How to Locate an iPhone With the IMEI Number

by Michelle Carvo ; Updated September 18, 2017

The International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number is the unique serial number for your iPhone. Although you can sometimes use this IMEI number to locate your iPhone through your wireless provider or an IMEI database, there’s a better option for locating your iPhone.

Locate the IMEI Number

You can locate your iPhone's IMEI number by tapping "Settings" and then "General." Tap "About" and scroll down to the IMEI section. Your IMEI number is located here along with the MEID and other numbers. Long press the number and tap "Copy" to copy it.

Find My iPhone

Tracking an iPhone by its IMEI number is not nearly as effective as using Apple’s own Find My iPhone feature. As such, try Find My iPhone before trying any of the other options. Find My iPhone can be set up in your iPhone’s “Settings” section and once enabled it allows you to track your iPhone from anywhere by going to iCloud.com. You can see a very accurate location for your iPhone from Find My iPhone and also click a link to play a sound on your iPhone or lock your iPhone.

Track IMEI With Wireless Provider

Start with your wireless provider if you want to locate an iPhone using the device’s IMEI number. Call your provider and say that your iPhone is missing. They will add the iPhone to the grey list of the IMEI database, which allows them to track the iPhone. Your wireless provider will then track the iPhone and may be able to give this information to you. In some cases they may require that you also file a stolen property complaint with your local police department if the device was stolen before they give you the location of the iPhone. Some wireless providers may outright refuse to locate the iPhone using the IMEI number and so you must look at other options.

Track IMEI With IMEI Databases

If your wireless provider is little help then your next option is to report your IMEI number to some of the IMEI databases on the internet. IMEIDetective, GSMA IMEI Database and MissingPhones are a few of the IMEI databases available. Submit your IMEI number to these databases and you will be contacted if the device is located. This is less effective than having your cell phone provider check the IMEI number and track the device, but it is still an option worth considering if your iPhone has been stolen.

Tip

  • If you are attempting to recover your iPhone after it has been stolen, be very careful. It is recommended to contact your local police department and have them recover your iPhone for you.

Tips

  • The IMEI is not the most effective way to locate and iPhone. Enable the "Find My iPhone" feature for live GPS tracking, alerts and remote wipe options.
  • If your iPhone is used for work, your company may have linked it to a Microsoft ActiveSync account. Your tech administrator might be able to find your iPhone's IMEI in the Exchange Administration Center.

Warning

  • If you believe that your iPhone has been stolen, do not confront a potential thief directly. Maintain your personal safety by contacting authorities and providing them with your iPhone information.

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About the Author

Michelle Carvo has been writing professionally since 2006, contributing to a variety of websites. She is also a technical writer with extensive experience in Android/iPhone development and PC repair. Carvo holds a Bachelor of Science in computer information systems from the University of Michigan-Flint and works as an IT project manager.

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