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We all panic if we misplace our phone or realize it's lost or stolen. Today, our phone is not just a device to connect with other people but also our memory book, phone directory, photo album, and entertainment center. Therefore, there must be a way to track lost or stolen phones to recover them (or at least block them so no one can access the stored data). Luckily, every phone comes with a unique IMEI number designed to tell service providers or manufacturers about its whereabouts.
In this blog, I will discuss what the IMEI number is, its structure, its importance, and how to find the IMEI number on your phone, and will also answer IMEI-related FAQs.
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What Is An IMEI Number?
IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity. Every mobile has a unique 15-digit number that is globally unique and referred to as the device ID or IMEA ID. If the mobile device has 2 SIM slots, then the device will have two IMEA IDs. An IMEI number is hardcoded into the device, making it impossible to overwrite. The manufacturer assigns the number to the cellular device for instant cars, just like every other piece of equipment.
A dedicated IMEI number recognizes the phone device consisting of a SIM card. IMEI consists of 15-digit numbers that are guaranteed unique and accepted globally. For your information, the device with two sim card slots will have two globally unique (15-digits) IMEI numbers.
IMEI Number Structure
As mentioned, the IMEI numbers consist of 15 unique numbers with an arranged sequence as WW-XXXXXX-YYYYYY-Z.
The typical IMEI arranged sequence could be explained as follow:
1. WW -sets the reporting body identifier showing the GSMA-approved TAC (Typical Allocation Code)
2. XXXXXX - this sequence represents the actual Typical Allocation Code (TAC) numbers.
3. YYYYYY - identifies the specific cellular device
4. Z - acts as a digit checker, typically it is 0 for GSM devices
Why IMEI Number is Important?
Losing a phone is a nightmare as it holds our private and corporate data. Your phone's IMEI number is important because it helps locate and secure lost or stolen phones. However, its importance is not limited to only locating the food but there are other numerous ways it can help, such as:
- IMEI number helps locate the cell phone and direct it to the local network so that you can connect your phone to the nearby tower.
- As mentioned earlier, it helps in finding the location of the last connection if a phone is lost or stolen.
- Every IMEI number is linked to a national database that enables providers to see if it has been registered as lost or stolen if the location is insufficient to locate your missing phone. Your phone will be restricted once you report it, so it can be tracked or flagged if it is brought to be unlocked or sold.
- Finally, It is frequently used to find people who have gone missing and decipher the calls they made from their mobile phones to follow their movements.
How Can I Find My Phone's IMEI Number?
The IMEI number is used when the device is stolen and when the device manufacturer or carrier provider has to analyze the error or complaint. You can determine the IMEI number of your device either by:
1. An IMEI universally accepted code - dial the *#06# virtually on any phone. You will not be required to send or press the call button - the IMEI code(s) will appear independently.
2. You must go to your home screen's settings app for an iPhone or cellular iPad device. Go on general and tap about on the device, where you will find a handful of information about your iPad or iPhone.
Similarly, scroll down to ascertain the IMEI number. Write it down in a safer space. If you cannot use your iPhone or on it, you can use your sim card tray to find the IMEI number.
It is available on iPhone models starting from 6s. However, the IMEI will be available on the bottom back of the phone for iPad (consisting of the iPhone SE/older iPhone or an iPod Touch).
3. You must open settings in your app drawer for Android. If your Android device has a removable battery, you can check the IMEI beneath the battery.
You will need to power off your Android device when removing the battery. You can also look for your Sim Tray with the 15-digit IMEI number imprinted on it.
You can also check via your Android About section in your settings option and see the 15-digit IMEI. Make sure you have your digit written somewhere for future use.
4. You can also locate your original phone packaging as a fourth resort. Once located, it would help to look for the box's barcode label. You can clearly label the barcode and the serial number next to the IMEI.
Finding IMEI on iPhone
If you are running on the current iOS version, you have to tap on settings.
1. Select General.
2. Opt for the About section available at the top of the expanded menu
3. Scroll down or select the Primary Settings to see your IMEI 15-digit number
Finding IMEI on Android
You can dial *#06# to find IMEI OR perform the next steps regardless of your device
1. You can go to settings and tap general
2. Tap About device/phone
3. Select Status to look for your IMEI number that is mentioned with your mobile number
For an older iOS or Android, you can locate it under the battery (on the back of your device) or inside the SIM tray.
