How to Ping a Cell Phone

Michael Kwan
Young businesswoman using her cell phone

Though people often forget their wallets, sunglasses and other items, the cell phone is an item that is rarely outside of arm's reach. Being able to ping someone's phone may help you track down the person during an emergency. Pinging may also help you find your own phone if it gets lost or is stolen.

How to Ping a Cell Phone

Due to the cell phone privacy laws that in place, the average civilian does not have the right to trace the exact location of another person's cell phone without the owner's permission. Even if you know how to ping a cell phone on your own, it is possible that you are breaking the law when you do so if you do not have adequate cause and permission to do it. On the other hand, police, emergency personnel, and other authorized individuals may be able to ping a cell phone legally, given the right circumstances.

There are several steps that you will need to take if you want to ping your own phone or give someone else permission to do so.

  1. Determine the phone number of the phone you would like to ping.
  2. Identify the serial number of the specific handset. This is usually located underneath the battery or underneath the battery panel of the phone.
  3. If the phone uses a SIM card, get its number too. This is usually inscribed directly on the SIM card.
  4. Determine the carrier that is providing service to the cell phone. Without this information, you will not be able to contact the right people.
  5. Call the cell phone carrier. The owner of the phone must place the call.
  6. On that call, the account holder may need to provide the information collected above, like the serial number and the SIM card identification number.
  7. Ask to set up your account so that you or a third-party, like a spouse or trusted friend, can ping the cell phone at any time. Note that laws may require a signature or another signed form to authorize this kind of access. The customer service representative on the line should be able to inform you of any applicable rules.
  8. Ask any other questions you may have about the pinging process while you still have the customer service representative on the line.
  9. When the time comes, call into the service number (usually 611) of the cell phone provider and request to ping your target cell phone. At this time, the carrier may request additional information from you.
  10. Upon a successful ping, the cell phone provider may be able to tell you which cell phone tower was last used by the target phone.
  11. Depending on the technology, the provider may also be able to triangulate the signal and provide you with a more accurate location based on the ping.

Note that pinging does not necessarily reveal the exact location of the phone, but can give a general vicinity.

GPS May Be More Accurate

Ultimately, it is much more accurate to use GPS to locate a cell phone if such a service is available to you. Pinging can only reveal the tower used, whereas GPS can come with just a few feet of the phone's current location.

How to Ping a Cell Phone