Most mobile phone users have never heard about their international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) number, let alone considered what it means and what it does. Every big-ticket electronic gadget has some kind of identifier that sets it apart from all others like it, so in that way, the IMEI on a mobile device serves a function similar to the VIN on a vehicle. There’s no way to erase or obscure an IMEI number, and knowing it is essential in case you misplace or lose your phone, someone steals it, or you buy a used or refurbished device.

It’s Like Your Social Security Number

Your phone’s IMEI number functions in much the same way as a person’s Social Security number. Your personal SSN helps to prove that you are who you say you are. You’re issued a number at birth, and it sticks with you throughout your entire life. That’s true for your smartphone’s IMEI number as well.

Any mobile device that’s capable of connecting to a network has an IMEI number. It can reveal a world of information about your phone, even if you lose it or if someone steals the device from you. That’s critical, given that tens of millions of iPhones, for example, go out into the world every year a new phone debuts. They all look alike, and they function in the same way. A unique way to identify and differentiate each mobile device from all the rest is more than necessary.

It’s Easy to Find

You shouldn’t have to search all over your phone or tablet to find its IMEI number. The easiest method of discovering the number is to pull up your phone and keypad, then punch in *#06# and hit “Call” or “Send.” The phone’s number should automatically show up on the screen.

On both Android and iOS devices, you can also discover the IMEI number in the settings. On iOS devices, try Settings > General > About. The IMEI is one of the numbers displayed. For most Android devices, you can go into Settings > About Phone > Status.

The number usually appears beneath the battery of a device, too. However, since removing the battery is tricky for most phones and tablets, it’s better to save this as a last-ditch effort. If you saved the box your device came in, then the IMEI number should appear somewhere on the packaging, too.

Safety First

Where did your phone come from initially? Are you confident of its origins? Did you buy it used or refurbished? There’s nothing wrong with that, but because you have a way to identify the device, you can take the time to ensure it hasn’t been blocked on your network and confirm that you can use it with your current carrier. For example, you can use T-Mobile’s IMEI checker to find out if everything’s copacetic with your phone. Once you confirm that it is, you will have access to the carrier’s 4G LTE network and all the benefits that come with it.

It Can Track Stolen Devices

Are you bummed about a lost or stolen smartphone? These days, smartphones, smartwatches, and tablets are among the most frequently stolen items. People often lose, misplace, or forget their devices as well. Finding a device may seem like a lost cause, but the IMEI number offers a way to track your phone.

With your IMEI number in hand, call your provider. The provider can typically block that particular number, which prevents anyone else from jailbreaking the phone and attempting to use it on your network. Some providers also contact other carriers and request that they place a block on your IMEI number, too. Even law enforcement officials can use the number to recover stolen phones.

Knowing what you know now, why don’t you take a minute to pull up the IMEI numbers on all of your devices? It’s one of the first things you should do when you buy a new phone, too. Have you ever lost your phone? Perhaps having the IMEI number could have helped minimize related losses.

Incredible Planet Staff

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