Most of the time, people always have suspicions or paranoia regarding IMEI numbers. They are random numbers imprinted on various parts of your phone. They are said to be used as a method to recognize the parts of the phone and the phone itself, but some have weird beliefs that they are used as a way to breach our privacy and keep surveillance on us. It doesn’t matter whether that’s the case or not, because there’s no way to find it, but we can tell you more about what this IMEI number is and how it works, and what can someone do with my IMEI number.
What Is An IMEI Number On A Cell Phone (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity Number)?
What is the IMEI number? IMEI number (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity Number) is a number that recognizes devices that use the terrestrial cellular network.
What’s the terrestrial cellular network? Well, it’s the network that you use when calling someone and is provided by your cellular carriers depending on your data plan.
Since such devices don’t use the network from satellites, but straight from antennas and towers in the area, they rely on this type of network. International Mobile Equipment Number recognizes the devices in every area.
This may seem like an obvious number, but many people don’t know that laptops and other devices that carry wireless networks or 3G/4G networks, also carry these numbers in some parts, and phones that contain dual-sims, also have one number sequence on each sim card.
How Does An IMEI Number Work?
In short, the use of IMEI numbers is to recognize and locate devices, this means that it enables you to work with the network, and also prevents theft. If someone steals your phone and you report it, the IMEI number can be tracked and stopped, you can have the IMEI number blocked from networks, which will stop networks from coming or going out of your phone, making it almost useless for the stealer.
If someone wants to steal and then somehow try to get the IMEI number out, it’s still impossible to do it without damaging the device. So, asking “what someone can do with my IMEI number?” may be redundant, because they are hard-coded numbers encrypted in parts of the device that work in their way and are impossible to get out of without damaging something.
Since some people might think the IMEI number gets blocked only in terrestrial cellular networks, that’s not the case entirely, one network can notify others to do the same and block the number everywhere, leaving the phone vulnerable and easy to track.
Government Tracks You Using Your IMEI Number
Well, yes, and it’s not in the way you might think, also there are reasons to do this. The government can keep track of the number itself and locate it and access information regarding the number with a warrant.
However, it can’t recognize who this belongs to, there are Billions of IMEI numbers and the government can give a name or ID, or even a picture to all of them.
But some IMEI numbers can have names or IDs attached to them. It depends on whether you signed in contract with the mobile carrier and your information was input into the device, in that case, the government can access the information but only with a warrant.
Your privacy is kept safe and the government doesn’t have the resources or interest in locating each for no reason, they can track those that have suspicions of illegal activities, but that is good, so unless you have nothing to hide, you don’t have to worry about government invading your privacy through the IMEI number.
Not All Devices Have IMEI Numbers
That’s correct, not every phone has an IMEI number, and in most cases, it is illegal to sell or purchase them. But it doesn’t mean those phones are good this, because the phones that lack the number are mostly counterfeit or fake phones, and they are already harmful to the person.
They can have their own tracking devices or privacy-breaching hardware present inside, so having such phones can be risky for your privacy. You can track your phone or have it under surveillance for legal purposes. There are also rumors that many government agencies carry phones without IMEI numbers, so they can’t be tracked by counterintelligence agencies.
How to Check the IMEI Number?
If you are buying a new phone, then the IMEI number will be available on the box, you can find it and have it checked. And for those who don’t have a new phone, you can just type “#06#” on the number keypad and click the call button to IMEI check online.
How to Check Your IMEI Number on Android
To check the IMEI number on an Android device, follow these steps:
- Dial *#06# on the keypad and the IMEI number should instantly appear on the screen.
- Go to “Settings” > “About Phone” > “Status” or “IMEI Information.”
- Check the label on the back of the phone or the original box that the phone came in.
How to Check Your IMEI Number on iPhone
To check the IMEI number on an iPhone, follow these steps:
- Dial *#06# on the keypad and the IMEI number should instantly appear on the screen.
- Go to “Settings” > “General” > “About” and scroll down to “IMEI”.
- Look at the back of the iPhone or the original box that the phone came in.
What are the Benefits of IMEI Number
There are lots of benefits of this number that are worth the risk of being tracked by the government, which may not even be using your info in a bad way. Some of them are
- Your IMEI number in the new phone can be put on sites that will tell you specifically what features you have on your phone, and whether it is blacklisted/reported, so you can know whether it is stolen before buying a secondhand phone.
- It’s a fact that IMEI numbers have prevented and stopped countless thieves from stealing phones, they can get tracked or blocked on networks and you won’t have to worry about your information getting leaked.
- Having an IMEI number shows that your phone is legit and is not from fake companies, there have been millions of knock-offs of big phone brands and the IMEI number is the best way to check whether they are good and original.
- While it can be used against you, it’s better to not feel paranoid about it and think of it in a way that the IMEI number is there for our safety, and for preventing our loss. It’s worth the risk of something that may not even be bad.
Can IMEI Be Used for Hacking?
