline since and the location was at a dan murpheys which in australia is liquor store so cant do much about it :( so they havent logged on since my question is can they wipe or reformat with a password on it from icloud?? thanks!

    • Toma
      May 31, 2013 at 11:13 AM #

      I’m not really sure Chelsea. I’m pretty sure that iCloud requests a password before they can do anything, so without knowing your password they shouldn’t be able to much. They’ve probably reset the phone and that will be the end of it.

      • Raiden
        February 17, 2014 at 3:50 AM #

        I cloud dose nothing for lost Appel devices

  6. blue
    June 8, 2013 at 5:35 PM #

    yesterday someone stole my brothers ipad he use icloud but remembered that it was turned off and he also has the screen locked will it still locate the person when turned on it has to be a better way to protect people when buying costly ipads the company has to step up for there
    customers and do more to get the devices back

    • Toma
      June 8, 2013 at 5:38 PM #

      If iCloud is off then it won’t work. With the screen lock on it’s another problem because they can’t access the internet with the iPad. They will have to reset it, meaning no chance of recovery.

  7. blue
    June 8, 2013 at 6:19 PM #

    his ipad was turned off but he still used his icloud and yes he has the screen locked do he have a chance at getting it back he also turned on an app that will make a very loud sound what can we do to get the company to help more

    • Toma
      June 8, 2013 at 6:25 PM #

      If it’s a 3G iPad then iCloud will still work when they turn it on. If it’s Wi-Fi only it won’t because they can’t connect to WiFi without getting past the lockscreen. There is nothing Apple will do to help without a police warrant.

  8. blue
    June 8, 2013 at 6:50 PM #

    thank you

  9. deem
    June 12, 2013 at 10:59 PM #

    Please i need your help , i lost my iphon 4 and iphon 5 few days ago , both have a louckscreen password , and both are the same apple ID ! and i cloud is on , but when i try to call them it’s all powered off , i don’t want to get it back but i m worry about my privet photos , is there a way that they can open my iphon ? As i told u i already had a password on both of them , but i want to ereas my privet stuff or to make sure that they won’t be able to see it, please please please please i m dining

    Help please

    • Toma
      June 12, 2013 at 11:02 PM #

      If the lockscreens are protected as you say, then no, there is no way for them to do it. Log into iCloud and set it to email you when your iPhones come online. You can also set it to format if you want. You don’t need to do anything else. Unless they are some crazy hacker types who stole it, which is not likely, your data is safe.

  10. deem
    June 12, 2013 at 11:37 PM #

    Dear toma , i already stoped my SIM cards so they can’t access to the same3g , but i m afraid if they take it to some hackers which there are alot of them here in Saudi arabia , also i don’t have laptop to go to icloud .com , i m using my galaxy tap which can’t access to the icloud .com, i m really afraid it’s so privet photos and here there are too many bad people they like to share girls photos, as i m not from this country and i m a foreigner here so i don’t know what to do, especially there are no popular internet coffee for ladies here, i m really so sad and thinking to kill myself , please help please

  11. deem
    June 12, 2013 at 11:39 PM #

    My iphon 5 is the most important and there is no way for them to go online because i already disabled my sim cards and the wifi was off that day

    • Toma
      June 13, 2013 at 5:33 AM #

      Stop worrying about it. Really.

  12. Jose
    July 12, 2013 at 9:35 AM #

    Sorry to hear about your loss, man.

    Thanks for the article.

    I recently lost my iPhone 5 and it sucked. It was stolen immediately. It was worthless to do anything through iCloud because they shut it off immediately, so I asked it to reformat the phone as soon as it came online, accepting the fact that I would never see it again.

    It has still not come online. Why? Because they reformatted it first.

    Whatever.

