If a person is missing and carrying a cellphone, it may be possible to locate him using phone company data or app location data. If someone is missing and you think he might be in danger, your best bet is probably to call the police, who can work with the phone companies to obtain the necessary data. Naturally, depending on the circumstances, you can also try calling and texting to see if the person responds.
Find Someone by Phone Number
If someone is missing and you have a phone number, but there's no response to calls or texts, it may be possible to locate a missing person by cellphone records.
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If you suspect the person has been kidnapped or hurt or is otherwise in danger, you'll usually want to contact the police. Officers can obtain cellphone data and other information, like records of credit and debit card spending, to try to figure out where the person is located. Call and text records may also help you find out who's been in contact with the missing person.
Cellphones connect to phone company antenna towers when they're turned on, which makes it possible to locate where they are or, if they're turned off or out of range, where they were last seen. Phone companies generally don't make this data available without a law enforcement request or even a court order.
Lawyers and private investigators may also be able to help find people by phone number if the situation doesn't warrant calling the police, such as if you're searching for a long-lost relative or someone who owes you money.
Checking App Data
Many smart phone apps record where users travel during the day for a variety of reasons, from plotting exercise routines along a map to helping you quickly order lunch or a cab.
If you have access to someone's passwords or other login information, you may be able to get this information by logging in to the app and looking at recorded history. Police or a lawyer may also help you get this information from app providers through the legal system.
Since cellphones can record and report location data even if they're connected to Wi-Fi and not a cell tower, you may be able to get more location information through app data than you can just through the cell network.
Find My Phone Apps
If someone is missing and you have access to his account with his smart phone operating system maker, usually Apple for iPhones and Google for Android phones, you may be able to use "Find My Phone" apps to locate the person's phone.
Apple's service is known as "Find My iPhone" and Google's is known as "Find My Device." Each will help you locate where a particular device is located.
If you don't have access to the person's account, you may still be able to get access to this information through the police or with a court order.
- North American Investigations: The Critical Difference Between Finding a “Missing Person” and “Locating a Person”
- Fox News: How Tech Tracks Missing People
- The New York Times: Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret
- Apple: Track and Find Your Missing Apple Device
- Google: Find My Device