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Echo Is ‘Account Locked’. Also Can Stolen Echos Be Tracked?

During the setup process for a new Amazon Echo smart speaker, you’ll have to link it to your Amazon account via the Alexa app. However sometimes this fails for unclear reasons, and you need to speak to Amazon customer services.

In rare cases, the failure will be caused by someone else having already registered your device to their own Amazon account. This can happen when you’ve bought the device second hand, or potentially because the Echo was stolen before being sold to you (and the unscrupulous seller marked it as ‘new’ or ‘used but excellent condition’).

An ‘account locked’ Echo has already been registered to someone else’s Amazon account, and so it can’t be registered again. If it’s been stolen, there are some ways that you can potentially track down your device.

What does an ‘account locked’ Echo actually mean?

A new Echo Dot (sandstone color) in setup mode with an orange ring going around it.
An Echo Dot
in setup mode.

If you’ve tried to register an Echo you purchased and it just won’t register (or link) to your Amazon account, you may be prompted to contact Amazon customer services. When doing this, their staff may explain that the Echo device is “locked”. This means that it’s registered to someone else’s Amazon account, and so you’re not able to use the Echo device (since it requires an active internet connection and Amazon account to function).

There are a few reasons why an Echo might be account locked:

  • The previous occupant of your house left it behind when they moved out, forgetting to deregister it from the app.
  • Someone sold it on eBay/Gumtree (or traded it into a ‘cash for electronics’ shop), again forgetting to deregister it.
  • The Echo was stolen from inside someone’s house during a burglary, before being sold to yourself without your knowledge that it’s stolen goods.
  • The Echo was stolen from someone’s front porch right after delivery, before it was properly setup and registered, and again it was then sold to you without you knowing it’s been stolen.

As you can see, having an account locked Echo doesn’t have to mean that you possess stolen goods. It might just be an honest mistake and the previous owner didn’t realize that they needed to deregister the item first.

If you’re able to, get in touch with them and ask them to follow Amazon’s “Deregister your Device” guide. However if you have no luck with this and you suspect the Echo was stolen from its rightful owner, contact the police and also Amazon to report this.

On the other hand, if your own Echo was stolen from you, read on to understand what steps you should take right now.

What to do if your Echo device is stolen

The back of someone leaving a property, as captured by a Ring Doorbell 1 device.
The back of someone leaving a property.

Firstly, sorry to hear that your Echo was stolen! Whether it was part of a larger burglary or a small, opportunistic theft, having any personal possession stolen is very unsettling.

The first thing to do is report the burglary to the police, providing any details and evidence that you have. Dates/times and a description of the burglar – if possible – is always useful, as is any video evidence if you or your neighbors having security cameras.

Once you’ve done this, contact Amazon and report your Echo device as stolen. You can do this by following their ‘Report Your Amazon Device as Lost or Stolen‘ guide, but the gist is:

  • Click the ‘Contact Us’ button which is on the left side of every Amazon Help page.
  • Speak to a customer service representive over the phone or online chat, and they will be able to mark your device as “Lost/Stolen”, thereby locking it so that it cannot be used by the burglar.

This will at least prevent the burglar from profiting from their crime directly. The other thing that Amazon’s help page mentions is that if you’re not able to speak to a customer service rep right away, deregister the device from your Account to stop the burglar making purchases on it.

This actually seems like strange advice, because an Echo can’t be registered to the burglar unless you deregister it first! So by deregistering it, you’re actually allowing the device to be used! I can only imagine that Amazon are referring to other devices which can be used without a setup process, and these can be used to purchase items on.

To be honest, I can’t think of any Amazon-sold items that fall into this category, but regardless – my advice for a stolen Echo is: do not register it from your account. Speak to Amazon directly, as soon as possible, and get them to mark it as lost/stolen.

Finally, if you’re feeling particular adventurous, you could try to ‘track’ the item down (if possible). This isn’t always advised though, because scaring a criminal who knows where you live isn’t really the best of ideas! But read on in-case you’re curious.

Can stolen Echos be tracked?

If your Echo was dropped off on your front porch by a mail carrier, but then someone stole it from your porch, you’re probably not going to be able to track it down.

After all, the device wasn’t setup nor registered, so you won’t personally have any link to the item to track it.

… right?

Well, this is generally true. If you’ve ordered your Echo from a third party shop such as Home Depot (i.e. not Amazon) then the device will be blank – it won’t have any configuration on it.

However when you purchase an Echo directly from Amazon, you’re logged into your account and so Amazon can pre-load configuration onto the Echo. This will include your name/address, your Amazon account and possibly your WiFi password (if you specifically chose to save this to Amazon for easy device setup in the future, that is).

I had this recently with a new Echo Dot I purchased: it was very easy to setup because I could simply select my WiFi network with a single click (no entering of any passwords) and it was pre-registered to my account, with my address info already listed under the “Device Location” section of the app. Simple!

The other benefit of this is that if the device is lifted from your front porch, you can potentially track it down. This is because when it’s eventually configured and setup, you’ll receive an email saying ‘thanks for setting up your device’ (after all, it was pre-registered to your account).

Mission: Impossible, 1966 (the original show)

At this point, you can ‘drop in’ on your new Echo by saying to an existing Echo (or via your Alexa app) “Alexa, drop in on my Echo“. Try and be specific with the device type – for example if you ordered an Echo Spot, say “Alexa, drop in on my Spot“. This increases the chances that Amazon will know which device you’re referring to.

Assuming this works, you can actually start speaking and your voice will be heard through the other Echo! Again, this isn’t really recommended because annoying criminals is universally a bad idea, but there’s a small chance that this is a genuine mistake, so speaking through the other Echo will help to resolve any genuine mistakes.

If it was an Echo Spot or Show that was stolen, you can actually initiate a video call through the Alexa app too (granted, this must be accepted on their end!). It’d be wise to cover up your own phone’s camera, but you can use this method to see the other person’s face and/or apartments.

Someone on Reddit used the drop-in approach to get their stolen Echo Spot back in December 2018, so it is possible! But it does require a few specific circumstances:

  • Purchasing the device through Amazon (to pre-load the device with your own account info).
  • Your Echo can’t be setup and actively used before its theft, otherwise it would probably be ‘account locked’. In this case, it’s better that the device was pre-registered but not yet fully setup.

As you can see, you have to be ‘lucky’ to be able to track down your Echo (and I say ‘lucky’ because having your Echo stolen obviously isn’t lucky!). In general, if your Echo was stolen during a home burglary, you probably won’t be able to track it down.

The same is true if you didn’t buy your Echo through Amazon. In general it’s best to report the theft to the police and Amazon and get a replacement device, but it’s nice to know that an Echo can in theory be ‘traced’ – even if it’s not as high-tech as you’d see in the movies!

About Tristan Perry

Tristan Perry is a software developer who is passionate about tech gadgets, DIY and housing. He has therefore loved seeing smart homes hit the mainstream. Tristan also has an academic background (in Math & Computer Science), and so he enjoys digging into the technical ways that smart home devices work.

Tristan owns close to a dozen Amazon Echo devices, way too many Philips Hue bulbs and lightstrips, a boat-load of Ring Cameras and Doorbells... and a bunch of other smart home devices too (from Reolink, Google Nest, GLEDOPTO and others).

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