Can iTunes Tell If an iPod Is Stolen?

By Jen Cordwainer

While iTunes doesn't identify stolen iPods, new iOS features can thwart thieves.
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The iTunes software can give you valuable identification information about all iPod models, such as the unique serial number. However, iTunes cannot automatically detect whether an iPod is stolen or not. You can report an iPod's serial number to authorities, so that it can be compared to devices recovered later. Also, Apple has incorporated anti-theft features into iOS 7 and iCloud that allow you to track your device and prevent thieves from using a stolen iPod Touch.

IPod Serial Numbers in iTunes

If you find a lost iPod Shuffle, Nano, Classic or Touch model, you might be able to retrieve its serial number and report it to the authorities, who might be able to match it to an iPod reported stolen. You can find the serial numbers printed on the back of all iPod models. If this text is illegible, then plug the device into your computer and launch iTunes. Click on "iPod" in the Devices toolbar and select the "Summary" screen. The serial number appears on this screen. You can contact the police with this information, so that they can match the device with iPods that have been reported missing.

If your iPod is stolen, you can retrieve your serial number from your iTunes backups. Open the "Edit" menu and click on "Preferences." Select "Devices" and search for your iPod in the list of your backups. Hold your cursor over a backup file for a few seconds, and a tooltip appears with your iPod serial number.

IPod Serial Number on Your Packaging

If your iPod has been stolen and you cannot find a backup in iTunes, you can also locate your device serial number on the original packaging. Look on the rear of the box near the bottom. There will be a sticker with several barcodes. Search for a barcode that reads "Serial Number." The following numbers and letters are a unique identifier for your iPod.

Lost Mode and Tracking

While iTunes was not designed to identify stolen iPods, you can use iCloud to mark an iPod Touch as a lost device. This will notify anyone who finds it that your iPod Touch is lost, providing them with instructions on how to return your device. To enable this option on your iPod Touch, launch your browser and visit the iCloud website (see Resources).

Sign into the website with your Apple ID user name and password. Click on "Find my iPhone" and select your iPod from the "All Devices" drop-down menu. Click on "Lost Mode" and enter a four-digit passcode. Next, enter a contact phone number and a custom message to be displayed on your iPod's lock screen. Click "Done." If your iPod Touch is online, you will be able to see its location on the map. If your iPod is offline, then you can click on "Notify me when found" to receive email updates about your iPod's current location.

Activation Lock

If you have enabled "Find My iPhone" on your iPod Touch, people cannot disable this feature, erase your iPod or reactivate your iPod Touch without your Apple ID username and password. This feature is meant to prevent thieves from using or selling your device.