According to security experts, 1 out of every 10 US smartphone owners will have their phones stolen and 68% of those people will never get them back. It doesn’t matter how careful you are with your phone, you could be at risk of theft.
Let’s look at 8 important steps you need to take when faced with a stolen phone.
1. Make Sure You Haven’t Lost It
Before you take steps to deal with theft, ask yourself: Was my phone stolen or did I leave it somewhere? Think back to where you’ve been since the last time you remember having your phone. Could you have left it somewhere like a restaurant, pub, or store?
If you think you might have left it somewhere, call them and see if anyone turned in a lost phone. Tracking it down this way can save you a lot of unnecessary hassle.
2. Call and Text Your Number
Another possible way to track down a lost phone is to call or text yourself. If someone found your phone, they might be waiting to see if it rings to let the caller know you lost it.
If your phone has a passcode, someone finding it might not be able to see your text, but most phones ring even when they’re locked.
3. Use Your Phone’s Tracking Features
The major cell phone platforms all have built-in features for tracking a phone. Apple has Find My iPhone, Android has Google’s Find My Device, and Samsung phones use Samsung’s Find My Mobile feature. These all use the GPS in your phone to pinpoint their location.
The catch to this tip is that you have to turn those features on before someone steals your phone. If it’s already gone and they weren’t activated, there’s nothing you can do.
4. Lock and Erase Your Phone Remotely
Your phone likely has a lot of sensitive information on it. If it’s stolen, that data is at risk of exposure.
The tracking features in the last step also let you lock or completely erase your phone remotely. This won’t get your phone back, but it will help ensure the thief can’t get at your personal data.
Like the tracking feature, you need to turn on the remote lock and/or erase features before someone steals your phone. If you don’t have them activated on your phone already, now is the time to turn it on.
5. Call Your Cell Provider
If someone steals your phone, they can use it for long-distance calling, downloading large amounts of data, and other things that can run up a bunch of expensive charges on your cell bill.
Call your cell provider to let them know someone stole your phone. They’ll be able to deactivate the service to the phone to limit the number of charges you might face.
It’s also a good idea to have them put a password on your account that you need to provide whenever you call in. If someone has your phone and has access to the information on it, they could have enough details to impersonate you when they call the cell provider.
Putting extra security on your account will limit what they can do.
6. File a Police Report
It’s a good idea to file a police report if your phone was stolen. A stolen cell phone won’t be a high-priority case, but if it’s recovered as part of another case or the police happen to get lucky and track it down, having a report on file will help ensure you get it back.
You might also need the file number for the police report to make an insurance claim or take other steps related to the stolen phone. Some countries have do-not-activate lists that blacklist stolen phones so thieves aren’t able to activate them. These services usually need a police report for validation.
7. Change Your Passwords
Your phone most likely holds passwords to a ton of important parts of your life, including:
- Email accounts
- Online banking services
- Shopping sites like Amazon and eBay
- Social media accounts
Even if the passwords aren’t visible on your phone, anything that’s logged in already could be at risk. The thief could change the passwords on your accounts and the email address they’re registered to, locking you out and giving them access to everything.
8. Call Your Bank, Credit Card Providers, and Other Services
Some of the apps on your phone might connect to your bank, credit cards, and other services. This can give the thief free rein to spend your money.
Losing your phone isn’t that different than losing your wallet or purse. Call your bank, credit card companies, and any other services that could be at risk to cancel your accounts or issue replacement cards with new numbers.
If you use the electronic wallet features on your phone, think about any other cards, tickets, or other passes you have stored there. Anything in the wallet could get accessed if the thief gets into your phone.
Be Prepared for a Lost or Stolen Phone
If your phone gets stolen, it’s too late to take preventative measures against the thief getting access to your personal information. You should take steps to protect yourself now, while you don’t need to be worried.
First, turn on the tracking and remote locking features on your phone. Test the tracking when you know where the phone is to make sure it’s working properly.
Next, make sure you’ve got the passcode feature turned on and use a strong passcode. It should be at least 6 digits, but the best solution is to use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Doing this means it’s a little more work to unlock your phone, but you’ll be happy you made that effort if it’s ever stolen.
Finally, take note of the important things you have stored on your phone. Credit cards, banking apps, important accounts, identification, and anything else that would be at risk if your phone gets stolen should be on the list. Include phone numbers for those services so you can quickly call them if there’s ever a problem.
Keep that list somewhere where you can access it if you have to deal with a stolen phone. Like the Boy Scouts say: always be prepared. Taking the time to protect your phone now will save you a lot of headaches, and possibly a lot of money later.
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