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Lost your mobile? Here's how I returned a lost mobile to its owner in minutes

Nic McBride

Nic McBride
Jun 15, 2018

Imagine this: you come across a mobile phone laying on the ground, no one is around - what do you do?

We all know that sinking feeling when you lose your phone, but what do you do if you find one? How do you return it to its owner?

Well here's the story of how I helped return a phone to its owner with one simple hack, and how you can do the same.


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I was getting onto the tube to go home one night and as I got on I spotted an iPhone on an empty seat.

No one was around, I had no idea who had lost it, and the tube doors shut before I could find out.

Now I was holding a phone unsure how to return it to its owner.

I asked other passengers what I should do with the phone: 'Leave it at the next tube station?'

That was when one passenger told me to look at the phone's emergency contacts.

I'd never heard of that before, but with a few clicks I found the name of the mobile's owner, and a contact number for his wife.

When I got off the tube I gave her a call, told her what had happened and arranged to return the phone.

I made sure to confirm his last name - so I knew I was talking to the right person and that the mobile really was his.

The next morning I met him on his way to work and dropped off the mobile.

He was so pleased to have his mobile returned to him that he gave me a bottle of wine as a thank you.

This hack can help you out if you lose a phone, find a phone, or if someone has a medical emergency.


How to set up your emergency contacts

For iPhone:

Go into the Health app.

Click Medical ID.

Click edit.

Make sure you have "Show when Locked" switched on.

Scroll down and select your emergency contact from your existing contacts.


For Android:

Go into the Phone app.

Select Contacts.

Click groups.

Click ICE – emergency contacts.

Click edit.

Then Add member.


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How to find someone's emergency contacts

For iPhone:

Click the phone and go to the passcode screen.

Click "Emergency".

This will take you to a keypad where you can make a call.

Click Medical ID to find their emergency contact.


For Android:

Swipe across the phone icon – as if to make a call.

Click "Emergency Call".

There will be contacts listed on the page above the keypad.


Apps to help find your phone

lost phone

If you lose your phone and there isn't someone who return it to you, you still have options.

Android and iPhones each come with apps to help you locate your phone if it is stolen or lost.

Find My Device and Find my iPhone will detect the location of your phone - just make sure you've set it up! It won't work until you've logged in and set it up.

If your phone is turned off, both services will show the last location of your phone when it was connected to a network. 



Named after the mythological Greek guard dog - Cerberus is an anti-theft app for Android.

It has a number of helpful abilities to help you work out where your phone is and who has it.  

  • Track your phone on a map
  • Trigger your phone's speakers  
  • Take pictures from your phone's camera and screenshots of its screen.  
  • The app can also permanently display a message for whoever picks your phone up. 
  • Can ring a loud alarm



Prey is similar to Cerberus, but it works for both Android and iOS devices.  

It has all the same abilities, such as being able to see your phone on a map, taking screenshots and pictures and displaying a message on the screen.  

Prey is free for up to three devices. A £3 per month upgrade gives you extra control zones, which means you'll receive alerts if your phone leaves a given area, and additional options to wipe its memory.


If your phone is stolen or can't be found

lost phone

Report your missing phone to your network provider

You should tell your network provider straight away if your phone is lost or stolen, so they can block it and stop anyone else using it.

If you don’t tell them straight away you might have to pay for any unauthorised phone calls, which can be very expensive.

If your phone’s been stolen, ask your network provider for the phone's identification number (IMEI) - you’ll need to give this to the police.

If you find your phone your network provider will normally be able to reactivate it.


If your phone is stolen

Report your phone stolen to the police as soon as you can by calling 101 or going in person.

Get your phone's identification number (IMEI) from your network provider, which you should pass on to the police.

Get a crime reference number from the police - you’ll need it if you want to claim on insurance.

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