Has your iPhone recently been stolen, or you’re simply curious what thieves do with the iPhones they sell?
It would seem their options are quite limited, especially if the device was locked when it was stolen. However, the truth is that there is surprisingly a lot they can still do with a stolen iPhone, even if they aren’t able to get inside of it.
So, in this article I’ll be going over all the different things that are done with stolen iPhones, which might show why they’re still such a valuable commodity – even if they’re completely locked.
What Do Thieves Do With Stolen iPhones?
It should be noted that no two thieves are the same, and it’s unlikely that each thief will try each one of the things I’m about to share with you.
However, each one of them is a possibility, so I wanted to include a list of what may or may not happen.
In any case, let’s look over the most common things thieves do with iPhones that are stolen!
1. Unlock It, And Steal Personal Data
The first thing a thief may attempt to do, is to bypass your passcode and try to unlock it.
An unlocked phone is worth much more than a locked phone, for a few reasons.
First of all, unlocking your phone provides access to all of your personal data – such as your messages, your photos, and your financial accounts. You could only imagine the havoc someone could cause if they wanted to use this against you.
Secondly however, an unlocked phone can be wiped, and resold as if it were legitimately theirs. Since the phone is working and can be used, it will fetch a much higher price if they were to resell it.
Although unlocking an iPhone is difficult, it may be possible if you are using an outdated version of iOS.
iOS updates contain important security fixes, so always ensure that your iPhone is up-to-date and install new versions promptly after they become available!
2. Talk To Siri, To Find Personal Information
Even if an iPhone is locked, thieves can still steal personal information by talking to Siri.
If you still have your iPhone, you can try this now by talking to Siri from the lock screen.
Siri is able to look stuff up, grab information from your phone, place calls, and even send messages to your contacts – all without ever needing to unlock the phone.
This prevents a serious security risk if your phone falls into the wrong hands.
3. Try To Get A Replacement From Apple
Next, it’s possible that the thief may deliberately break the phone (such as cracking the screen), to try and get a replacement phone from Apple.
The replacement of course will be fully unlocked, allowing them to resell it to others as a brand new phone.
The thief may use information present on the device – such as the SIM card or IMEI number along with your personal information to request a replacement.
According to others, this is particularly effective you have an AppleCare+ plan for your iPhone.
4. Scrap It For Parts
If the phone cannot be unlocked and there are no other uses for it, the stolen iPhone may end up being scrapped for parts.
iPhone repair shops may purchase any usable parts without asking any questions about where the phone came from, effectively allowing thieves to earn money from any iPhone, even if its in poor condition.
Components like the screen, camera lenses, battery or processor may be pulled out of the phone and sold. While this won’t earn the thief as much as a working in-tact iPhone, it is still enough to warrant the theft.
So, don’t think your iPhone is safe just because it’s locked or looks half-broken already – thieves may still target it!
5. Use It To Sign Up For Services Under Your Identity
Even if the thief is unable to unlock your phone, they can still use it to sign up to services under your identity.
Unique phone numbers are valuable, because many online services these days validate accounts based on your phone number. They also often text a one-time password or one-time code to verify that it’s you that owns the phone number, before using it to sign up for an account somewhere.
Of course, if somebody else has possession of your iPhone, they can use your number to sign up for services under your name.
This is particularly problematic because by default, your message contents are not hidden when you receive a text message – so they will be able to read the verification code without needing to unlock your phone.
If you are still in possession of your phone, you can turn off message previews by following these steps:
- Open the ‘Settings’ app.
- Tap on ‘Messages.’
- Tap on ‘Notifications.’
- Under ‘Lock Screen Appearance’, tap on ‘Show Previews.’
- Change it from ‘Always (Default)’ to ‘When Unlocked’ or ‘Never.’
Now, the contents of your messages will not be able to be seen when your phone is locked!
6. Resell It To Others
Finally, if the thief has no other use for the phone, they may resell it to others.
Other criminals may have more resources or will be able to fetch a higher price for the iPhone then a common thief would. Therefore, it may simply be quicker and easier to sell the phone off to someone else, who is able to do more with it. It also allows the thief to get rid of the stolen property quickly.
It’s common for iPhones to be sold in bulk, and then show up overseas in China mere days after they’ve been stolen.
Since locked iPhones can’t be used normally, chances are whoever ends up with the stolen iPhone will end up doing one of the other things mentioned earlier on in this article.
What To Do When Your iPhone Is Lost / Stolen
If your iPhone has recently been lost or stolen, it’s important to act quickly!
You may still be able to track the iPhone down and recover it, especially if it’s still turned on and its sending its location.
The first thing you should do is use the ‘Find My’ app from another device – or from iCloud.com, to put the phone in ‘Lost Mode.’
Then, pay attention to any updates to its location, and try your best to track it down. If you know for a fact it was stolen, it’s also a good idea to alert local law enforcement about the theft.
Exactly what is done with a stolen iPhone depends on the individual thief that stole it.
While some will resell it to other criminals as quickly as possible, many stolen iPhones also end up being scrapped for parts, or used to try and get a replacement iPhone from Apple.
You can ensure your data is protected by keeping your iPhone locked and up-to-date, and remotely wiping it via the Find My app if you don’t believe you will get it back.
I hope that you’ve found this article insightful, and you manage to recover your stolen iPhone. If you have any other questions, ask them below and I’ll try to get back to you ASAP.
Wishing you the best,
– James McAllister