An Average Customer’s Guide to Understanding IMEI Numbers

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The IMEI number is a number associated with a mobile device that can be used to identify it or trace it. It’s usually a unique number, and you can find it by typing in *#06# on your phone. The IMEI number of your phone will be instantly displayed as soon as you type in the last digit of that code.

This number can be used to find or trace a stolen phone that relies on terrestrial cellular networks. It’s basically a network that your phone uses when you call someone or access the internet. The reason it’s called a “terrestrial” network is that it is connected to the planet-side antennas, and doesn’t have anything to do with the satellites.

Whenever a phone is stolen, the GSM network uses the IMEI number to trace it.

Understanding IMEI Numbers

Main Uses of IMEI Numbers

An IMEI number’s most important use is to simply help identify mobile devices. However, with mobile theft being on a rise, its secondary objective has become to help trace stolen mobile devices.

And it does a great job at that. This is because as soon as the thief enters a new SIM or starts using the existing SIM, the device can easily be traced using its IMEI number.

If you’re wondering whether the thief can somehow get around this and be able to use the device by erasing the IMEI number, then let us tell you that it’s not something realistically possible. Although it’s not that an IMEI number cannot be erased off a device, but it’s believed to be something impossible to do without damaging the device in a way that makes it pretty much unusable.

Once the carrier learns about a stolen phone, it blocks its IMEI number, resulting in the device being unable to use its network. The carrier can then also inform the other carriers, which follow the same procedure, making it difficult for the thief to use the stolen mobile device.

Can the Government Track Someone Using the IMEI Number?

Technically speaking, yes, the government being able to trace someone using the IMEI number of their mobile phone is a possibility. However, there’s more to it.

Although the government can trace a device, being able to identify its owner is usually not possible when it comes to prepaid customers. This is because there’s no ID proof or any other information that can be attached to the IMEI number, so it wouldn’t be possible for the government to trace the device’s owner using the IMEI number alone.

However, things can be much different if you have a contract with your phone’s service provider. This is because in such a case, your ID proof or other information that can be traced back to you would be accessible by the government, in case it wants to trace you. So in this case, it would be possible for the government to trace you using your mobile phone’s IMEI number.

However, it’s probably not the government that you have to worry about here, unless perhaps if you’re involved in illegal or criminal activities. It’s actually the hackers that pose a real threat to the average mobile phone user, as they too can trace a person using their phone’s IMEI number.

That all said, however, the chances of either the government or a hacker tracing you using your phone device’s IMEI number is little to none, as it doesn’t often happen to the average customer.

Do All Mobile Phone Devices Have an IMEI Number?

It can’t be said that all mobile phones have an IMEI number, and that’s primarily because there are also many counterfeit phone devices that often come without an IMEI number. This is because the makers of such devices don’t follow any regulations or laws, which require a phone device to have an IMEI number.

This issue first surfaced in India in 2010; the country has since then been trying to fight it. However, this means that not all mobile devices that exist out there may be having an IMEI number, but it’s also worth noting that most of the devices that don’t have an IMEI number are most likely illegal.

Apart from that, another interesting fact is that the government agencies around the world use phone devices that don’t have an IMEI number. This is for the obvious reason that it makes them untraceable for other agencies or the elements they are working against.

Is an IMEI Number Always Valid?

No, an IMEI number may not always be valid, as many counterfeit devices also come with a bad IMEI number. You can find out if your phone’s IMEI number is valid using something known as the Luhn formula.

However, it’s not something most of you would prefer using, as it can be a tedious process. So a more effective way would turn out to be using an online IMEI checking tool.

Different Ways of Finding Your Device’s IMEI Number

The easiest and most common way of finding your phone’s IMEI number has already been explained above. However, if it doesn’t work for you for some reason, there are a few alternatives as well.

One of them is finding the IMEI number by going to the phone’s Settings menu, then the About Phone option, followed by the Status and finally the IMEI information.

Another simple way of finding your phone’s IMEI number is to simply check the box your phone came in. Most phone nowadays comes in a box with all the information displayed on them, including the IMEI number.

The IMEI number is often mentioned on a white barcode on the box, and you can easily find it even if your phone has been lost or stolen.

Most people should be able to find their phone’s IMEI number using one of these options of accessing the IMEI number, but if someone doesn’t, then there’s a last resort as well. And it’s checking either the SIM card tray or under the removable cover where the battery is put, as many devices come with their IMEI number printed there.

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Last updated: July 14, 2018

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