    Anyhow, if I could go do it all over again, I would also install this app/feature called

    Icaughtu

    It’s a jailbroken app that, if you have the password enabled (which I stupidly didn’t while in a public place) and if someone types in an incorrect password, then it pops up a custom message for them, and without them knowing it takes a picture of their face and sends you an email with it, with the location if available. Also, it prevents them from turning off the phone at all so they have to wait for the phone’s battery to die.

    When my phone was stolen, it was off within 2 minutes. Thieves know about tracking.

    Anyhow, I am blogging about this experience through a lifestyle experiment im calling the 30 Day Dumb Phone Challenge…I talk about the loss, and about the challenge of intentionally living with a dumb phone for now, to see how much I need a smart phone or not.

    http://www.shortstoryguy.com/lostmyiphone

    I hope it’s okay to link up to it.

    Cheers and sorry about your loss.

    Jose

    • Toma
      July 12, 2013 at 11:00 AM #

      Thankfully iOS will come with an iCloud bootlock. That will solve the issue of people resetting the phone.

  13. Good-Bye iDevice
    July 12, 2013 at 8:09 PM #

    hello. this is what i do. i use a lockscreen with an eight-number PIN on my ipad and my iphone. not the simple 4-number PIN. go into settings, passcode lock, and turn off simple passcode. you can then set the pin to be longer than four digits – even longer than a eight digit PIN (you can even use an alphanumeric password). and also have it set to erase and reset the whole ipad or iphone if the idiot thief or whomever makes TEN attempts to get pass the lockscreen with wrong PIN codes. just think about it, the idiot thief may keep trying to put in a four digit PIN and has to click OK each time. so, if the correct PIN is actually longer, then the result is the thief is practically almost sure to make ten incorrect attempts guessing at a four digit PIN and then the device gets wiped clean.

    if the ipad or iphone gets wiped clean and resets because of this, even if the device can then be used as new by whomever, then that’s fine with me, because the safeguarding of my data and information, whether on my ipad or my iphone, is more important for me.

    if the ipad or iphone is turned on, then that should be good enough for find-my-iphone to work for me to try recovery that way. BUT if i never see it on find-my-iphone on icloud, but there is the longer pin on the lockscreen, then either the device will wipe and reset itself after the ten lockscreen attempts, or the thief (or whomever) will go about resetting and wiping the device. the same result is that they don’t get to my data and information. and that’s fine with me.

    of course, may have to go get a new ipad or iphone (or actually most likely use one of my old idevices), but that’s okay with me.

  14. Sara
    July 14, 2013 at 6:37 AM #

    My iphone5 was stolen. I chose Erase My Phone option on the Find My Phone on iCloud because I knew I’d never see it again. It hasn’t been online and it’s been 4 days. Does these mean all my data is still accessible to the thief, except my info that requires an Internet connection?

    • Toma
      July 14, 2013 at 6:54 AM #

      If you haven’t set up a password for the lock screen, yes.

      • Sara
        July 14, 2013 at 8:16 PM #

        I didn’t have a password. At least he can’t access any personal information contained in apps and chances are he’s already reformatted it since he hasn’t been online since it was stolen, right?

        • Toma
          July 14, 2013 at 11:51 PM #

          That is correct.

  15. Nikki
    July 18, 2013 at 8:38 PM #

    My ipad 4 was stolen on two days ago. I have an alphanumeric password set up on it. I believe at the time it was taken it was totally turned off. I have since gone to the police and filed a report. I have tried in vain to locate it using Find my iPhone but it doesn’t appear to be online. I know pictures can be accessed without logging in so I am worried about that. I took screen shots of bills I paid online. So I am going to have to send a message to erase it. But if I do that it cannot be tracked afterwards. I should assume it has been reset correct? Is there a way to prevent it from being reset? The thief sucks but Apple sucks for their complete disregard for thie customer’s property. They could surely come up with a better method to discourage theft of these devices. A person shouldn’t be able to hard reset it and then use it as their own. They don’t even have on their website something you can do to report it as stolen so that if someone else uses it they won’t be able to register it.

