How to Unlock a Found iPhone OR Return, Activate and Sell It Legally
- If you’ve found an iPhone, there are 5 ways you can find the original owner to return it detailed in the article below
- You can sell blacklisted phones with IMEI lost or stolen flags legally by taking these steps
- Failing that, there are processes to go through unlocking and activating them with software to bypass the iPhone Activation lock
Even if you are a good Samaritan with no harmful intent, holding onto someone else’s device may land you in trouble. Don’t worry—today, we’ll go over five ways to find an iPhone’s owner, the legality of selling an iPhone you found, and potential options to unlock the phone without the owner’s Apple ID if you do decide to sell or use it.
5 Ways to Return a Lost Phone to Its Owner
Locating an iPhone’s owner is much easier if the phone powers on as chances are they’ll have ‘Find My iPhone’ activated on their iOS device, and for that, the battery can’t be dead. Assuming the battery was mostly full when you found it—and it probably wasn’t—you have about a day before the battery dies.
If you have an iPhone power cord or can borrow one, it’s a good idea to plug the phone in as soon as possible. Then you can move on to trying to find the owner without worrying about the battery going dead.
Find Owner Details from iPhones in Lost Mode
If the phone has power, go ahead and check if it’s unlocked. While far from common, not everyone has a lock on their phone. Even if they do have a lock screen, the owner may have activated lost mode through their ‘Find My iPhone’ settings.
When in ‘Find My iPhone’ lost mode, the owner can choose a message to display on the lock screen. Most users put something along the lines of, “Lost iPhone. Please call me at 555-5555.” Lost Mode requires either a data network or wi-fi, so make sure to take the phone someplace it should get a signal.
Be aware that lost mode also gives the owner access to location data for the phone (that’s the ‘Find My iPhone’ part) – they may just come to you!
Get Owner details from the iPhone's Medical ID
If the used iPhone has power, you’ve confirmed it’s locked, and lost mode is not active, your next step is to check if the owner set up a medical ID.
Apple’s medical ID system is designed to provide first responders with vital medical information associated with their Apple ID, but it could also tell you whose phone you have.
First, go to the lock screen on the phone. Then, select the emergency option on the bottom left of the screen. You should see a number pad now. Below the pad on the left, it should say “Medical ID.” Unfortunately, not everyone fills out their medical ID. If the owner of the iPhone you found didn’t fill in their Apple ID info, move on to option three.
Contact the Carrier with the IMEI
Outside of your Apple ID, every device has a unique International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number that can help a carrier find the iPhone’s owner. Just type *#06# to get the IMEI and call the carrier.
The SIM card carrier’s name will be on the upper left-hand side of the lock screen display. If you can’t find the carrier’s name on the phone, you can also often look up the carrier using an IMEI lookup website.
The carrier likely won’t provide you with any private information but will help you connect with the owner of the lost or stolen iPhone.
Ask Siri Who Owns It
Another reason to keep the battery charged is that Siri may still be active. If the phone powers down, Siri will be deactivated until the phone is unlocked. If Siri is active, you can have her try a few things:
- Ask ” who owns this iPhone.” You may only get a first name, but it’s a start. You can also try things like, “what’s my email?” or “what’s my Twitter handle?”
- Tell Siri to call “mom,” “dad,” “work,” or “my wife/husband”
- Ask it to read the call log, then to call the contact provided. You can try this with the message log too.
However, Siri doesn’t always have this information, or worse, may not be turned on—but don’t worry. There’s one more thing you can try.
Take a Photo, It Goes to iCloud
Many iPhone users use iCloud Photos, and you don’t have to unlock the lost iPhone to take a picture with it. Just select the camera icon on the lock screen and swipe left. Take a picture of your contact details, and it will be sent to the owner’s iCloud account, where they’ll hopefully see it and give you a call.
Can't Find the owner? What to Do with a Found iPhone
How to Legally Sell iPhones Flagged as Lost/Stolen
While finding a phone and never finding the owner is one way to come by an iPhone that’s flagged as lost/stolen. It’s not uncommon to buy an iPhone only to find that the seller reported it stolen (Activation lock) to get a new one.
This scenario is one reason we don’t recommend buying a phone from local classifieds or buy/sell/trade pages on social media. There is nothing you can do if the seller reports the phone stolen—it’s an expensive paperweight. However, you can sell that paperweight.
Before doing so, it is a good idea to call your local police department to ensure they don’t need it as evidence (they usually don’t).
How to Unlock a Lost iPhone You Found
If you get an iPhone from a seller and it’s flagged with an Activation lock (e.g. stolen iPhones), try contacting them first to see if they are willing to take steps to unlock the device. If you can’t reach the owner or they aren’t willing to help, you do have some options. Activating a stolen iPhone can be a bit challenging, but it isn’t impossible.
Note that the options below involve the use of 3rd party software and should only be used as a last resort. We don’t endorse any of these programs. They are simply are listing options suggested by iMyFone.
iBypasser allows you to bypass Apple’s activation lock, activate a stolen iPhone, and sign in with a new account.
- Access all device functions and features except calls, cellular data, and iCloud
- Disable any active tracking from the previous owner
- Unlocks any stolen iPhone in five minutes or less without the password or ID
- Supports iPhones running iOS 12.3 and later
LockWiper permanently disables numeric passcodes, face ID, and touch ID. It is an efficient tool that doesn’t require any specialized knowledge.
- Effectively removes any existing Apple ID on the device
- Clears any parental controls or screen time restrictions
- Removes all remote access control from the previous owner
- Doesn’t require any passwords or Apple ID information
Summary: Activation Lock & Lost or Stolen iPhone’s
If you find an iPhone, check if the owner has activated lost mode or entered medical information. If not, try using Siri to contact someone, have the carrier check the IMEI, and take a photo of your contact info.
Once you exhausted all efforts to find the owner on the device, check with the police to see if it has been reported stolen or is needed for evidence. If all is clear with the authorities, you do have the option of selling it or even unlocking it and using it yourself. If you do decide to sell it, you can find the best offers right here on BankMyCell.
Try our cellphone buy-back comparison tool today.