What happens if I find a locked iPhone?

What should I do if I find a locked iPhone?

If you find a locked iPhone, the ethical thing to do is to try to return it to its rightful owner. Here are some steps you can take:

  • See if there is any identifying information on the lock screen, like a name or photo. You may be able to contact the owner directly.
  • Tell Siri “Call mom” or “Call home”—this may cause the phone to dial a familiar number.
  • Take the phone to an Apple store or cell phone provider. They can look up the owner’s identity and contact them for you.
  • If you can unlock the phone, look for contact info or social media apps that could help you get in touch.
  • File a found item report with the police. They will be able to access contact info as well.

Do not try to hack into the phone, reset it, or keep it for yourself. That would be theft. The lawful thing to do is make a reasonable effort to find the real owner.

Is it legal for me to try to unlock or hack into a phone I’ve found?

No, it is not legal for you to try to unlock or hack into a found phone for several reasons:

  • It’s unauthorized access. The phone and the data on it belong to the owner.
  • It may violate computer crime laws against hacking or circumventing security measures.
  • It violates the owner’s privacy if you access their info or content.
  • You don’t have the right to reformat or wipe the device.

You need the owner’s consent to access their phone or information. Your best course of action is to simply return the phone intact. Don’t try to bypass the lock screen yourself.

What if I can’t figure out how to get the phone back to its owner?

If you’ve made reasonable efforts to locate the owner and return the phone but have reached a dead end:

  • Turn it in to the police as lost property.
  • Take it to the nearest Apple store or cell carrier—their tech support has resources to find the owner.
  • Hold onto it in case someone comes looking for it.
  • Make online posts about the found phone to try to get the word out.

Do not keep the phone for yourself, reset or resell it, or throw it away. Continue storing it safely in case the owner emerges. They will likely take steps to track it down if it’s lost.

Am I allowed to keep an iPhone I find? What if no one claims it?

Legally, you are not allowed to keep a lost iPhone just because you found it. The ethical thing to do is make reasonable efforts to find the real owner. If that fails:

  • Turn it in to police as lost property.
  • By law, if unclaimed, it belongs to whoever owns the property it was found on.
  • If you found it in a public place and the owner doesn’t surface, you may be able legally claim it after a certain period of time, such as 90 days.
  • Check your local laws! Lost property statutes vary by state.

Bottom line: You don’t have the automatic right to keep a lost phone without at least trying to locate the owner first. Don’t unlawfully deny someone their property.

What happens if I find and keep an iPhone that turns out to be stolen?

If you find an iPhone and keep it for yourself, you could unknowingly be in possession of stolen property. This carries penalties such as:

  • Criminal charges for theft, possession of stolen goods, obstruction, etc.
  • Fines equal to value of the phone.
  • Jail time is possible for felony charges.
  • Phone returned to rightful owner and you get nothing.
  • Civil lawsuit by owner against you for financial damages.

To avoid this, your best course of action is to immediately report finding a lost iPhone to police. Do not keep it for yourself without making efforts to find its owner. Otherwise, you could inadvertently wind up with a stolen phone.

What steps do iPhone owners take when their phone is lost?

When an iPhone owner loses their device, here are some steps they typically take to try to get it back:

  • Use the Find My iPhone app to track the phone’s location.
  • Remotely lock the phone with a passcode if needed.
  • Remotely wipe the data if concerned about privacy/security.
  • Report the phone lost/stolen to their cell carrier.
  • Suspend cellular service to the lost phone’s number.
  • File a police report for the lost/stolen phone.
  • Contact friends and places the phone was last seen.
  • Check locations like lost and founds in case it turns up.

In most cases, the owner will make every effort to recover their lost iPhone quickly. They have technological tools and legal resources at their disposal to help.

Can the owner remotely disable or track their lost iPhone?

Yes, iPhone owners have powerful options to remotely lock down and track a lost device:

  • Find My iPhone app – Locates phone on a map, locks it, wipes data.
  • Lost Mode – Locks phone with passcode and tracks its location.
  • Activation Lock – Prevents reactivation without owner’s Apple ID credentials.
  • Remote wipe – Deletes all data/info from the phone remotely.
  • Suspend wireless service – Bars the phone from cellular network access.

The owner doesn’t need physical possession of the iPhone to enact these security measures. Advanced tracking and remote locking capabilities make a lost iPhone very difficult to actually keep.

