I want to return their phone, but can't access their contacts, etc.

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    Brute force it! If you enter a combo every ten seconds (conservative) you could break it in a day. Space it out over a week and you're in! – Michael Pryor Aug 31 '10 at 15:59
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    @Michael Except for the automatic time lockouts. – waiwai933 Aug 31 '10 at 16:55
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    The owner could have set it up to wipe the data after ten failed attempts. – Guillermo Esteves Aug 31 '10 at 17:34
  • If they paid for MobileMe they could locate you, and send you messages, but obviously that isnt important to them, so keep it :) – Nippysaurus Aug 31 '10 at 23:00
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    I would agree with some comments that you should hand it over to an Apple Store employee or the police. Hanging on to it does not necessarily show bad intentions but handing it off to an official would show good faith and may absolve you from legal liability, especially in California where not reporting it may constitute theft. – Jared Updike Sep 2 '11 at 17:48

12 Answers 12


1) Find the phone number, then find the owner

I think the iPhone is locked but not the SIM card. If this is the case, pop the SIM card out. Put it in another phone. Find the number. Now, use the web to do a reverse lookup, find them, find their email or alternate phone, and call them.

2) Find someone who knows the owner

When you set the password, by default the "Voice Dial" is still active. Try holding down the home button for 4 seconds. Even when locked, you might be able to say "Call so-and-so". Try some random names. If someone picks up, explain the situation. They will probably have an alternate means of contacting the owner.

3) Turn the phone on and see if there are recent callers - then use any of these names to try voice calling as in 2 above.

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    1)Additionally, the SIM card may have contacts stored on it. Perhaps that can lead the OP to the owner. 2)Try "call home" or "call mom". In terms of random names that may work, that is. – Moshe Sep 1 '10 at 19:38
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    1) Read the serial number on the SIM card. 2) Call the SIM card provider, have them look up that serial and contact the owner with your contact information. 3) Wait for the owner to contact you. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Sep 2 '10 at 13:13
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    I can see there being just far too many issues surrounding privacy and the simple legality of doing this. It would be a much safer idea to have the phone dropped off at the police, AT&T store, or an Apple Store untouched and let them sort it out. I know I'd be bothered by a complete stranger that doesn't work for Apple or AT&T rooting around my phone. Just drop it off and be done with it. – Philip Regan Sep 3 '10 at 9:20
  • @PhilipRegan - Was about to ay the same thing. – Moshe Mar 31 '11 at 17:16
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    I'd be worried about an AT&T store employee keeping it or rooting around in it themselves. Probably be more trusting of an Apple store. – mindless.panda Jun 9 '11 at 15:11

By strange coincidence, this exact thing happened to me, so I have the answer:

Wait until the owner's mother calls. Answer the phone, explain the situation, upon which she will send her husband to collect the phone from your office.* Shake the father's hand, hand over the phone, and make a funny apple joke (he asked me if I had kids, to-whit I responded, no, but I have an iPhone, so I understand! -- fan boys rejoice).

*As it turns out, the owner was a 15 year old boy.

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  • This won't work if the owner is an adult. – Moshe Sep 1 '10 at 19:39
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    Of course it will, replace 'mother' with 'partner', 'friend', 'enemy' or anyone else who might call. – mkoistinen Sep 10 '10 at 21:58
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    Or the owner, itself, will call. – Tom Brito Jan 6 '12 at 15:21

Take it to the Apple store and see if they can sort it out. I would imagine that they have DB of serial numbers and customers even if they didn't sign up with Applecare or MobileMe.

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  • Why was this voted down? – Philip Regan Jul 30 '11 at 5:33
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    Apple will not do this, support.apple.com/kb/ht2526 They tell you to take it to the police. – Graeme Hutchison Dec 8 '11 at 7:04
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    Exactly. Take it to the police – hellothere Aug 18 '12 at 7:01
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    Apple only has information tied to serial numbers if it was purchased directly from them (by looking through sales systems) or if it was registered, which would show in their worldwide service system. With that said, Apple has policies in place to prevent employees from handing out registration information for devices to people who obviously aren't the owner. You would have better luck contacting the cell provider to see if they can retrieve the owner's info using the SIM card's number. – Mr Rabbit Sep 12 '13 at 19:37

Just ask Siri 'what is my name' and it will bring up the contact details for the owner of the phone.

You can also use Siri to post to Facebook, send emails and just abut anything else.

To be fair, upon closer inspection, this seems like a huge gap in the security of an iPhone where you're data isn't actually secure, even when locked. Love it!

Obviously only works if the owner has set their phone to utilise Siri when locked. But I think most people do.

