How to Find Your Missing iPhone or Apple Device with 1 App & 3 Websites

by Monday, January 30, 2012
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Worried about retrieving a lost iPhone or iTouch?  Using 1 app and 3 websites, you can figure out exactly where it is and who has it in less than 15 minutes without ever leaving your house.  Here’s the story of how I know.

The App

The app that’s a MUST is the “Find My iPhone” app.  Newer models come with this app, so be sure to enable it on your device.  We’ve used it many times in our house to locate missing phones or iTouches.  From another phone or device, you can send a loud beeping sound to any other phone or device attached to your iTunes account, allowing you to locate it.

On Wednesday 1/25, my son misplaced his iTouch in the morning on his school bus.  We used the “Find My iPhone” feature on my iPhone and I sent a message several times to his iTouch hoping if it had fallen from his backpack, he’d be able to hear the beeps.  But he couldn’t hear it and the app couldn’t locate it either.  The next morning, our wonderful bus driver confirmed that he hadn’t found it during his daily sweep.

People Are Still Honest, Right?

Even in the face of these circumstances, we were still hopeful it would be turned in, as it was identified with stickers with our son’s name and phone number.  Plus, it was really old… 2nd generation.  Who would want to keep it?  This would be like keeping a MacBook produced in 1999.

But then… a miracle.  Thursday evening, my husband received an email from Apple.  Apparently, if you send sounds to the device (as I had the previous day), the moment that device is connected to Wifi, Apple sends you a message to let you know.  My husband promptly used the “Find My iTouch App” on his iPhone and suddenly, we could locate the iTouch!  From the map that showed up, we could see it was in a neighborhood approximately 2 miles from our home.

Then, using the hybrid of the map and a satellite image,  we knew exactly which house had the iTouch.

3 Websites

Armed with this image, I went to the first website…

(1) – This real estate site allows you to see satellite images of streets and neighborhoods.  I was able to find an identical image on Zillow to the one that we had seen on the “Find My iPhone” app.  Then, Zillow filled in other info, including the address of the house!

(2) County Tax Assessor website – Most county tax assessor’s offices have a website with a search mechanism: if you input the address of any house in that county, it gives you the name of that property owner.  Within moments, we now had the name of the people who owned the house.

(3) – Next, I put that person’s name into the online phone directory, and (if Switchboard’s directory was up to date) we now had the phone number for the people who had my son’s iTouch.

I checked the school directory to see if anybody by that name at that address attended my son’s school.  No luck.  I quickly realized this house was NOT on my son’s bus route.  It was in his middle school district, but it was also in a neighboring elementary school district.  So how did these people come to get the iTouch?

Our bus driver drives two routes each day, and our son is on the driver’s 2nd bus route. After my son left the iTouch on the bus in the morning, the driver next went to the elementary school to do his afternoon route.  Perhaps a child on that bus found the iTouch and took it home, which is why my son was unable to find it when he got back on the bus later that day.

A 4th Website

Unsure of the next steps, we contacted our local police to ask for their assistance.  An officer came to our house at 11:15 Thursday evening to discuss the matter.  He advised us NOT to call the phone number and instead told us to contact the middle school and ask them to get involved.  The schools have a shared information office, and he was confident the schools could locate the student living in that house and get the iTouch returned.

Friday afternoon, the police officer from the middle school contacted me, saying they had some leads on the person at that address.  He asked for the serial number, saying that when questioned about it, more than likely the child would try to claim the iTouch was his/hers.  They could remove cases, stickers with name and phone number, games, etc.  But the one thing they couldn’t change was the serial number.

(4)  Apple Website: This being an old iTouch, our hard copies of such records were probably long gone.  I learned that apparently, if you log into your iTunes account online and click on “Support”, you can find a list of all the devices on your account along with their serial numbers!

A Happy Ending

The officer called me later to tell me the iTouch had been located, and would be returned to us on Monday.  Apparently, somebody claimed to have “picked it up at a bus stop” (WRONG!) and it had passed through many hands.  I asked if possibly we could pick it up now… we were all concerned that just to spite my son, the person holding onto it would smash it.  He said, “Oh no, it’s sitting in the safe at the high school.”  I asked, “The HIGH SCHOOL?  How the heck did it wind up there?”  He said, “As I told you, it passed through many hands.

So today, my son’s iTouch will be returned.  Many thanks to the administration at my son’s school, and especially to the police officer.  The moral of the story is to ALWAYS enable the locator software on your Apple products.  You never know when it will come in handy!

6 Responses
  • Randi
    January 31, 2012

    This is terrific information and shows that you really have to juggle several sites in order to locate the iTouch.  I’m so glad you were able to retrieve it!

    • ProjectSocial
      February 1, 2012

      Thank you, Randi.  And yes, we were very happy to get it back!

  • Randi
    January 31, 2012

    This is terrific information and shows that you really have to juggle several sites in order to locate the iTouch.  I’m so glad you were able to retrieve it!

  • Bud
    February 1, 2012

    Spent $500 worth of time for a $50 device…as I see it.

    • ProjectSocial
      February 1, 2012

      Well Bud, that assumes that I get paid $2000 per hour, since the whole process took 15 minutes.  Obviously, this can be used for more than just an early model iTouch.

  • Dorien
    August 6, 2012

    Great information!  Nice happy ending to a story that usually ends not so happy!  I appreciate you taking the time to lay it all out for everybody else to learn from.  Kudos!

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