I Lost My Phone
There are few things worse than realizing you have no idea where your phone is, but most of us have been there—over three million phones were lost in 2014.2 Phones are much more to us than electronic devices; they hold a huge cache of personal information and data.
And it’s more than the risk of identity theft that stresses us out when they go missing—smartphones hold our memories. Photos, videos, voice messages, and texts from friends and family can be heartbreaking to lose. So heartbreaking in fact, that 50% of phone theft victims would pay $500 to get their phone back and one-third would pay up to $1,000.3 But we’re here to help you avoid extortion.
What to Do Next
When you realize your phone is gone, it’s not the time to panic. You need to have a cool head so you can act quickly and (hopefully) find it before someone gains access to your info.
- Make sure it’s really gone. Retrace your movements so you’re sure the phone is definitely missing. Dump out your purse or bag, revisit everywhere you’ve been, and give yourself a pat-down to make sure your phone isn’t hiding out in an oversized pocket.
- Call your phone. Borrow a phone from someone else and give your phone a ring. Even if it’s on silent, you should be able to hear it vibrate if it’s on a table or counter.
- Send a text. If your text messages display on the home screen, send out a message with info about how to return the phone to you. This makes it easy for a good Samaritan to do the right thing if they find your phone.
- Use a mobile app. Use another device to log into your carrier’s (or your phone’s) mobile app. From here, you should be able to sound an alert—but don’t shut down your phone. If it’s still active, you can use the app to track it down. You can also use the app to lock your phone.
- Back up your phone. For those with automatic cloud backup, chances are your data is already secure. If possible, do a remote backup through the app, just to make sure your info is preserved and up to date.
- Wipe your phone. If you’re sure the phone has been stolen, use the remote wipe function to remove all data and personal details from your phone. Do this as soon as you can, because sophisticated thieves know how to shield phones and remove SIM cards to make it impossible for you to wipe your info.
- Change passwords. Go online and change the passwords for any accounts you had enabled on your phone—especially bank and shopping accounts, email, and social media.
- Inform your carrier. Let your cellphone carrier know that your phone is missing, and ask them what the next steps are on their end. If your phone is simply lost, they may be able to disable service but still help you trace the phone. At the very least, you’ll get a jump start on setting up a new phone so you can stay connected.
- Contact the police. Whether you get your phone back or not, a police report will help you fight any fraudulent charges that come up after your phone was stolen. If you have cellphone insurance, they might require a police report to process your claim.
Resources to Help
When you can’t find your phone, it may seem hopeless—but there are tools that can help. We’ve selected these apps for their comprehensive tracking and lockdown capabilities.
- Find My Device
With this app, you won’t have to panic when you can’t find your Android phone. Find My Device is built into your phone through Google Play Services (or you can download it from the Google Play Store). To locate your phone, all you have to do is go to Google and search “Where is my phone?” This prompts the app to start looking for your lost phone. The best part is, you don’t have to configure the app in advance—you can use it without any prior setup as soon as you lose your phone.
- Find My iPhone
The Find My iPhone app makes it much easier to retrieve your lost or stolen property. Sign in using iCloud.com or the Find My iPhone app, and put your phone on Lost Mode. The app will show you a map that identifies where your missing iPhone (or iPad, iPod touch, or Mac) is and where it has been. Use Find My iPhone’s Lock Mode to prevent anyone from accessing the information on your device. Then send your device a message with a contact number. If someone finds your phone, they’ll have a number at which to reach you but won’t be able to get their hands on your personal data. Worst case scenario, you can initiate a remote wipe that will delete all of your personal data and restore the phone to its factory settings.
- Cerberus Anti-Theft
This is another great option to help you find missing Android devices. In addition to anti-theft protection, Cerberus also gives you remote control of your phone or laptop through its website or via text messages from a different phone. Once remote control is established, you can locate and track your phone, lock it down, sound an alarm, display a message, take pictures and videos to record the thief, and wipe the internal memory and SD card to keep your private data secure. You can try Cerberus for free for one week, and if you like it you can buy your own license for around $5.
Learn More about Protecting Your Phone
Losing your phone is stressful and scary, and it can be costly. If you have a security system or a smart home that you control with your phone, it could grant a thief or hacker access to your house. Because you can’t predict when you might misplace your phone (or have it stolen), take action before it goes missing. Don’t put your personal data or your home at risk—find out what you can do right now to secure your smartphone from hackers.