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Found a Lost Phone? How to Return It to Its Owner in 7 Easy Steps

Returning a locked, misplaced telephone can really feel so much like stealing one. I’ve discovered and returned a number of misplaced smartphones through the years. However I’ve by no means wanted to interrupt into the contacts listing to take action, and also you shouldn’t both.

Yearly, thousands and thousands lose their telephones. Within the US, about 50% of misplaced units are returned to their homeowners. The remaining get stolen.

How Do You Return a Cellphone to Its Proprietor?

Even with out entry to a contacts listing, returning a misplaced telephone is simple. For essentially the most half, you possibly can attain out to a mobile service supplier. But when that fails, there are just a few tips that may assist.

Right here’s how I returned a misplaced telephone to its proprietor.

Background: A Examine on Misplaced Telephones

Symantec carried out a research on telephone theft. It randomly dispersed 50 telephones inside the US and Canada with no lock-screen sample. Roughly 50% of those telephones made their method again to Symantec. Of those, 96% had been accessed for private particulars, akin to photographs, emails, and extra.

The ethical of the story: Allow the password or display lock. Nonetheless, telephones with a locking sample can nonetheless be hacked to disclose your personal information. It may well additionally intervene with makes an attempt to return the telephone.

For locked telephones, there are just a few methods to get them again to their homeowners. The very best technique is to get the Internet Mobile Equipment Identity, or IMEI, quantity. The IMEI quantity can uniquely determine the proprietor of the telephone.

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1. Name the Service

In my case, the telephone’s lock sample was enabled, and conventional bypass strategies wouldn’t work—the telltale finger smudges on the display had been worn out by tire tracks. After the telephone had been dropped, it sadly fell beneath the proprietor’s automobile.

The best way to amass the IMEI (the serial quantity or ESN works too) of the telephone is dependent upon the telephone’s make. For the Samsung Galaxy S3 that I picked up, the IMEI quantity will be discovered beneath the battery. This isn’t the case on newer telephones, sadly. Most telephones now not have detachable batteries.

After jotting down the IMEI, I referred to as the mobile service supplier: AT&T. Sadly, they may not give me any private data. I requested customer support to inform the proprietor that their telephone was held at my residence complicated’s foremost workplace. Inside just a few hours, the proprietor picked up the gadget.

This technique works as a result of the telephone’s proprietor should contact the mobile supplier to droop service. Nonetheless, if you happen to handle to contact the telephone firm earlier than the shopper realizes their loss, it may well then relay your contact info to the proprietor. In my case, the Galaxy S3 didn’t obtain mobile sign from inside my residence complicated. So ready till the proprietor referred to as wasn’t an possibility.

It is also potential the proprietor of the telephone would possibly use built-in software program to find their lacking gadget. On newer units than what I discovered, the Android System Supervisor allows you to locate a stolen Android device. And Apple customers can use the Find My feature to find their telephone.


The right way to Discover an IMEI Quantity

Right here’s the essential course of that you could be have to undergo to return a telephone, in case you have an IMEI:

  1. Discover the IMEI. Producers typically place this beneath the battery, on the aspect of the gadget, or on the again.
  2. Name the service supplier and provide them with the telephone’s info, usually the IMEI.
  3. Go away your contact quantity with the service supplier.
  4. When the proprietor calls to droop service, they are going to obtain your contact quantity.

Returning the Cellphone With out an IMEI Quantity

Within the occasion that the IMEI isn’t obtainable, and the telephone is locked, you possibly can both wait till the proprietor calls their very own telephone or you possibly can take issues into your individual arms with the guidelines beneath.

For a GSM (AT&T and T-Cell) telephone, a telephone thief would merely swap out the SIM card and both promote or use the gadget. Fortuitously, you aren’t a thief. In case you can’t discover an IMEI, serial, or ESN quantity, you possibly can attempt different strategies.

