What To Do if Your Phone is Stolen: A Cautionary Tale
Last week, I lost my phone, attempted to find it, and eventually tracked it… crossing a bridge without me. I was hoping my lost iPhone would have a happy ending, but unfortunately – like many others – it did not. I replaced it a few days later with an ancient iPhone 4s and eagerly anticipated yesterday’s Apple Event to see what the next generation of iPhones would be. I was impressed with what the near future holds for the iPhone and am anxiously awaiting September 12 so I can preorder an iPhone 6s.
Based on my recent experience, here is what I’d recommend doing when you realize your phone is missing:
1. Track and Lock It
If you have an iPhone, sign in at iCloud.com or use the Find My iPhone app to see your missing iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac on a map. And with the Lost Mode feature you don’t just see where your device is, you can track where it’s been. That way you can decide on your best course of action. You can immediately lock your device and send it a message with a contact number, so if someone finds it and wants to return it, he or she can call you from the Lock screen without accessing the rest of the information on your device. On Android phones, find the Android Device Manager in Google Settings, which is typically an icon on your desktop with the letter “g” and a gear-like symbol next to it. If necessary, use the phone’s search function to search for “Google Settings.” To track down a missing phone, use a computer to access Android Device Manager in the browser’s address bar.
Using iCloud, I was able to see that my phone was still on and in the area I thought I had lost it. I immediately put the phone into Lost Mode and then (frantically) ran back to that block and looked around. However, it happened to be a busy street corner in San Francisco so I doubted it would have just been laying on the ground. I went into local businesses in that area and asked if anyone had returned a phone, and no one had seen it. I also asked people who were sitting around there and no one said they had it. Defeated but still slightly hopeful, I went back to work and figured I would continue to monitor the location and make a second attempt to find it during my lunch break. However, I wasn’t given that opportunity. A couple of hours later, I watched as my phone crossed the Bay Bridge.
2. Report to the Police
Notifying the police not only launches an official recovery attempt, but is also required for a credit freeze. The three major reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—require a copy of the police report before they’ll freeze it. You may also need the police report to dispute fraudulent charges made on your credit cards if the thief gets access to your personal information.
3. Remote Erase
If you’re sure that your device has fallen into the wrong hands, initiate a remote wipe to delete personal data and restore your iPhone to its factory settings. You may also want to consider doing this as well if you’re worried but unsure that someone has it. Find My iPhone will continue to display your custom message even after your device has been erased – so if you know your phone has been stolen, be sure to note that you can change your message! No comment on personal experience here…
4. Look into Insurance / Go to Your Carrier’s Store
My insurance would have covered a new phone for a $179 deductible, but I had to ask myself – Do I really want the same phone I’ve had when a new one is coming out so soon? Not really. I weighed my options and decided it’s best to use a backup phone in the meantime before the new iPhones are released. Once a new phone comes out, historically the most recent previous version drops significantly in price. So I could buy an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus for much cheaper in a less than a week, or I could just upgrade to the newest version. However, with all of the exciting new features, I’ve been convinced to buy the 6s.
Here are a few tips for avoiding more distress if your phone goes missing:
- Consistently back up your phone: I can’t stress this enough. Luckily my iPad had saved most of my pictures, but unfortunately I lost some of my other photos because I had intended to back it up… but did not. Backing up your devices is relatively simple and instructions can be found here.
- Make sure your phone is locked: That five digit security code can be a slight inconvenience, however it’s an extremely important measure to take for personal security and protection.
- Record your phone’s unique ID number: Smart phones have a unique serial number known as an IMEI (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity) or MEID (Mobile Equipment Identifier). Unlike other identifying information stored on the phone’s removable SIM card, these numbers are etched into its circuits and difficult to alter. Your cell carrier already has this 15-digit number on file, and may be able to use it to put the phone on a missing phone list. Some police departments ask for either of these numbers when you report a stolen phone, so that they’ll be able to return it to you if it’s recovered. You can typically find either number on the phone box or in your phone’s settings menu. It is also often found printed on or under the phone’s battery.You can find your phone’s IMEI by dialing *#06#. The number should pop up on your screen.
Losing your phone is a hassle but there are measures to take that will make it much less disheartening if it ever happens to you. Good luck!