If you want to know, “what someone can do with my IMEI number”, the answer is, not much, they may not even be able to get that easily, let alone hack it. Some rumors do say that after getting someone’s IMEI number, you can hack into their WhatsApp. However, we don’t know for sure, maybe with the IMEI number of the sim card, it might be possible to hack apps that require sim numbers, or other details.
This can lead to having your information leaked, private messages breached, and maybe even your bank accounts compromised. There is another way to have your phone hacked with your IMEI number, the hacker can make you download a file that will seem harmless at first, but it will be feeding the information to the hacker through your phone without even noticing. So, to stay on the safe side, it’s better to keep the number between you, the phone company, and the government.
It’s better to stay cautious by removing the root of such causes and feel less paranoid. Keep your IMEI number safe and then you won’t have any worry about getting your info leaked.
Is Changing IMEI Illegal?
Yes, changing an IMEI number is illegal in many countries, including the United States. The IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is a unique identifier for a device, assigned by the manufacturer, and is used by mobile networks to identify and track devices. Tampering with the IMEI number is illegal as it can be used to disguise a stolen device or to commit fraud.
Penalties for changing an IMEI number can vary from country to country, but in general, it is considered a criminal offense that can result in fines and even imprisonment. If you need to repair or replace your device’s IMEI for any reason, it is best to consult with the manufacturer or professional repair service, rather than attempting to change the number yourself.
Difference Between an ESN and an IMEI
ESN (Electronic Serial Number) and IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) are both unique identifiers assigned to mobile devices. However, there are some key differences between them:
- An ESN is used by CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) network carriers to identify and activate a device on their network. An IMEI, on the other hand, is used by all types of mobile networks (GSM, CDMA, etc.) to identify and track devices globally.
- An ESN is allocated by the carrier, while an IMEI is allocated by the device manufacturer.
- ESN is only used by CDMA networks, while IMEI is used by all types of mobile networks.
- The ESN is used by the carrier to determine if a device is eligible for activation, while the IMEI is used to identify a device for purposes such as tracking, blacklisting, and theft prevention.
In summary, the IMEI is a more versatile and widely-used identifier for mobile devices, while the ESN is specific to CDMA networks.
How to Know If Someone Hacked Your Phone
If you suspect that someone has hacked your phone, there are a number of signs to watch out for. The first and most obvious sign is a sudden decrease in battery life. If your phone battery is draining faster than usual, it could be a sign that someone is running background processes on your phone or monitoring your activities.
Another sign that your phone may have been hacked is unusual data usage. If you notice a sudden increase in your data usage, it could be due to the hacker running processes or uploading your data to their own servers. Additionally, if you start seeing unfamiliar apps on your phone, it could be a sign that someone has installed malware on your device.
If you receive text messages or emails that you did not send or if your contacts start receiving messages from you that you did not send, it could be a sign that someone has taken control of your phone. You may also notice that your phone is running slower than usual, which could be due to the hacker running processes or using your phone’s resources for their own purposes.
If you notice unusual behavior from your phone, such as random reboots or changes to your settings, it could be a sign that someone has hacked your phone. If you suspect that your phone has been hacked, it is important to take immediate action to protect your data and prevent further damage. This may include changing your passwords, resetting your phone to factory settings, or seeking the assistance of a professional cybersecurity expert.
Don’t Tell Your IMEI to Anyone
Since now you know what can someone do with my IMEI number, you should know that it’s better to hide it and keep it safe to yourself, just to make sure you are on the safe side. Although hacking through the IMEI numbers is rare and not many people try it, it can still be harmful and you can take precautions against it. There is a risk of sharing the IMEI number. So, the best way to do that is by not telling anyone your IMEI number, if they don’t know, they won’t be able to do anything. It’s as simple as that.
In the end, IMEI numbers are intended to just be numbers that can help recognize the phone, and there are no malicious reasons for implanting it on a different part. However, since people can have bad intentions, they should be kept safe and you shouldn’t tell anyone.
Even if IMEI numbers are just hardcoded messages on the part of the phone, they carry information regarding the device only, and no IMEI number carries personal info. The information you put when setting up your phone is not that extreme and it can’t be used against you, and only that information can be found in the IMEI number.
The best thing to do is relax and use it in your favor, have the government do its legal research, and keep track of your activities, which is perfectly fine if you aren’t in any illegal things. You can also use it to get your device to be blocked on different networks in case of thievery.
In conclusion, an IMEI number is a unique identifier for a mobile device that is used by mobile networks for tracking and identifying purposes. However, knowing someone’s IMEI number alone does not provide access to their device or personal information.
It is not possible to hack a device using only the IMEI number. To protect your device and personal information, it is important to follow best practices such as keeping software up-to-date and being cautious of suspicious messages or links.
I’m a writer, artist, and designer working in the gaming and tech industries. I have held staff and freelance positions at large publications including Digital Trends, Lifehacker, Popular Science Magazine, Electronic Gaming Monthly, IGN, The Xplore Tech, and others, primarily covering gaming criticism, A/V and mobile tech reviews, and data security advocacy.