Stolen iPhones and cellular accounts
Ask iLounge offers readers the opportunity to get answers to their iPod-, iPhone-, iPad-, iTunes-, or Apple TV-related questions from a member of the iLounge editorial team. We'll answer several questions here each week, and of course, you can always get help with more immediate concerns from the iLounge Discussion Forums. Submit your questions for consideration using our Ask iLounge Submit Form. We reserve the right to edit questions for grammar, spelling, and length.
Q: My iPhone was recently stolen. I had a passcode on it and enabled the Find My iPhone feature and put a passcode on that. I noticed that the iPhone at one point had charged to 5% but the location was never revealed or emailed to me like I had requested. Without the thief knowing my passcode, are they still able to wipe my iPhone clean, or do they just have an unusable, dead iPhone? Also, if they were able to wipe it clean, can I call my provider to see if it has been used, and would it still be under my cell number?
A: Unfortunately, even with the Find My iPhone feature, once a device’s battery goes dead there’s not much you can do to locate it. There are also rare circumstances where you might be able to contact your iPhone to see its battery capacity but not actually be able to track a precise location since that depends on the iPhone being able to reach Wi-Fi access points and GPS satellites; cellular triangulation only is considerably imprecise without these other elements being available.
An iPhone can easily be erased even if the thief does not know your passcode simply by connecting it to a computer running iTunes and following the standard “Restore” procedure. While your personal data will be save, since the Find My iPhone feature is just another configuration setting, a full erase of the iPhone will also disable this feature and you will no longer be able to track it.
However, unless the thief changes the SIM card in your iPhone, it will still be using your cellular phone number, even after it is erased. You should contact your cellular provider as soon as possible to deal with this, as the thief could be racking up expensive calls under your account, which you will be responsible for until you have reported the theft to your carrier. If you’ve replaced your iPhone, you can have your carrier transfer the number to another device; if not you should have them temporarily suspend the account.
Note that you can avoid this potential problem in the future by setting a SIM PIN on your iPhone. This is a four-digit code that must be entered any time an iPhone is restarted before it can access the cellular data network. This code is stored on the SIM card itself and would also be required on any other device that the SIM card was inserted into.
Note that this is something of a double-edged sword, however, since this will prevent cellular data access as well, meaning that if a thief steals your iPhone and restarts it, you would quite likely lose access to the Find My iPhone feature unless the device happens to be on a known Wi-Fi network.
Note that iOS 7, expected to be released in the fall, introduces a new Activation Lock feature that will prevent a device with “Find My iPhone” enabled from being re-activated with Apple’s servers once it’s been wiped. This won’t necessarily help you recover a lost iPhone, since wiping the iPhone still disables the location features, but it will ensure that a stolen iPhone is of little to no use for a potential thief.
- Will removing a credit card from Safari also remove it from Apple Pay?
- Can I mute Handoff calls coming into my Mac from my iPhone?
- How do I keep my iPhone calls from ringing on my Mac?
- Why doesn’t Traffic show up on my Today Notifications Screen?
- Why doesn’t my iPhone reconnect to Wi-Fi after I turn it on?
- Why can’t I see the iPad-style landscape view on my iPhone 6 Plus?
- Incipio to acquire Skullcandy
- Apple confirms iOS 10 kernel was left open to improve performance
- Apple leaves iOS 10 kernel open to scrutiny
- Judge throws out ‘Error 53’ lawsuit against Apple
- Chinese company in iPhone patent fight is all but defunct
- Apple adds nine more apps to universal search in Apple TV
- WSJ: iPhone to see modest changes this year, eliminate headphone jack
- China tightening restrictions on mobile games starting next month
- Supreme Court patent ruling bodes well for future Apple cases
- Apple to pay $400M to consumers over e-book price fixing case
- Zagg Slim Book for 9.7” iPad Pro
- Element Case Ronin for iPhone 6/6s
- JBL Clip 2 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
- Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT Wireless On-Ear Headphones
- Catalyst Case for iPad mini 4
- Jaybird Freedom Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
- Zagg Flex Arc Wireless Earbuds + Speakers
- Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7NC SonicPro Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation
- Twelve South BookBook for 12.9” iPad Pro
- Spigen Rugged Armor, Style Armor + Wallet S for iPhone SE
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Photos gets Advanced Computer Vision
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Music app delivers ‘clarity and simplicity’
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Maps gets a major redesign
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 shakes up the user experience
- Inside the betas: watchOS 3 promises a real speed boost
- Inside the betas: A sneak peek at what’s new in tvOS 10
- Filling the Gap: A look at third-party HomeKit apps
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of tvOS 9.2
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 9.3
- Opinion: Why Apple needs a dedicated HomeKit app