    As for the video it was alright until he showed the nude pictures of the women. She did not steal from him nor did she give her consent for her picture to be part of a DefCon convention. If I were her I would sue that guy.

    • Carlos
      August 12, 2013 at 6:41 AM #

      “Apple sucks for their complete disregard for thie customer’s property. They could surely come up with a better method to discourage theft of these devices”—-what more can Apple do besides requiring a 4 digit password, registering with Icloud to track where your “toy” is. You don’t mention how the Ipad was stolen-did you leave it in a car like Toma did and expect it to be there when you got back? Security procedures are only as good as the end user-if he/she doesn’t leave their property laying around unattended….90% of all Iphone/Ipad thefts can be directly related to owner negligence. If that’s the case, why blame Apple for your own negligence?

  16. Jeremy
    July 27, 2013 at 5:55 AM #

    I’m confused by what you mean by formatting the iPad? My was stolen 3 days ago and it hasn’t been online since it was in my car. What is formatting and how do I protect against it with my further devices?

    Thank you for your blog. Great help.

  17. Syed
    July 27, 2013 at 12:52 PM #

    Hi,
    I lost my iPhone5. Today I saw it online. I went on the location. It’s mentioning in two buildings which are very near. I am in Saudi Arabia. I did not call police. Because I have no hope from them. I played buzz on find my iPhone . After that they switched off. What can I do ….

    • Toma
      July 27, 2013 at 12:57 PM #

      You can only hope that they turn it on again. In all likelihood it’s gone forever. Wiping an iPhone when it’s off is for the moment too easy.

      • Farhan
        July 27, 2013 at 1:05 PM #

        I have their location. It’s not exact. There are more than 10 flats. I can not go door to door and ask. When they powered it on it get connected automatically with one free wifi connection. I also connect my 2nd IPhone with same network. I login with that modem as well and took the IP address . How it can help me. If it again come online how it could be helpful for me…..

        • Toma
          July 27, 2013 at 1:12 PM #

          The police can use the IP Address to find out who it belongs to. But as you said the police in your country may be no good.

  18. Syed
    July 28, 2013 at 8:46 AM #

    Toma,

    Its an open WIFI connection. How can we know with the IP?
    Anyone can use within the range….

    • Toma
      July 28, 2013 at 8:59 AM #

      Forgive me Syed. In that case there is no way to identify who it was. Certainly not without the help of police. The eat you can hope for is that it comes back online.

      I know for a fact that apple are able to see who uses the phone next, but they refuse to help without a warrant.

  19. Syed
    July 28, 2013 at 9:32 AM #

    Thanks Toma,
    Frankly speaking, Find iPhone app is not helpful. Actually it’s sucks when you know where is your phone but you can’t take action….
    Apple should help to genuine customers….
    Thanks once again for your kind replies..
    Best regards

    • Toma
      July 28, 2013 at 9:33 AM #

      Agreed!

  20. Ilona
    August 1, 2013 at 11:36 PM #

    I lost my iPhone 5 in the street a couple of weeks ago. It was traced to a couple of locations and I did leaflet drops offering a reward but nothing has come of it. I know it’s sad but I still live in hope it’ll be found with data intact. I lost precious pictures of my baby and loads of notes on my children. Last backup was 3 months ago. I have learnt my lessons on backing up but I feel broken by the loss of those pictures. I don’t care so much for the phone but I would pay double the cost of the phone for the pictures back. It’ll be a long time before I get over it. I am utterly miserable :’-(

  21. Steph
    August 16, 2013 at 9:42 AM #

    The police would not help you anyway. Even if you had your receipts, a bloodhound, pictures, a video of the theft, and the buzzer ringing behind the thieves door. The police would still have no ability to go into that apartment on your word. It isn’t like it is on TV.

    • Toma
      August 16, 2013 at 10:02 AM #

      Actually in my case they were willing to, but it was in Italy. Can’t speak for the US.

