How to Check if an IPhone Is Stolen

By Andrew Tennyson

Before you purchase a used iPhone, check its IMEI or serial number to determine whether it’s stolen. Each iPhone has these two identifying numbers, which are unique to the device. Enter them into the iCloud Check Activation Lock status website to see whether the phone is owned by the seller. You can also use one of several websites designed to tell you whether an iPhone's IMEI number has been blacklisted, which is another good indicator the device is stolen.

Step 1

Tap the “Settings” icon on the iPhone’s home screen to open the Settings app.

Step 2

Tap “General” and then select “About” to view a list of information about the device.

Step 3

Scroll down and copy the number displayed in either the IMEI field or the Serial Number field. You can use either number to determine whether an iPhone has been reported stolen.

Step 4

Visit the iCloud Check Activation Lock Status website (link in Resources).

Step 5

Enter the IMEI or Serial number in the provided field, enter the security code and then click “Continue” to check the Activation Lock status of the phone. If Activation Lock is enabled, the phone can’t be activated for use on any cellular network until the current owner enters her Apple ID and password. If you bought this phone from someone and they don’t know the required Apple ID or password, chances are the phone is stolen.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can also use one of several online tools designed to tell you whether the iPhone’s IMEI number has been blacklisted. If it has, then the phone has been reported stolen.
  • If you think an iPhone is stolen, check with your local police department to see if a report has been filed.
  • If you know the previous owner of the phone, have her enter her Apple ID and password into the device to turn off Activation Lock. To erase all of the previous owner’s content, open the Settings app, select “General,” tap “Reset” and then choose “Erase All Content.” Once that's finished, proceed through the regular activation process.
  • If the previous owner is not present, she can also unlock the iPhone via the iCloud Find website (link in Resources). Sign in to the iCloud Find site, click “All Devices” and select the iPhone from the list of devices associated with the iCloud account. Click “Remove from account.” Once removed, restart the iPhone and proceed through the normal activation process.
  • Turn on the Find My iPhone feature on your iPhone to prevent it being used if it’s stolen in the future. Launch the Settings app, select “iCloud,” sign in with your Apple ID and password, if prompted, and then toggle the “Find My iPhone” switch to the On position.