It’s never fun to lose your phone, but it can get worse. While Androids and iPhones have plenty of protections you can use to lock or otherwise find your device when you’ve misplaced it, or when someone has swiped it, these do you little good if you can’t even log into your online account to activate them.
The setup seems a bit strange, I know, but I can absolutely see this being an issue for forgetful phone-owners—possibly even older people who don’t use their phones for very much or, for whatever reason, never had to re-authenticate into their accounts after the first time they set them up.
Regardless of how these situations happen, they happen. Take Lifehacker reader Dulaj’s, for example:
“I lost my iPhone 6s Plus. If you can help me I’ll appreciate it. I forgot my iCloud username and password. But I have IMEI number. Can you help me to permanently lock it? Please!”
I think the best advice I can give you, first off, is that it shouldn’t be very hard to restore access to your iCloud account. Your “username” is either your email address or your phone number, and odds are good it’s your primary email address unless you’ve been bouncing around services for the past few years. I’d try using Apple’s “Recover Your Apple ID” tool to find your Apple ID, and you can then input that here to begin the process of resetting your password.
It shouldn’t take you much time to enter any ol’ email addresses you can still access into Apple’s tool. You can also search for emails from Apple—like receipts for app purchases, for example—to confirm that a particular email account is associated with your Apple ID.
If this doesn’t help, or you don’t want to do it, then you’re somewhat out of luck. Apple can’t do anything with an IMEI number—the device’s serial number, essentially. To phrase it differently, there’s nothing you can do with an IMEI number that will magically unlock some version of a “Find My” map for your lost phone.
What you can do with that number is call your local police and report your phone as stolen, if you presume that has happened and you didn’t otherwise just misplace your phone in your house or car. Similarly, you can call your mobile carrier to report a stolen phone, and providing them the IMEI will allow them to blacklist it.
While this won’t help you get your device back, if it was indeed stolen, it’ll at least make it impossible for anyone else to use it—at least, the cellular functionality. (Here’s hoping your iPhone 6S Plus was using Activation Lock, too.)
This is also a great time to remind you, and everybody else, that you really should check a device’s IMEI against the big blacklists before purchasing it. While online tools, like the one I just linked, can be helpful, a better option is to call your carrier directly and verify that your future device’s IMEI isn’t on a blacklist. I would even go one step more and only agree to meet the seller in one of your carrier’s physical stores—not only will that increase the safety of your transaction, but you’ll be able to verify the phone works perfectly before you cough up cash.