4 Best Free Tools to Check IMEI Number
Here is a list of free tools to check IMEI number:
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IMEI Number Frequently Asked Questions [IMEI FAQs]
When Do You Need an IMEI Number?
You need your IMEI number to track lost or stolen phone, missing people, and more. If your device is lost or stolen, to report it successfully to the police, you will need to share the IMEI number. The carrier will completely block the devices based on this IMEI number. It is why you should never pass the IMEI number to third parties. Therefore, it is crucial that you write down the device's IMEI number and store it in a safe place (ideally, write it down on paper). Only some people can remember the 15-digit IMEI (sequence of) number.
What is an IMEI Number Used for?
Consider it as your device's fingerprint. The phone carrier, police, or authorized manufacturer can use these unique 15-digit numbers to track the devices in unfortunate cases - such as lost or stolen cases. An IMEI is dedicated to a GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) operating phone. It could also be used on occasions like deactivating the device or checking your purchased smartphone status.
How Does The Network Use The IMEI Number?
The IMEI identifies the device type and confirms the model, release year, make, and other specifications.
The carrier network will use the IMEI number to approve the device and connection permissions. This is how they know if your device is compatible with their network if it's locked to a specific carrier, or if the phone has been blacklisted for some reason.
The TAC (i.e., the Typical Allocation Code) is commonly linked with the cellular module or modem (in cellular IoT).
The allocation of a TC by a reporting body is an approved sign that the device, module, or modem has been agreed upon and equally passed by the relevant regulatory inspection. With this scrutiny and regulatory approval by the TAC, the network can further approve the device (and signal) connection permission.
Should I Save My IMEI Number?
The answer is yes. You want to store the IMEA number in a safe and secure place.
If the device is stolen or lost and you never expect to get the device back, then you will want the IMEA number to report to the police. The police report is used for insurance if you have insurance covering the loss. If you're lucky enough to get cooperative police, the police can request the carrier to track the device via a warrant or judicial requirement.
You can also report your device as stolen to your carrier and request them to report it as stolen. They will add the IMEI ID to a global database so the carriers will no longer accept this IMEI ID to connect to their network. This means you will never be able to track your device and must accept that it's gone.
Some Professionals & cybersecurity experts use IMEI Hack software or IMEI Mobile Phone Tracker Tools to find the real-time location of suspicious, missing, or stolen devices. This also means some nefarious experts are willing to accept money to do the same.
What is IMEI Hacking?
Even though it is tough to overwrite the IMEI number, some tools claim to flash the IMEI number and change it. As these tools are illegal and expensive, they are not available for a quick and easy download, making it difficult to determine the truth behind IMEI hacking.
What Can A Hacker Not Do with An IMEI Number?
Hackers cannot connect to your phone or have the slightest access.
Hackers cannot get your calls or SMS on another device, Using IMEI.
Hackers cannot control your phone or any apps installed.
If a Hacker got a hold of your IMEI number through voluntary physical means, then you are still safe. However, if a hacker obtained your IMEI through digital hacking, then it's possible they also have your SIM's IMSI number, which can lead to SIM swaps, location tracking, and worse.
Can you Manipulate an IMEI Number?
Bluffing an IMEI number with basic programming knowledge is possible, even when the manufacturer does not intend to. Thieves often subterfuge this option by utilizing corresponding programs on Google and Apple app stores. They want to change the IMEI of a stolen smartphone (for instance) that can no longer be identified with the manipulation. A few secure phones on the market enable changing the IMEI as a feature, but this is rare.
Is It OK to Share My IMEI Number?
The IMEI number should not be shared publicly because this is deemed private information. You never want to share your device IMEI number unless you have to because someone could decide to harass you by reporting your device as stolen, forcing you to deal with getting it unlocked.
IMEI number tracking is done very often by hackers. Yes, hackers can track you with your device IMEI number. It can be done ethically when law enforcement agencies track people using their IMEI numbers with the help of telecom operators. In that case, hackers are willing to do the same for money.
