This post was contributed by Money Talks News reader Teddy Hunt.
When you’ve got an expensive computer in your pocket, theft and loss can be pricey.
This Seattle Times article estimates the cost to consumers for lost and stolen phones approaches $30 billion annually.
It can happen to anyone, but if you’re prepared, there’s no need to freak out. Follow this advice and you won’t worry as much if your smartphone goes missing:
Prepare for it
If you ever lose your phone or it’s stolen, you’ll be prepared if you’ve done the following:
- Added a password, required to unlock the phone.
- If possible, set your phone up so your locked screen will show a way to contact you.
- Recorded your device’s unique identification number somewhere safe so you’ll be able to report it to the police and your carrier.
- Made sure all important info is backed up, either to your computer or a cloud service.
Put a locator app on your phone
No matter what kind of phone you have, there’s probably a way to track it if it’s lost.
If you have an iPhone, the Lost My iPhone app is pre-installed, and can see where your phone is and lock it remotely. If it’s been stolen, you can also wipe your phone remotely.
Whatever phone you own, find out if it comes pre-installed with a locator app. And become familiar with how it works, so you’re not scrambling to figure it out in a time of stress.
Whether you have a prepaid or regular smartphone, it’s likely there’s an app for that. If you misplace your phone, the sooner you use the app, the higher the odds you’ll get your phone back. If there’s no app pre-installed (as with Android phones), find one and get it installed.
If you’re worried about the cost of replacing a lost or stolen phone, consider insurance. Most carriers have a program you can pay for on a monthly basis – whether it’s worth the cost will largely depend on how likely you are to lose your phone. But keep in mind the replacement cost for today’s top-of-the-line smartphones will run into the hundreds.
If you lose your phone, you’ll obviously still want to do your best to find it rather than filing a claim. But if you can’t find it, insurance means getting a replacement quickly.
Get a replacement now
Buy the cheapest phone you can find that will work with your SIM card and keep it in a drawer. This won’t help if your phone – along with its SIM card – is lost or stolen, but it will sure come in handy if you drop your phone in the pool or otherwise render it useless.
In fact, if you’re planning to visit a phone-hostile environment, such as the beach or camping, take your cheap phone and leave your expensive one at home.
Stealing phones is becoming less profitable
While we’ll never be immune to losing things, at least the likelihood of theft should soon start declining.
Until recently, a stolen smartphone meant an instant $200 or more for the thief. But starting October 2012, the four main carriers opened a stolen phone database to track stolen phones across carriers.
When owners call and report their phone stolen, it can be locked down using its unique identification number. That makes it difficult, if not impossible, to be reactivated by anyone else. If stolen phones can’t be reactivated, the market for them should begin to dry up and lost phones should have a greater chance of being returned.
Bottom line? While losing an expensive smartphone will never be fun, it doesn’t have to be tragic. Take the steps above and the loss of your phone will be inconvenient, not catastrophic.