  22. Min (@we_are_there)
    August 25, 2013 at 1:16 PM #

    my iphone was stolen. sigh. i know the two buildings, one of which the person lives in, in another city. HONESTLY? I think Apple likes it this way. They make more money when someone steals your stuff and you replace it. It could be one reason their stuff is more expensive, to make it seem more elite etc so shit seems extra valuable and is more likely to get stolen, besides having to get each new model and all that consumerism. thats why they don’t actually try to help you get it back, or allow anyone else to. you have to jailbreak your phone to have some sort of helpful app that will get it back. nuts.

    public trading, besides full on capitalism, makes companies into hungry monsters, its never enough.

  23. Queer1
    September 3, 2013 at 6:19 AM #

    This exact thing happened to me about 3 years ago. I was out of town for a few months, and my partner had told me about the theft. Immediately he contacted the police, but since he wasn’t the owner and I was to be out of town for another 1.5 months, the police were going to do nothing and wouldn’t let him pursue anything, not even a police report. When he told me about this, needless to say i was appalled at the lack of civil service. But I digress.

    Being tech-savvy myself I was aware of the many many MANY unique identifiers available to track my new iPad 2, and like you found that Apple was ABSOLUTELY NO HELP in tracking it as per their policies, which make no sense. This alone infuriated me because it made the then new iCloud’s Find My iPhone app/service completely useless. If Apple’s ridiculous policies regarding this were helpful at all, any stolen electronic device like this could be found even if it had been re-formatted repeatedly. There are two ABSOLUTELY unique identifiers not including the serial number which cannot be changed at all programmed into each devices operating system. One would think that having all three of these, tracking their device would at least be worthwhile, but alas no. And I was yet to return for another month, and could do nothing. I felt neutered: by the local police for not doing anything, by Apple for giving every customer false hope in a security feature, and by the thief for obvious reasons.

    Cut to my having returned home and i was still sad about my new tech-baby’s kidnapping. But then something ironic and moronic happened. I ended up finding the drug-dealer, who traded an embarrassingly small amount of his product (less than 1/3 the value of the iPad) to its kidnapper (who I later found that I knew and that i know should have known he was getting ripped off by the dealer) while randomly perusing local Facebook profiles, the guy had it sitting on an armrest.

    New Mexico is a state filled with small communities, the one which I live in has a population of approx. 9055. With only 1 Apple Store statewide, the iPad 2 being less than 3-months old (publicly), myself having had to wait a month just to recieve mine as many many MANY others who ordered it on day one did, and the size of the town i live in; the likelihood of finding my iPad was was already significantly better than for the average city dweller. But the hilariously ironic part is that given these facts, and the likelihood of there not being many brand new iPad 2s in town yet, the thing that made it so easy to identify, as i had not altered it whatsoever physically, was the case. Now this case is nothing special. It’s one that you would find at any flea market, one of those cheap off-brands that doesn’t even have a name. I had ordered it from one of those discount sites online who shipped it to me from china, so the likelihood of anyone nearby having that exact case even if they did have the new iPad 2 was even smaller.

    I had found my stolen baby. I immediately went to the police myself with my receipts for the iPad and the case, the various identifier codes, a picture of the case from the site i ordered it from, a printed copy of the picture i found it in, as well as a flash drive with the link to the profile i had found it on. NOW the police were of some help, but I did never get MY iPad back. The guy ended up keeping it and just replacing it with a slightly better version after the court proceedings had finished. He ended up with a receiving stoled property charge, but the thief wasn’t even arrested nor has he faced any justice for this douche-baggery.