The IMEI also identifies the phone brand, model, and specifications. Hackers could use this information to impersonate you with the carrier to execute a SIM swap or try and get a new phone on your mobile plan. The typical call center employee is going to verify the hacker if they are quoting the exact model of your device and have done their homework on your personal information.
The rationale is that sharing the IMEI number freely could be a significant risk. You can lose it to a potential hacker masquerading as a bidder. Many buyers will show hesitation towards this policy, but a user-to-user market like Swappa (and many others) also has a smooth policy to secure buyers' interest. Again - own your privacy - never compromise on it!
Also, Read The Difference Between IMEI, IMSI, ICCID, and MSISDN
What Are The Alternative Terms of IMEI?
IMEI is ESN (Electronic Serial Number) or MEID (Mobile Equipment Identifier). These are uniquely generated numbers tied to our smartphones. It is impossible that two devices may have the same IMEIs. ESN can be provided in different formats - a 14-digit MEID for older devices or a 15-digit IMEI.
How Does An IMEI Number Enable Police to Find The Culprit Who Stole The Device?
IMEI allows device tracking. This tracking letter is shared with the network provider. The handset will be blocked and the device will be useless (even if SIM has been changed) unless it is unlocked.
How Can I Locate My IMEI Number If My Phone Is Lost?
You can get the MEID/IMEI number by logging into your provider's online account. You can also look for the box (if it is around). The IMEI will be placed on the box back.
Is My IMEI Number Linked to My SIM or Phone?
Ideally, you can quickly tell from this point that IMEI is not related to a sim card but is tied to the device (as its identifier). This should not be mixed with the UICC (universal integrated circuit card) number or the sim card. The IMEI is used by authoritative parties, such as the device manufacturer, phone carrier, or police, to track or locate a specific smartphone regardless of its card.
Buying A Refurbished Phone - What to Do?
If you are buying a refurbished phone, we suggest you buy it from a reputable vendor. Ensure the vendor has good reviews or is an established business. If someone is selling you an iPhone out of their trunk for a great price, the phone may have been stolen and blacklisted already. As soon as you get the IMEI ID, run it through a phone check service such as MobiCHECK to find the history of the phone, including if it's been reported as lost or stolen and if it's been blacklisted or blocked. Suppose you have a blacklisted phone and are not the original owner that the carrier can verify. In that case, you can check with a 3rd party provider to see if they can unlock it for a fee, but they will want to verify some information on the device's history as well.
What Is An IMEISV Number?
It is the International Mobile Equipment Identity - Software Version. It is a 16-digit long code and differs from the IMEI. The last two numbers are the SV or firmware/software version identifier. It is used to send the previous version of software to the device from the manufacturer as soon as the new software rolls out.
The 16-digit is divided into the following sections:
1. Six-digit TAC Code
2. The FAC (Final Assembly Code) as the name suggests will identify the last production stage location comprising of 2 digits
3. SNR or the Sequence Number is an individual SNR that is used to uniquely identify devices, incorporating the same FAC and TAC. It includes 6 digits
4. SVN is a software version number identifying the software version number consisting of two digits
IMEISV consists of decimal numbers only. It could be written as the following equation:
TAC (6-digits) + FAC (2-digits) + SNR (6-digits) + SVN (2-digits) = 16-digits IMEISV.
The manufacturer marks the device(s) by protecting the FAC, SNR, and TAC from compromised or unauthorized changes. The TAC is by the GSMA and the manufacturer shares the FAC device's final location. You can find IMEISV on the cellular device menu, model, module, or on the original packaging.
Are IMEI Number and Serial Number Same?
No, they are not same. A serial number tells when the phone was manufactured, its warranty period, and its model. On the other hand, IMEI number not just help in identifying a mobile device, but it also provides a level of security if the device is lost or stolen.
How to Check If My Phone's IMEI is Blocked or Blacklisted?
If you buy a smartphone and find out that the device is blacklisted or blocked, there is not much that you can do. So, it is important to check the phone's IMEI before buying. Here is how to do that:
- Dial *06# to find the device's IMEI number
- Contact your carrier to verify the IMEI number and check if the phone is blocked or blacklisted.
- You can also check online using free tools.
These digits, particularly concerning security, are an essential part of any cell phone. These unique numbers are required for complaint purposes and not just for theft and tracking. It is highly advised not to share your IMEI number publicly or randomly.