1. Computer Skills

What to Do if an iOS Device Is Lost or Stolen

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Read Time: 4 min
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What You'll Be Creating

It may seem like a worse-case scenario, but if your iOS device goes missing, don’t panic: you just may be able to get it back.

In this tutorial, I'll show you what steps to take if an iPhone or iPad is lost or stolen. I'll explain how to remotely lock the device, even if the device’s battery is dead.

Turn On Lost Mode

Assuming you’ve already set up location tracking app Find My iPhone on the lost or stolen iOS device, one of the first things you need to do once you realise the device has gone missing is to turn on Lost Mode

Lost Mode allows you to display a custom message along with a phone number on the device’s lock screen for people to reach you on if they find the device. It also locks the device to prevent unauthorised access to your personal information should the device fall into the wrong hands.

Launch the app and log in on another iPhone, iPad or iPad touch, or sign in to on a Mac or PC to view Find My iPhone via the web. 

Tap Actions > Lost Mode > Turn On Lost Mode. Lock the lost or stolen device by entering a six-digit passcode, and the enter a phone number and a message to be displayed alongside it (optional). The device is now in Lost Mode.

Flip the Email Updates switch to On to receive an update via email if the location of the device changes.

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Find My iPhone's Lost mode

While in Lost Mode, the missing device will not display alerts or play a sound if you receive a notification, however, it can still receive phone calls and FaceTime calls. Credit or debit cards associated with Apple Pay are also disabled, and can only be re-activated once you have disabled Lost Mode, unlocked the device and signed in to iCloud.

The device requires an internet connection in order to enter Lost Mode, though if you suspect that the device's battery is dead, you can still turn on Lost Mode, but it won't take effect until it's powered back up and is connected to the internet.

Once you've been reunited with the missing device, tap Turn Off Lost Mode to disable Lost Mode.

Trace the Device

Find My iPhone helps pinpoint a missing device's exact location, even if you've previously disabled Location Services.

Return to Find My iPhone, and select the device’s name from the sidebar to view its current location. If the device is close by, tap Actions > Play Sound to make it play a sound to help you or someone else find it. Press Play Sound repeatedly until you’ve located the device.

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Find My iPhone will pinpoint your device's exact location

If it isn’t nearby, tap the Car icon for directions to your device’s location. You'll be redirected to the Maps app, which will generate directions to the device’s last known location from your current location. 

What you choose to do with this information is up to you, however, material possessions are never worth putting your life in danger for.

Report the lost or stolen device to your local police station, along with its last known location and serial number. You can find the device's serial number on the barcode of the device’s original packaging, on the receipt or by accessing the Devices tab in iTunes Preferences.

Family Sharing

If Family Sharing is set up on the device, you can use another family member’s iOS device to help locate your own. 

Ash the family member to sign in to iCloud with their Apple ID, and they will then be able to trace any device associated with that Family Sharing account via Find My iPhone.

Remotely Erase a Device

If the device contains sensitive information, you can choose to erase the device remotely.

This should only be considered as a last resort, however, as the erasing of data is permanent, and a wiped iOS device can no longer be traced through Find My iPhone.

Tap ActionsErase, and then Erase again to wipe the device clean.

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Erase your device remotely

Security Measures

Unfortunately, if Find My iPhone isn’t set up on the device, you'll not be able to track its location and may have to resort to retracing your steps. You can, however, take measures to protect your personal information. Here’s how,

Change Passwords

Sign in to and change the password associated with your account to prevent unauthorised access to iCloud data, as well your iMessages and iTunes account.

Consider changing the password to your social media accounts, too, and your email.

Report the Device Lost or Stolen

Report the device as lost or stolen to both your local police station and your network service provider, if necessary. The network service provider can then disable any phone calls, SMS messages or data use. 

Remember to provide your device’s serial number to the police to help prove ownership in case your device is handed in at the police station by a member of the public.


In this tutorial, I've shown you what steps to take if an iOS device is lost or stolen and I've explained how to remotely lock a device, even if the device’s battery’s dead.

Following these steps should hopefully lead you to being reunited with your missing device soon. Good luck.

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