2. Attempt Google Assistant or Siri

Google Assistant and Siri are voice-activated digital assistants that may reply to voice instructions, even with the lock display engaged. They’re additionally programmed with name performance, that means you possibly can inform the assistant to name somebody.

To activate the automated voice calling function, do the next:

  • For Android telephones, say: “Hey Google.”
  • For iPhones, say: “Hey Siri.”
  • Then say “Name Mother” or “Name Dad.”

If the telephone dials out, you possibly can go away behind a message letting the individual know you’ve obtained their baby’s telephone. Sadly, this solely works if the individual’s telephone is working and if their mum or dad is entered into their contacts.

3. Drop the Cellphone Off at a Retailer

AT&T, T-Cell, and Verizon, and Dash all function brick-and-mortar shops in all fifty states. Every firm provides barely totally different return insurance policies:


  • T-Cell: Return the telephone to a company retail retailer. T-Mobile’s store locator can discover all close by shops.
  • AT&T: AT&T accepts misplaced telephones at its corporate retail stores. You’ll have to filter its search outcomes for “corporate-owned shops.”
  • Verizon: Verizon additionally returns telephones acquired at its shops. The Verizon store locator tool will help you discover the closest service middle in your space.
  • Dash: Since Dash merged with T-Cell, it’s unclear whether or not you possibly can return a misplaced telephone to a Dash company retail retailer.

Sadly, if you happen to drop off a telephone and the shopper isn’t a present subscriber to a mobile plan, the telephone will find yourself at an e-waste facility.

4. The Finger-Smudge Methodology

The oldest, and greatest recognized, technique of beating the lock display sample is thru retracing finger smudges. Holding the telephone as much as a light-weight will reveal such patterns, and you’ll retrace the strains on the display to beat the lock sample. It could take just a few tries however if you happen to can see a smudge, you possibly can bypass the lock display.

Fashionable Android units and iPhones could make calls to emergency contacts (and emergency companies) even from the lock display. If the telephone’s proprietor has an emergency contact obtainable, you possibly can name this particular person and go away a message letting them know you have got their telephone. The method is comparable for each Android telephones and iPhones.

For Android telephones, take the next steps:

  1. From the lock display, swipe up and faucet on Emergency name. On Samsung units, as a substitute contact the telephone icon on the bottom-left aspect of the display and swipe proper.
  2. Faucet on EMERGENCY INFORMATION, twice, on the high of the dialer interface. On Samsung units, faucet on Medical data, situated on the bottom-left aspect of the display.
  3. You must see their emergency contacts, in the event that they’ve inputted that info.

Sadly, only a few individuals enter an emergency contact into their telephone.

6. Android Debug Methodology (Requires an Previous Cellphone)

The Android Debug (ADB) exploit technique may break a telephone’s lock sample. This technique requires that you’ve got ADB in your PC. Additionally, the gadget have to be related through USB to your PC.

If correctly configured, you alter the telephone’s gestures.key file—a critical safety downside with older variations of Android. The telephone will flip again out of locked mode, and you’ll then entry the contacts listing. Thieves at this level will manufacturing unit reset the gadget. Don’t try this. On newer Android units, nevertheless, this requires root entry.

7. Working System Exploits (Requires an Previous Cellphone)

You may also try one of many many Lock Display screen exploits that exist in several variations of cell working methods. Many of those go unpatched, so it’s only a matter of discovering the best technique. Googling the title of the telephone adopted by “sample unlock” might discover you the reply you’re searching for.

The video beneath exhibits the tactic that may have let me entry the Galaxy S3 previously in my possession. I ought to reemphasize that this technique wasn’t wanted.

Do Return the Misplaced Cellphone You Discovered!

In case you discover a misplaced telephone, returning it’s straightforward. When you have the IMEI or ESN quantity, merely contact your mobile service supplier and go away your contact data with them. In case you don’t have the IMEI, both wait till they name your telephone or you possibly can try and bypass the lock sample.



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