  24. Solo
    September 13, 2013 at 4:16 AM #

    Someone stole my Ipad2 out of my car yesterday. It is relatively old so my daughter uses it for languages (she’s in an immersion program). I feel so violated – no password as my 4 year old uses it all the time. We have soooo many pics on there ..her prek graduation all her recitals – my heart is broken. I too have find my phone but the phone is offline…sigh I am sure it is reformatted by now. I filed a police report and I am putting up flyers informing neighbors to be careful. Right now I am totally obsessed over it cause I feel so violated..but most of all I feel stupid for not realizing the Ipad was in the car….only few things are worse than a thief. Anyway, no money to buy a new one..I will cross my fingers that the thief is a moron and will turn it on or that they will sell it to somebody that will. Until then I hope all thieves die a sloow death, stealing is diplorable..most of us work hard for our gadgets.

  25. david lee
    September 17, 2013 at 3:29 AM #

    i doubt the police are going to go track down and recover your stolen iPad regardless of how much information you give them…

  26. vinay
    September 26, 2013 at 4:03 PM #

    but my icloud password to be changed ,.. what can i do

  27. bronze
    September 27, 2013 at 11:00 PM #

    this is so sad for me and shameful , my ex partner (now ) gave me an I phone 3gs when he got an upgrade . he had it unblocked from his contract provider for me to use and I registered an apple id and I cloud account to the phone with a passcode , unfortunately when he went so did the phone , yes shocking I know he took it off me !!! I put it in lost mode on I cloud and it has not been on since yesterday , however he has informed me he has the passcode ?? (silly me using an obvious code for him to guess ) I have tried in vain to change the passcode on I cloud and through apple (no help at all ) to block it again . is there any thing I can do ? I am worried he will now sell the phone which may include some of my info and personal details . I am new to the I phone so not sure I have done all I can ?? please help .

  28. Dave
    September 28, 2013 at 2:20 AM #

    “•Firstly, if you have a wireless-only device ala the iPad or iPod touch (or an iPhone with data turned off) don’t use a lockscreen password. The second the thing gets lost or stolen whoever has it won’t be able to use it at all and you guarantee that the only way they can use it is to format it, at which point it’s gone forever.”

    This is some dumb ass advice if you care about your data. Some better advice would be back up and insure your ipad!

  29. SteLew
    October 3, 2013 at 8:08 PM #

    I lost my ipad, i google searched and found this page.. I have just used the icloud for first time, rang my ipad and found it outside in the garden.. thanks all I will be more careful.. It is nice to know i can do this.. and wipe it.. technology is advancing so far now, even the thieves struggling HA

  30. donnasinc
    October 13, 2013 at 1:25 PM #

    I just had my iPhone 4s stolen. I did have a password on it and I did react rather quickly as you mention you did. Thing is, I have tried to locate it through icloud but it continues to state it is offline. I put a message on the phone through icloud stating that there was a reward for the person that “found” it but no word as of yet. Today I decided to erase the data in case they got into my phone but it states on icloud that it will erase once they log into the internet. My service provider states that even if they do get the phone unlocked through a third party the phone will be useless since it is no listed as stolen and no phone company will register the phone. Is that true?

    • Toma
      October 13, 2013 at 1:34 PM #

      It has a unique IMEI, but I am not sure how it works in your country. It is very probable that it is true, yes. If you had a password on it there was absolutely no need to format it though. It’s very likely useless to whoever found it, especially if it has iOS7 installed and iCloud activated.

  31. kayley winslow
    October 17, 2013 at 7:39 AM #

    I just got my iPhone stolen today. I have had iCloud on my computer all day, the person keeps turning it back on and off and it brings me to different locations. Wish me luck; and thanks for this article.

  32. Nancy
    October 21, 2013 at 10:06 AM #

    I found an ipad mini and called Apple to locate the owner. No luck. She told me to wait until it beeped and displayed a message to tell me to contact the owner. I waited and waited. No message. I can’t get into the device because of the 4 digit password. Someone told me that the new ios won’t let you hard reset the device without the owner’s apple id so I should hard reset it. So, I hard reset it and when it told me to choose a language, that screen had a message from the owner. Why doesn’t that message appear BEFORE you have to hard reset the device??? I feel really bad for the owner. I called him (no answer but I left a message). I hate to tell him I wiped his ipad mini to find out who owned it.

