Discovering the identity of a SIM card owner can be hard. In the best-case scenario, the SIM card has an ICCID and/or IMSI printed. There’s also a chance that the UICC (Universal Integrated Circuit Card) number is printed on it instead. This identifies the chip as a SIM card and sets it apart from things as credit or debit cards but won’t help you much. Another trouble comes with only having a nano-SIM card since it usually has nothing except the golden MOS chip on one side and a blank plastic on another. Increasingly strict privacy laws are a problem too. Regardless of the trouble that awaits, we’ll show you how to find the owner of a SIM card.
1. Use the ICCID to find a carrier
If all you have is the SIM card but don’t want to risk inserting it, work with what you’ve got. We suggest you follow methods 2, 3, and 4 in our guide to identifying a SIM card carrier. If you managed to find it, call the customer service line, visit their store, or start an online chat. They’re not likely to give up the identity of the owner, however. But if all you want to do is notify him or her that their SIM card is missing, the carrier will reach out to the right person instead.
2. Find the owner of a SIM card with IMSI
Sometimes there’s a 14-digit or 15-digit number printed on the SIM card. If nothing showed when you tried the ICCID method, this can be it. Unfortunately, breaking it down is harder than it looks. IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) consists of 3 pairs of numbers: MCC (Mobile Country Code), which are the first 3 numbers, MNC (Mobile Network Code) which are the next 3 numbers, and MSIN (Mobile Subscription Identification Number) which are the remaining 8 or 9 numbers. You have two options:
1. Try to break it down manually
To help you in your search, utilize a list such as MCC-MNC. It will make the whole thing much easier.
2. Use a lookup tool
There’s a host of online lookup services that will tell you the home network, location, and identity of the user from an IMSI. It can also work if the user is currently roaming. Unfortunately, from what we’ve found, most services or software of this type must be paid for. Luckily, since all you need is a single search, you can sign up for a demonstration account (free trial) and use ViaNett’s HLR (Home Location Register) Lookup tool.
3. Insert the SIM card and try to bypass the PIN
If you’re wondering why we haven’t mentioned a phone number yet, it’s because of privacy laws. Carriers nowadays refrain from printing the phone number on the SIM card since it can be stolen easily, while IMSI or ICCID are harder to break down. For that reason, you’ll need to insert a SIM card first. We recommend an older, disposable phone. Then, do one of the following to identify the SIM card owner:
1. I can circumvent the PIN or there’s no PIN
Whether you used a default PIN that wasn’t changed, such as 1234, 0000, or 1111, or the PIN was disabled, congratulations. First, check everything that’s stored on the SIM. Try to copy contacts from SIM card to phone, for example. With luck, the owner created a contact in his name to have an easy reference. You can also check for a contact named Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother, etc., and give them a call to discover who the SIM card owner is. If none of those exist, here are more ways to check a SIM card phone number. Once you do, you can use tools such as MessageBird Lookup.
2. I couldn’t pass the PIN screen
We’re afraid the access to the SIM card is blocked. There might be nothing you can do except trying methods 1 and 2 again or following the very last method.
3. Find the owner of a SIM card with a USSD code or an SMS
This method relies on the fact you were able to get around the PIN screen and/or found the phone number. If the SIM card is active, you can send SMS or run USSD codes. First, find the carrier’s name. Then, check their website for a precise number or method. We’ll give you a few examples so you get the point. Here’s how to pinpoint the owner of a SIM card from these carriers:
- Jazz. Send blank SMS to 668 and you’ll get an SMS with information back.
- Zong. Send an empty SMS to 668 or send “V” in an SMS message addressed to number 7911.
- Telenor. Send a blank SMS to 668 or 7751.
- NTC. Dial *922# and you’ll get a display notification.
- Ncell. Call *9966# and you’ll get SIM card details on the screen via USSD.
- MTN Nigeria. Call *789*1# for USSD or text “REG” to 789.
4. Discover the cardholder through a carrier app
Once again, this method hinges on the fact you were able to go around the PIN screen during boot up. The instructions are the same as above, except that you’ll install the carrier’s official app. Don’t worry that you don’t have any details – the phone number is all that matters. In an example of Vi ( merge of Vodafone and Idea), here’s how to track down the SIM card owner:
- Download the Vi app for Android (or iPhone equivalent).
- Launch Vi, and on the home screen, enter your phone number.
- Tap on Send OTP (One-Time Password).
- Enter the OTP into the app then tap on Next three times.
- After tapping on Get started, tap on My Account in the bottom left corner.
- You’ll see the SIM card owner’s information.
5. Find the owner of a SIM card via Truecaller or SpyDialer
Unlike the two methods above, to locate the SIM card owner this way, you need a phone number only. We know this is similar to what we suggested in method 3. However, this, besides a website lookup, has the advantage of installing an app on your phone (any phone except the one with the SIM card installed). Regardless of the technique, you get access to a massive database of phone numbers, measuring in billions of entries. To clarify, we’re talking about websites such as SpyDialer and Truecaller.
6. Find the owner of a SIM card with a background search
Once again, to locate the owner of a SIM card this way, the phone number is all you need. Background search websites usually deal with first and last names, states, social security numbers, etc. However, you can also use a phone number as a search term. This is evident from WhitePages’ Reverse Phone Lookup online tool. Feel free to try other websites, or sign up for Premium services if you really want to find the SIM card owner.
What to do if I can’t find the owner of a SIM card?
If after all your attempts you couldn’t find the carrier, nor the owner’s identity, there’s only one thing to do. First, enter any PIN 3 times in a row so that the incorrect entries force you to enter a PUK code. If you already bypassed it, read our guide to lock the SIM card. After you enter an incorrect PUK code 10 times in a row, the SIM card will become unusable forever. While you’re at it, consider destroying the SIM card entirely. The carrier will either notice the SIM card was disabled permanently, or the owner will notice it’s gone and have a new SIM card issued. Regardless of what happens, your conscience is clear.