Lost or Stolen Phone? Tips to Protect Yourself

A misplaced phone can be frustrating and a cause for panic, especially if it is misplaced in a public place. Once you notice it is missing, it is important to act quickly. Depending on how you use your smartphone, it may contain sensitive, personal information which can be a nightmare if this falls into the wrong hands. If your phone is stolen, not only are you out the cost of the phone itself, but you could potentially open yourself up to much more loss if you don’t act swiftly. Whether your phone is simply lost or in the worst-case scenario it is stolen, we have compiled a list of steps to take. These steps will help you find your phone and keep your personal information safe as well as prevent your phone from being opened by others.

Locating Your Lost Phone

1. Call Your Phone

If you have misplaced your phone, one of the quickest ways to find it is if you call it from another phone. This is helpful if you believe the last place you saw your phone was a familiar place like at school, home, work, or in your car. Even if it fell out of your purse or pocket in public, someone may answer your unattended phone and let you know where they are, especially if the phone keeps ringing and ringing. However, this only works if your phone is not silent, powered off, dead, or in a place where people can’t hear it. The next step can help you quickly locate your device in these situations.

2. Use the “Find My Phone” Function

Both Android and Apple phones have features built in that can help you track down your missing phone using GPS.

With Apple, Find My can be logged onto from another phone or from your computer. From there, you can play a sound on your phone, activate lost mode, and even erase a device. You can’t see your phone’s location if it is off, but you can still activate lost mode. When your phone is marked as lost, you remotely lock it with a passcode, which can help protect your information from being accessed by strangers. This also disables Apple Pay, which prevents online purchases from being made with your saved cards. You can display a custom message with your contact information on the missing phone’s screen as well. Learn how to turn on Find My here.

For Android phones, Find My Device operates in a similar fashion. However, if your phone is off or isn’t connected to mobile data or Wi-Fi, you may still find its most recent location if you’ve enabled “Store recent location”. When you see your phone on Find My Device, you can add a message or device number to the lock screen to help someone return your phone to you, just like Apple’s app.

These features for both Androids and iPhones only work if you have the apps turned on. So it is important to complete this step when you get a new phone. From there, you can toggle on other features to help make finding your phone and protecting your passwords and info easier. Click here to see how to turn it on.

3. Notify Your Service Provider

If you still can’t find your phone, the next step is to let us know. You can suspend your service so that your phone can’t be used. Suspending a line on your account enables you to temporarily shut off talk, text, and data. If someone calls your phone while it is suspended, they will hear a recording. The recording states the person they have called is unavailable right now, please try the call again later. Also note that suspending a line does not stop the billing of your monthly service plan charges. Learn more about suspending a line here.

Locating Your Stolen Phone

4. File A Police Report

If you have completed all the previous steps and you still can’t find your phone, it may be time to consider that it has been stolen. However, filing a police report is only necessary if you can prove it. If you unfortunately receive any fraudulent charges on any of your cards or notice any new accounts being opened on your credit report, it is important to let the police know. Also, if your credit card has been used because of your phone being stolen, your financial institution may need your police report number as proof your device was stolen before they will reimburse your losses. Most insurance companies won’t pay to replace your phone unless you provide a police report number.

The more details you have about your device, the better. So, it is important to get into the habit of keeping a list. This list should include of all your phones and electronic devices and their serial numbers. For a cell phone, log the date you bought it and the place, the amount of the phone, the type of phone, the serial number and the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) or MEID (Mobile Equipment Identifier) number. Here is how you find the IMEI on your phone.

5. Change Your Passwords

Having a passcode lock is the first line of defense against thieves getting into your phone. Depending on the type of phone you have, this can be a number, pattern, fingerprint, or facial recognition. Click here to learn more about keeping a pin or lock on your phone. However, if a thief can get past your phone’s lock, changing your passwords is the most important step. Depending on where you are when your phone is taken, you may not be able to quickly log into your “Find My Phone” app to remotely lock the phone or erase your phone immediately.

With that, it is safe to assume your passwords are compromised. Start changing all your passwords immediately. Remember, most apps and websites require 2 factor authorization. So, it is important that you always use a backup email in conjunction with a phone number. When your phone is compromised, you will only be able to change your passwords with an email address. So, changing this password should be your first step. You will eventually need to change your security questions and answers to ensure that all your information is safe and remains that way.

6. Contact the Bank 

To ensure your bank account and credit remains safe, you may just want to go ahead and call your bank to send out new cards. This is especially important if you have cards linked to and saved on your phone. You can also put a freeze on your credit. This can be a preventative measure that can help stop criminals from opening new accounts under your name. A credit freeze means potential creditors will be unable to access your credit report. This  makes it more difficult for an identity thief to open new lines of credit in your name. A credit freeze does not affect your credit score, and it’s free.

7. Contact Your Insurance Provider

Once you start the process of replacing your phone, your home insurance can come in handy. Although lots of phone retailers offer insurance, many of these plans do not include theft. Renters and homeowners insurance cover your phone in certain specific circumstances. These insurance policies generally automatically cover your phone for things like theft, vandalism, fire, and other damages. This is why it’s important to know the details of your policies so you can take full advantage of them.

These are some of the most important steps to take in case your phone goes missing or gets stolen. When it comes to protecting your personal information, it is important that you take protective measures. By doing this, you will help enhance the security of your phone and personal data. It is easier to take some time to put safeguards in place that can stop a thief from accessing your info, than having to deal with the aftermath.

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