A stolen phone may be tracked by police using its IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number or GPS monitoring. The device will report its location back to the nearest cell tower, which can help investigators find it.
In some cases, officers with access to the National Crime Information Center database of stolen vehicles could also use the VIN number to identify a device in their possession.
However, it is not unusual for thieves to destroy or hide smartphones in attempts to avoid being identified by police. Officers typically cannot search suspects' belongings without a warrant, so they usually have to rely on the device's owner to file a claim with his or her carrier about missing equipment.
After determining the IMEI number of the missing phone, the police keep track of it until it is activated with a new SIM card. They trace the phone after it is activated and apprehend the individual who is using it. This process can be difficult if the person changing out the SIM card deletes all of their information.
In some cases, depending on the state law, the owner of the lost or stolen phone may be able to have its location tracked through the cell phone carrier. The carrier not only can provide an accurate location but also may be able to tell you whether the phone has been used recently by another person.
Police departments across the country use GPS tracking devices for various investigations from drug trafficking to domestic violence. These devices allow officers to monitor the location of any vehicle they are tracking. If the officer determines that the driver is violating any traffic laws or otherwise doing something suspicious, they can pull them over at any time.
These same devices can also be used in search-and-rescue operations. After receiving location information from a cellular tower, emergency responders are able to more quickly reach people who might be in need of help.
GPS tracking devices require direct electrical connection between the device being tracked and its battery. This means that the device must be plugged in at all times while being tracked.
According to police, it is easier to trace a person if the position of the equipment is known, but in most cases of stolen laptops, there is no support from telecom service providers. A laptop has a MAC address, similar to how cellphones have an IMEI number. The IMEI number is used to track all stolen phones. However, since most laptops are not tracked as devices are recycled or sold with information removed, tracking them becomes difficult.
The best way to avoid having your laptop stolen is not to leave it unguarded on public paths. If you must leave it somewhere, try to find a secure spot where it will be hidden from view. This may mean hiding it under a tree or in a garage. Make sure that the door to this area is closed and locked, too.
If you are going to leave your laptop open for any length of time, make sure you have turned off the hardware button (if available) to prevent anyone from simply pressing it to turn on the computer. Also, don't use a hardware keylogger; they are easy to detect and remove by security experts. Finally, keep an eye on your laptop - if someone is watching you, they might take advantage of your distraction to grab it away.
If your laptop is still missing after it has been stolen, contact your laptop's manufacturer and see if they can provide you with any additional information on how to locate it.
The CTIA, the cellular industry's trade body in the United States, has created a service called the Stolen Phone Checker, which allows you to check whether a phone has been reported lost or stolen. The service operates by searching for a device's IMEI, MEID, or ESN—individual codes provided to each phone. If it is found to be missing, you will be notified via text message.
In addition to letting you know that your phone has been stolen, this service can also help track down your lost handset. The Stolen Phone Checker requires an active data plan with voice service and can be used to locate any smartphone whether it is turned on or not.
This service is free and available in the United States only through Verizon Wireless. Other wireless carriers may have similar programs. Check with your carrier to see if your phone is listed and what number should be used if your phone is lost or stolen.
If the device was stolen, report it to the authorities as soon as possible, providing the manufacturer and model, serial number, and IMEI, MEID, or ESN number. Some service providers want confirmation that the equipment was stolen, which a police report would offer. Report the theft or loss to your service provider right away. They may be able to disable the phone's connection to the network until it is returned.
Typically, a stolen phone cannot be activated. That doesn't imply there aren't any other options. There are people out there that can alter the IMEI to one that isn't on the blacklist, as well as activate it in another nation. This usually involves physical access to the phone itself.
In some countries you can get in trouble for using a blacked-out SIM card in another person's name. If you plan to use the phone in an area where this is common practice, we recommend that you buy a new SIM card before leaving home.
If you have access to the phone itself then you should consider turning it on remotely. This can be done by anyone who knows the code for unlocking the device. Some phones only need to be pressed *#06# to enter the system, others require a special software command to be sent over Wifi or Bluetooth.
It's important to note that if you do enable remote control of the phone then anyone can use it even if they don't know the code. So make sure that you're going to use it responsibly before exposing it to the public.
Finally, let's say that you lost the phone but you still want to use it. In most cases, you will be able to do so after it has been disabled.