What to Do If Your Smartphone Is Stolen 

If you have a smartphone, you know far too well how much important information they hold.  There are many smartphones out there, but is difficult to ascertain which is the best smartphone.  One thing to be aware is that the following information is pretty universal with all smartphones.  A user’s contacts, their private messages, their banking apps, their pictures, and more.  All of this is at risk, if thieves grab your phone.  Although a stolen smartphone is a terrible situation, there are still ways for you to keep your information safe—and potentially even recover your smartphone.

Make sure to familiarize yourself with the following steps so that they can be taken quickly if you ever find yourself without your device.

Make Sure Your Smartphone Isn’t Lost

This may sound silly but realizing you’re without your phone can cause real panic. Make sure that you haven’t misplaced your device before taking more drastic measures. If there is a friend with you, try calling your own phone.

If you can’t hear it ringing, try using the locator apps installed into your phone. These have to be set up ahead of time to work, but each smartphone provider has their own version of this tool: Apple users can try Find My iPhone, Android users have Google Find My Device, and Samsung users should give Find My Mobile a shot.

Using locator apps if your phone is stolen

Chances are that if thieves have stolen your phone, the thief will turn your phone off to avoid being tracked.  However, if you do successfully use your provider’s phone locating app and see that your phone is somewhere that you haven’t been or is on the move, it’s likely your phone has been picked up by someone else. Don’t attempt to get your phone back on your own; that poses a big safety threat. Instead, try locking your phone through iCloud and contacting the police.

Lock (or erase) Your Smartphone Through iCloud

Many smartphone providers allow for devices the capability of locking the device and even cleared remotely.  Follow the steps for the smartphone that you own to erase the information from your device.

Apple

Apple requires that you set up the Find My app on your phone before the remote lock and erase features are available. Make sure that you set this app up immediately on new devices to help you in the future. Once the app is set up, you can log on to iCloud, find the missing iPhone on your account and mark it as lost.

This will automatically lock your device and set a passcode. You are also able to display a message on the lock screen. Marking your smartphone as lost will also keep track of its location and suspend payments through Apple Pay.

You also have the ability to completely erase your iPhone remotely, which will cut off a thief’s access to your data. It will erase your information completely from the device. However, be aware that once you erase your iPhone, you will no longer be able to track your device or use the Find My iPhone locator app. This means that erasing your iPhone should be used as a last-ditch effort and the likelihood of you getting the device back is slimmer, although your data will be protected.

Android

Like Apple, Android also requires that smartphones have Find My Device already set up, also turned on and connected to data or Wi-Fi.  Sign in to your Google account on Android’s website and choose the missing phone. This will send a notification to your lost phone and send you information on a map about where your phone may be. Android notes that the location may not be completely accurate, and if the phone cannot be located currently, the phone’s last known location will be displayed instead.

You have three primary options through Android: play a sound, secure your device, or erase your device. Playing a sound will ring your phone at full volume for five minutes, regardless of the prior volume settings. This is particularly useful if you think you may have lost your device. But for a stolen smartphone, ringing may still act as a deterrent.

You can also choose to lock your phone with your password, or set a password if you don’t already have one. Android also gives users the option of adding a phone number to the lock screen when securing the phone.

Finally, as a last resort, you can also erase your Android device completely. This permanently deletes all data on your phone. Be aware that after you erase your device, Find My Device will no longer work to locate the phone. This will protect your data but, again, make it harder to find again.

Samsung

Samsung users will have to set up the Find My Mobile app prior to losing a phone. Find My Mobile will also only work if connected to cellular data or a Wi-Fi network. However, Samsung users also need to opt in to the features that they want to have available to them later, like the ability to send the phone’s last known location.

When setting up the app, opting in to all these features, is a recommendation.  That way, you will have them available should your phone ever be stolen.

To use the app on a stolen phone, log into your Samsung account on the web-based Find My Mobile service. If your smartphone's current location can be found, this information is shown on the device, along with its network connectivity and battery life.  You have the option to remotely lock your device through Find My Mobile and display a message and phone number.

One feature unique to Samsung devices is that you are also able to prevent from turning off the device.  To clarify, the thief cannot interfere with the tracking of your smartphone.

Erasing your phone remotely is also an option, just like with other providers. This will remove all data from your phone. It also performs a factory reset, which restores your phone to its original settings.  However, know that this will remove your Samsung account from the phone, making tracking not feasible.

Samsung also suggests trying to remotely back up your data through the Cloud before erasing; this data easily transferred to a replacement device.

Contact Your Cell Phone Provider

As soon as possible, contact your cell phone provider to report your smartphone as stolen. Your provider has the ability to disable your phone remotely without erasing the data, which would still block access for a thief. Ask your cell phone provider for your IMEI number, which is your phone’s identification number; when you call the police to report your device as stolen, they may ask for this information.

It’s important to contact your provider right away. Until you report your phone as stolen, you will be responsible for all charges from the phone. This means that if the thief should somehow get access to your smartphone and use it to make calls, send messages, or make purchases, you will likely be on the hook for those costs. If you are able to find your phone, your network provider may also be able to reactivate it, giving you back full access to your recovered device.

Call the Police About Your Smartphone

Finally, as with any stolen item, you should contact the police to report the smartphone as stolen property.  They may ask for your phone number, serial number, or identification number to help locate the phone. It’s important to report it as stolen property regardless of whether the phone can be recovered. This will protect you from the responsibility for future use of the phone.

Beyond being a loss of property, a stolen phone can also be a risk to your security. Time is of the essence; if you think your phone has been stolen, act quickly to keep yourself and your information as protected as possible.

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