If I find an iPhone and turn it off, will the owner still be able to track it?

If you find an iPhone and power it down, the owner can still potentially track and trace it through features like Find My iPhone, though with less precision:

  • When turned on, the phone pings its real-time GPS location.
  • When off, Find My iPhone can still locate it by signal pinging nearby WiFi hotspots.
  • Location updates are far less frequent with the device powered down.
  • The owner knows when and where it was last active before being turned off.
  • They can lock it remotely and optionally display a message with contact info.

Powering an iPhone completely off makes it harder to track. But it also arouses more suspicion if the owner sees it intentionally powered down after losing it. Overall, it’s best not to tamper with a found iPhone.

Can I be charged with a crime if I find an iPhone and turn it off or reset it?

It’s legally risky to power off or reset an iPhone you’ve found. While not definitive crimes by themselves, these acts could lead to charges like:

  • Tampering with evidence – If the phone contained info relevant to a crime.
  • Obstruction – Hindering an investigation by powering the phone off.
  • Theft – Taking property that isn’t yours.
  • Possession of stolen goods – Handling property obtained illegally.

These situations are fact-specific. But generally, you should avoid accessing, altering or disabling a found iPhone without clear consent. It’s safer to keep the phone secure and contact the owner or authorities.

What kind of personal data might be accessible on an unlocked iPhone?

An unlocked iPhone often grants access to a wealth of sensitive user information, like:

  • Emails, text messages, call logs
  • Contacts list, calendar appointments
  • Browsing history, bookmarks
  • Health/fitness data
  • Banking, payment apps
  • Shopping accounts, passwords stored
  • Social media, photos, videos
  • Home address, GPS history

This data can provide deep insights into the owner’s private communications, habits, activities and identity. Accessing it without authorization raises huge ethical and legal concerns.

Is it illegal to access someone’s iPhone data if I find it unlocked?

Yes, it is 100% illegal to access someone else’s data on a found, unlocked iPhone. Specific crimes include:

  • Invasion of privacy by accessing private communications.
  • Computer fraud for unauthorized computer/device access.
  • Wiretapping laws if you intercept conversations.
  • Theft of trade secrets if confidential business data is obtained.
  • Violating terms of service by using someone else’s accounts.

There are few exceptions. The only ethical and legal choice is to secure the device and return it to the proper owner intact. Never dig through it.

Can I get in legal trouble if personal photos are found on an iPhone I recover?

  • Viewing sexual/private photos of the owner without consent may violate voyeurism, invasion of privacy or child pornography laws if underage.
  • Saving, copying or sharing such photos could lead to charges for reproduction and distribution of obscene material or child abuse images.
  • You have no right to search through private data on a recovered iPhone.
  • To avoid liability, do not access or distribute any content on a found device. Your safest option is to contact the owner or authorities immediately about returning the phone.

    If I find an iPhone and return it, is the owner required to give me a reward?

    If you find and return someone’s lost iPhone, there is no legal requirement for the owner to provide a reward or compensation, though some may offer it voluntarily:

    • Good faith efforts to return lost property are generally uncompensated.
    • There are no laws obligating rewards for phone returns.
    • However, owners may choose to give a thank-you token of gratitude if they wish.
    • If the owner offers a reward upfront, they must honor it.
    • You can politely ask for reimbursement of expenses like shipping costs.

    Ultimately, returning a lost phone is simply the right thing to do. While appreciation is nice, your motivation should be helping someone, not getting paid.

    Can I post a ‘Found iPhone’ ad and charge the owner to get it back?

    It is not recommended to post “Found iPhone” ads where you try to charge the owner money in exchange for returning their lost device. This could open you up to legal jeopardy:

    • Extortion – Requesting payment in exchange for returning someone’s property.
    • Theft by conversion – Asserting unauthorized possession over property belonging to someone else.
    • Violation of lost property laws – Failing to turn found property over to police.

    Instead, it’s better to turn the phone over to authorities as lost property. Avoid further tampering with it. Trying to earn money by charging for return of a lost iPhone can lead to criminal penalties.


    Finding a lost iPhone brings unique challenges and responsibilities. While tempting, keeping, accessing or altering a device that isn’t yours has serious ethical and legal consequences. Your safest course of action is to immediately notify the owner or authorities in order to return the phone safely. With diligence and honesty, you may be able to successfully get a found iPhone back to the person who lost it.

    Leave a Comment