Each week, thousands of phones get stolen across South Africa. You are probably here because you have just lost yours. When it happens, victims usually go through a range of feelings. Perhaps you felt fear. Thieves in South Africa are known to be cowardly and not too gentle. Many people are left injured during the thefts. Afterwards comes anger. “How could these people do this to me?” Finally, you get down to the practicalities. You start looking for information on how to track a stolen phone in South Africa.
Steps to Trace a Stolen Phone in South Africa
The following are the steps that you need to take to trace a stolen phone in South Africa
- Report the loss of your phone to your network to have you SIM blocked. Also ask them to to have your phone blacklisted to stop it from being used on any network in South Africa.
- Get a reference number from your network while making your report.
- Report to the police to have them initiate the process of tracking your stolen phone. You will need to provide them with the reference number that you got from your network.
- Get a reference number from the police to use for insurance purposes.
Theoretically, how can stolen phones be tracked?
Each phone that’s out there has a unique identity number. This is referred to as the International Mobile Equipment Identity, IMEI, or serial number. No two phones are supposed to have the same IMEI.
And the IMEI on a phone does not change, whether you change the SIM or not. Even if you move to another network, the IMEI will still remain the same.
So, this is the tool that is used to track stolen phones. When somebody steals your phone, they will likely remove your SIM. They will put in their a new SIM. And because South Africans are required to RICA register all SIMs, it will be easy for the authorities to track your stolen phone.
Anyway, that’s how it’s supposed to work in theory. But in reality, the thieves have found ways of getting around this issue, as you will find out later in this article.
Detailed steps on how to track a stolen phone in South Africa
Tracking a stolen phone in South Africa is never easy. That’s because the networks do not go out of their way to help their customers when thefts occur. As an example, MTN overtly states that it does not track stolen phones. The same applies for all the other networks. But what should you do to recover your stolen phone? Well, you need to start acting even before your phone has been stolen.
Write down your phone’s IMEI or keep the box in which you bought your device
The first thing that you need to do as part of the process of tracing a stolen phone in South Africa is to write down your phone’s IMEI or serial number. But where do you find the IMEI?
- You will find the IMEI on any phone written on the box in which you bought the device. So, it’s probably a good idea to keep the box somewhere.
- You can also find the IMEI by dialing *#06# on any phone. Write down the serial number or take a screenshot and save it somewhere safe.
- Your network provider can also retrieve the IMEI on your behalf. However, that’s rather a bit of work, so it’s better to always keep the IMEIs for your devices written somewhere safe.
Install phone finder apps
This is the second step that you can take to keep track of your phone even before the thieves have pounced. There are plenty of phone finder apps on app stores. Find one that you like and install it. The thinking is that you will be able to trace your phone should it find feet and run away from you.
A good example of such an app is Find my Phone. We do have to note that this method has limited utility. After stealing your phone, most thieves go on to format the devices. So, you app will be removed along with everything else.
After the theft, immediately report your loss to your network
Now we have gotten to the step where your phone has been stolen. The first thing that you need to do afterwards is to report the theft to your network. You do this for 2 reasons;
Have them block your SIM
First, you need to report the theft of your phone to your network to get them to block your SIM. That stops thieves from stealing your airtime and date. Imagine if you are on a contract? A thief could very well make calls to other thieves across the globe at your expense. You don’t want to incur those bills on top of your loss.
Have then blacklist your phone
Another reason for reporting that your phone has been stolen to your network is to initiate the process of blacklisting your phone. That’s supposedly important in that it stops thieves from using your phone on any network. So, your stolen phone will effectively be bricked.
South African thieves have found a way around IMEI tracking
That’s how to track a stolen phone in South Africa. But there is a catch, however. South African thieves have found a way around the issue of the IMEI being used to track stolen phones. What they do is that they simply replace the IMEI on the stolen phones. This can be done at any reputable Nigerian phone repair shop by the corner.
These people have software that enables them to do that. Usually, the IMEI on your phone will be replaced with one from a broken down phone. Effectively, you will no longer be able to track your stolen phone.
Report to the South African Police Services (SAPS)
Your best option, as far as tracking a stolen phone in South Africa, is to report to the South African police services. They have the power under the law to track stolen phones.
When making your report, you need to have a reference number from when you lodged your report with your network. You also need to give them the IMEI for your phone. You also need to have your ID and proof of residence.
Reports to the police should always be made where violence was involved in the process of having your phone stolen. Taking steps to have the thieves apprehended is a good way of stopping the scourge of phone thefts in South Africa.
Reporting to the SAPS is also important to protect yourself in case your phone is used for criminal activities. Otherwise the police will come bearing down on you thinking you were involved.