The Complete Guide to Tracking a Phone with Its Serial Number

February 6, 2024

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Losing your phone can be stressful and scary. But did you know that with just your device’s serial number, you may be able to track its location?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about tracking a lost or stolen phone using its serial number.

What is a Phone’s Serial Number and Where to Find It

A phone’s serial number is a unique identifier assigned by the manufacturer to each device. It allows carriers, retailers, manufacturers and even law enforcement to track and identify specific phones.

You can typically find the serial number printed on a sticker underneath the phone’s battery or on the exterior casing. On iPhone’s, it may be listed as the IMEI or MEID number. On Android’s, it is usually referred to as the ESN, MEID or IMEI.

To easily retrieve the number on most devices:

  • iPhone – Go to Settings > General > About and look for the IMEI or MEID
Iphone Imei
  • Android – Dial *#06# to display the IMEI
Android Imei

Once located, be sure to record the serial number in a safe place for future reference.

Why Track a Phone by Serial Number

There are two main reasons for tracking a phone by its serial number:

  • Locate Lost or Stolen Devices: If your phone is ever lost or stolen, reporting the serial number to authorities and your carrier can help track it down. It prevents the thief from activating it on networks.
  • Block it from Being Used: Since the serial number is required for activation, reporting it to carriers immediately blocks any unauthorized person from using it.

So knowing your serial number ahead of time is vital for device security and tracking.

Carriers, police, and third parties can use a phone’s identifier to locate devices. For example, comprehensive guides have been written on how to track an iPhone’s location via phone number.

Step-by-Step Guide to Tracking a Phone by Serial Number

If your phone is ever lost or stolen, here are the key steps to track it using the serial number:

1. Report it to Your Carrier

The first thing you should do is contact your phone carrier (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile etc). Provide them with your phone’s serial number and ask them to deactivate service and block any future activations.

Without active service, the phone loses functionality and becomes far less desirable for thieves. Most carriers maintain databases with devices’ serial numbers and can track their approximate location via cell towers whenever powered on.

2. File a Police Report

You should also file a police report about the missing device. Provide officers with identifying details like make, model, serial number, and any other noteworthy characteristics.

Many police departments have additional ways to track the whereabouts of reported stolen goods using special databases and community alert systems. The more details they have to identify your device, the better chance they have of recovering it.

3. Inform Local Resale Stores

Another good idea is to inform local phone resale stores in the area and provide them with your serial number. If someone attempts to resell your stolen device to a store like ecoATM or Gazelle, employees can match identifying numbers and catch the thief red-handed.

4. Use a Lost Phone Tracking Service

Specialized phone tracking services like Eyezy and Prey use advanced technology to remotely locate lost devices. After installing their app on your phone, you can supply them with your credentials and serial number for tracking if it ever goes missing.

They use varying combinations of cellular data, WiFi signals, and GPS to pinpoint your smartphone’s location in real-time. Some services even allow you to remotely lock, wipe data from, and display messages on your lost device.

You may wonder – can I track the location of my husband’s phone? While methods like tracking by phone number can work, it’s important to respect privacy.

Protecting Your Serial Number from Thieves

Since serial numbers hold the power to track and control devices, it’s vital to keep them safe from prying eyes. Here are some key ways to protect it:

  • Don’t store photos or screenshots containing the number on your phone where others may access them.
  • Encrypt backups containing the number to prevent extraction.
  • Memorize the number instead of writing it down where it could be discovered.
  • Enable password or biometric locking on your smartphone.
  • Only provide the number to trusted authorities if your device is lost, not random online websites.
  • Purchase a lost phone tracking service to remotely monitor device without exposing number.

After filing a police report about your lost device, inquire if they use additional resources like phone number tracking services to help recover stolen goods.

FAQs About Tracking Phones by Serial Number

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about tracking phones with serial numbers:

Can I track an old phone by serial number?

Yes, as long as you still have the device’s serial number and it is powered on, carriers and tracking services should be able to locate older model phones. However, functionality may be limited.

Can someone else track my phone with the serial number?

Not easily. They would have to convince your cell provider to trace it or install sophisticated phone tracking software ahead of time. This is why safeguarding your serial number is so important.

What if I don’t have the serial number?

Without the unique identifer, tracking becomes much more difficult. You’d have to rely solely on tracking apps you may have previously installed before the phone was lost. This illustrates the importance of recording serial numbers.

Installing smartphone tracking software before a device goes missing can enable remote locking, wiping, and monitoring if leveraged properly.

Key Takeaways on Tracking Phones by Serial Number

  • A phone’s serial number allows carriers, retailers and law enforcement to track the location of devices.
  • To track a lost or stolen phone, contact your carrier and provide the serial number so they can deactivate service and help trace it.
  • Also file a police report with the serial number, inform local phone resale stores to watch for it, and utilize lost phone tracking services.
  • Keeping your serial number private is crucial to preventing others from tracking or controlling your device remotely.

Knowing exactly how to leverage a phone’s serial number can help remotely secure and track your device if it ever goes missing!