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How Police Trace Cell Phone Location by Mobile Number or IMEI number

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What do you do when you lose your mobile phone? Probably file an FIR and let the police take over. How do the police trace mobile phones? They use the IMEI number to trace lost mobiles.

Let’s understand the police IMEI tracker process.

An easy way to check your IMEI number is to dial *#06# in your dial-pad.

You probably already know that each mobile phone has a unique IMEI number. Whenever a mobile phone is switched on, this IMEI number is sent to the Equipment Identity Register database.

Each number is categorized into one of three categories;

  1. White listed
  2. Grey listed
  3. Black listed

A mobile service provider can block the said mobile phone by putting the IMEI number on the blacklist. Once blacklisted, the phone is useless as it cannot be used anymore.

The operator can also trace a mobile phone using its IMEI number by GPS, thus helping you find the lost or stolen mobile phone. Note that when you contact your mobile service provider to block your mobile phone with the IMEI number, don’t forget to ask them to block the SIM card too.

There are a few things to be considered before tracing a mobile phone:

  • For a Police department to trace a mobile, it should be in a switch-on mode.
  • If the mobile is switched off then the last known location is traced.

Cops can track calls using the following steps:

Step #1 Every time you make a call, the details of the call are recorded by the service provider. Let me elaborate on this process. Your mobile phone is registered with the nearest mobile phone base station. If you move to another location, your phone will register to another tower (base station). This process is called “triangulation” and involves determining the nearest cell tower based on distance, signal strength, tower capacity, and several other factors. See Wikipedia for more information.

So, when you call someone or receive a call, all the details related to the call including call duration, caller information, phone number, IMEI number, area code, etc. will be recorded in the nearest cell tower. This information is shared with service providers.

Step #2 The police officer contacts the service provider and can ask to share the details. Cops themselves don’t use the IMEI tracking software.

There are currently some scenarios where call tracking is a little more difficult.

Scenario 1:
lost or stolen phone

In such cases, the SIM card is more likely to be replaced. So tracking by phone number is useless. So the police will use the IMEI number to trace the call using the steps above. Alternatively, you can use an online tool such as Find Phone By IMEI to determine the phone’s region by IMEI first. Then contact your local wireless carrier and provide the call details.

Scenario #2:
phone is off

This is the most complicated case. If you turn off your mobile phone, no information will be passed. In such cases, police officers can only access your call history up to the time your phone was on.

Note: There are many ways in which the IMEI number can be changed, in this case, the mobile can’t be traceable.

So this is how police can help to find the lost or stolen phone.


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This article was first published on 1 June 2017 and recently updated on December 2022.

34 COMMENTS

  1. This will work and above info is true unfortunately this process require followup / theft happen against any of VVIP . we have everything Law, Law enforcing authority etc…..but the main culprit is attitude …. “CHALTHA HE bhayya”

  2. My name is Ajinkya and I leave in Mumbai. my mobile is lost before 5 days and when my mobile is lost, then immediately I go police station and complaint registered. You guide to me that how can I trace my mobile?

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