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    Thats why I have mine turned off from allowing siri to be used in the lock screen. And advise all to do the same. – markhunte Sep 9 '13 at 16:19
  • I didn't know this, and have just tried it, and the iPhone does indeed display my full contact details from the lock screen including the names people I've told Siri about my relationship to e.g. my wife and sister! It's very useful to be able to use Siri while the phone is still locked, but it's worth realising that this amount of information is available to anyone who finds your iPhone, without unlocking it. – nekomatic Nov 27 '14 at 12:56

If there is a lost and found at the location you found the phone put it there, or turn it over to the police. That is where the person who lost it should be looking for it.

Attempting to break the PIN is just not a good idea, even if you have good intentions. They chose to keep some information confidential (for whatever reason), at the expense of making the phone harder to return if it is lost.

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  1. Keep it plugged in / charged in case the user is trying to "find my phone" and locate it or send you a contact message.
  2. The carrier and apple might take your contact information if you don't want to drop it off with them. Apple might be better than the carrier if there is any doubt as to the proper carrier.
  3. Local police should be alerted - they can provide you with your responsibilities as well as how best to get it returned.

I hope you make the owner very happy.

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Starting with iOS 6, owners will be able to help you out by sending a number to the phone using the new "Lost" mode:

IOS 6 and iCloud now offer Lost mode, making it even easier to use Find My iPhone to locate and protect a missing device.6 Immediately lock your missing iPhone with a four-digit passcode and send it a message displaying a contact number. That way a good Samaritan can call you from your Lock screen without accessing the rest of the information on your iPhone. And while in Lost mode, your device will keep track of where it’s been and report back to you any time you check in with the Find My iPhone app.

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You can try a number of things. To build on mankoff's answer:

1)Try taking out the SIM card and checking if there are any contacts on it. If the iPhone was not the first phone used with that SIM, it may have stored contacts on it.

2)Try "Call home".

Also, I remember seeing this article a while back, I wonder if it still works with iPhone 4: Read iPhone Data with Ubuntu

Edit (Direct Quote):

Do you have a PIN code on your iPhone? Well, while that might protect you from someone making a call or fiddling with your apps, it doesn’t prevent access to your data … as long as the person doing the snooping around is using Ubuntu “Lucid Lynx” 10.04.

Security experts Bernd Marienfeldt and Jim Herbeck discovered something really interesting when they hooked up a non-jailbroken, fully up-to-date iPhone 3GS to a PC running Lucid Lynx …

I uncovered a data protection vulnerability [9], which I could reproduce on 3 other non jail broken 3GS iPhones (MC 131B, MC132B) with different iPhone OS versions installed (3.1.3-7E18 modem firmware 05.12.01 and version 3.1.2 -7D11, modem 05.11.07) , all PIN code protected which means the vulnerability bypasses authentication for various data where people most likely rely on data protection through encryption and do not expect that authentication is not in place.

This is what you get via an auto mount without any PIN request:

alt text

This data protection flaw exposes music, photos, videos, podcasts, voice recordings, Google safe browsing database, game contents… by in my opinion the quickest compromising read/write access discovered so far, without leaving any track record by the attacker. It’s about to imagine how many enterprises (e.g. Fortune 100) actually do rely on the expectation that their iPhone 3GS’s whole content is protected by encryption with an PIN code based authentication in place to unlock it.

This, quite honestly, is a staggering flaw. It basically allows anyone capable of driving a Linux PC to copy data off of an iPhone without the owner of the phone having any idea whatsoever that this has happened.

What’s more worrying is that Marienfeldt and Herbeck think that write access to the iPhone is only a buffer overflow away, which means serious access.

Lastly, an Apple store would have the serial number linked to an iPhone, as Philip Reagan suggested.

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    I recall that one of the iOS 4 upgrades involved encryption based on your pin. I wonder if that addresses the security flaw you describe. – Donnniegoat Sep 2 '10 at 1:01
  • So do I. (filler text) – Moshe Sep 3 '10 at 1:08

You can use Siri to call some of the contacts.

You probably know no names in his/her contacts list so you should ask Siri:

  1. to call Home
  2. to call my Mother/father
  3. to give me the directions to home
  4. what is my name
  5. who is my sister/brother.

When you ask Siri about contacts, it would bring up ALL the contacts information that is entered in the iphone/icloud.

So if the iphone is connected to wifi/3g/4g and siri is enabled, you have access to the owner's identity(home, relative names, other phone numbers, addresses).

If the wifi and 3g is turned off, you would have some hard time dealing with it.

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I'm trying a different tactic. I wrote a note telling them to call the phone or call my number and I took a picture of it with their phone. Hopefully it will upload to Photo Stream. It looks like 3G is on but I'm not sure if it will only upload over wifi. Oh, well. It's worth a shot...

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Just wait for the owner to call once they realize they lost it. Just found an iPhone on the way home and as I was searching for 'How to find an owner of a locked iPhone', it rang. The owners wife, Viola'! Set up a meeting and hope someone will do the same for me someday.

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plug the phone into iTunes to get data like the name or other identifiers!!

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    With a locked phone this won't work. – nohillside Jun 14 '12 at 16:26

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