    • rsc40
      October 21, 2013 at 2:37 PM #

      Hopefully he’s backed it up but more importantly thanks for restoring our faith in our fellow man.

      • Nancy
        October 23, 2013 at 9:45 AM #

        the father of the kid whose iPad mini i found 11told me that the only way they could locate the iPad Mini is if I had gone on to the Internet. However, I couldn’t get on the internet because there was a 4 digit code that locked me out of the iPad Mini. So they never would have found me. I had to find them. And to find them I had to hard reset the device and then I could find the message of who to call to return the iPad Mini. It’s really a dumb procedure that I had todhard reset it in order to find out who it belong to. I recommend that everyone put at least a phone number in the case with their iPad so that an honest person will not have trouble finding you to return it to you.

  33. Web Security expert
    October 24, 2013 at 2:16 AM #

    Great advice.
    No passcode on the device gives the thief full access to your email. If you use online banking the thief can use your email to reset your online banking account password and drain your bank account in less than 30 seconds. Better to have your ipad lost forever. Always use a passcode.

    • Nicola
      January 11, 2014 at 9:34 AM #

      Can I ask a question. I know my phone is gone forever. Data is more important. I had an iPhone 4S stolen last week. I had a passcode lock on it. Not sure if I had the findmyiphone switched on. To use my phone will they have to reset it and will this remove my data? Thank you

      • Toma
        January 12, 2014 at 10:54 PM #

        Yes it will. Don’t fret.

        • Chanchu
          January 30, 2014 at 4:20 PM #

          hii.. my brother lost his iphone 5s 10 days back. the icloud app was on. we are trying to track through icloud from the website. please help me.

          • Toma
            January 30, 2014 at 4:27 PM #

            How can I help?

  34. Carina
    November 10, 2013 at 5:04 AM #

    oh f*ck, i had the exact same problem as you with everything( except i had an iPod touch) and i did all those stupid things.. I should have read this before i did it D:

  35. Bob Stromberg
    November 20, 2013 at 4:11 AM #

    This is a very helpful article, and the comments are also helpful. However, I suspect it refers to devices running iOS 6. With iOS 7 now available, there are new options. Surely an update to the article would be helpful? Perhaps a note at the top saying what devices/OSes this article applies to, with a link to a new article for iOS 7 devices?

    Here are some questions I have:

    1. Is it a good idea to label the device with your real name and phone number? Or at least to put a recognizable but not personally identifying mark on it, a deliberate symbol, so you can say, “See that’s my mark.” Like a birthmark or tattoo.

    2. On a multi-user device such as a Mac or a Windows laptop, is it a good idea to enable a guest account so the thief would be encouraged to use the machine?

    3. Do you have experience with Lojack for Laptops vs. Prey Project?

    This is a big topic and I very much appreciate your experience report. Thanks!

  36. Nathalie Abi Hamad
    February 3, 2014 at 8:28 AM #

    With the latest ios7, if u have fund my iphone on and someone changes sim cards, the second they switch the phone on, they will b asked for ur apple id and password. Without ur id and password, no one, not even apple can open, reset, restore or do anything to the phone. Apple are always improving. Obviously, the problem is your phone becomes useless to the thief and he will throw it, but at least u will feel u prevented him from using it. One feels stupid enough for being robbed, at least this way, u get the thief.
    Please note that NOTHING will work except ur id anad password. No switching it off and wiping it, no resetting, absolutely nothing

    • Toma
      February 3, 2014 at 1:06 PM #

      Apple can reset it even with iCloud activated, but I’m pretty sure you need proof of ID and proof of purchase.

      • Nathalie Abi Hamad
        February 3, 2014 at 2:16 PM #

        I am sure they can but if the person stole it, he wont have proof of purchase, so they wont do it

  37. claudio
    February 7, 2014 at 2:45 PM #

    i lost my iphone 5c and i do not have find my iphone or icoud what shuld i do ???

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