Our phones contain a record of our lives. They’re not just for texting and calling; they are really mini computers that contain our photos, as well as our detailed personal information, our passwords, financial and medical information and more.
If your smartphone falls into the wrong hands, it can lead to personal and identity theft. Plus, phones can be very expensive to replace.
Steps to take after your phone is lost or stolen
If a thief has your phone, that person will know that you are trying to find it or wipe it clean. So you want to act quickly if you notice that your phone is gone.
If you realize your phone is disappearing, follow these eight steps.
1. Call your phone
You may have just lost your phone. Call your number and send a text message. When the phone is within reach, you will hear it. Or if you lost it, someone can answer.
2. Sign in to Find my phone on iPhone or Find my device on Google
For an Android phone, use Google’s Find my device† For an iPhone go to find my iphone† Use those services to send a sound to the phone, display a message on the lock screen, or clear the data on your phone.
3. Notify your service provider
You want to notify your carrier of the loss. It may suspend your service until you find your phone or buy a new one. Your carrier may also prevent the phone from being used on its network. It can also mark the phone as unusable even with a new SIM card or if the phone is moved to a new carrier.
4. Report to the police
You may or may not be able to get your phone back if you report it to the police, but you will need a record of the loss if the phone is used for illegal activities or if you are subject to fraudulent charges or identity theft.
6. Change your passwords
If a thief has your phone, that person may be able to access all of your personal information, including your passwords and security questions for the websites you visit. Change all your passwords and security questions.
7. Contact your bank, credit card companies and other financial institutions
Notify all major financial and other important agencies of the loss so they know your accounts are at risk. You can ask the bank and credit card companies to issue new cards.
8. Think insurance
If you have phone coverage, contact the insurance company. Also, check with your mobile operator and see if they will cover the replacement cost. If you use a credit card to pay your monthly phone bill, contact the issuer. Some provide replacement coverage at no cost to you.
Steps to prepare your phone in case it is lost or stolen
Whether you own an Android phone or an Apple iPhone, there are steps you can take and settings you can adjust to protect your phone before it is lost or stolen.
1. Make a list of important information
I keep a household inventory list with all the information about every new appliance, computer, smartphone and other items.
For a smartphone, register the place and date of purchase, purchase amount, phone make and model, serial number, and IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) or MEID (Mobile Equipment Identifier) number. This article can help you find your phone’s IMEI number quickly.
2. Set strong security settings
It is best to have as many security settings as possible. Using a password plus biometric authentication is best. Biometric authentication is when you use your fingerprint, facial or voice recognition to log into your phone.
Also use a strong password. If your phone allows it, skip the 4-digit PIN and instead choose a password that is at least eight characters long and contains a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
Both Apple and Android phones will lock you out after so many failed login attempts. And both have an erase feature that automatically erases your personal data after a certain number of failed login attempts. The feature is not enabled by default, so you must enable it.
On an iPhone, open Settings > Touch ID & Passcode. Find and enable the Tap and clear data setting.
On an Android, open the Settings menu > Lock screen > Secure lock settings. Enable the option for Auto Factory Reset.
3. Enable Find my phone
With this setting enabled, you can use a computer or other device to locate your phone if it turns out to be missing. For it to work, the phone must be turned on and connected to Wi-Fi or cellular. It can also report the last known location recorded, as long as location tracking is enabled.
On an iPhone, open the Settings menu. Tap your name, then tap Find My. Turn on Find My iPhone. You can also choose to share your location with friends and family and locate your device even when it is offline. To find your iPhone on a map, make sure location services are turned on. You can find it under Settings > Privacy > Location Services.
On an Android, open the Settings > Security > Find My Device menu. Turn it on.
4. Back up your phone
When you set up a new phone, you will be prompted to enable backup. Apple uses iCloud and Android uses Google Drive. Follow the prompts to enable the backup feature. On an iPhone, open the Settings menu, then tap your name. Then tap iCloud > iCloud Backup. On an Android, open Settings > Accounts & Backup.
Losing a phone can be a scary and expensive experience. Following these steps will give you a head start in locating your phone or securely erasing your valuable information.