It’s remarkable how much information we can cram into our cellphones. Unfortunately it’s also amazing how easy it is to misplace those little devices — and how easily a lost phone can become a stolen phone, exposing all that valuable information. To recover your phone — or at least keep your information safe, you need to know how to respond — and quickly — when you can’t find it.
1. Call your device
Start simple. If you can’t find your phone, you may have just misplaced it or the good Samaritan who found it may be standing nearby, waiting for your call. If your device is set to silent or vibrate, don’t worry — Step 3 may help you out.
2. Lock your phone remotely
Though most of us have protected our devices by setting a pass code, your phone could be temporarily unprotected and provide a thief a period of time needed to steal your sensitive financial information. That unprotected interval depends on how you set up your pass code frequency — or the period of inactivity after which a pass code is required. Therefore, it’s best to immediately lock your phone remotely.
Find My iPhone and Find My Device (for Android users) features allow you to lock your device in addition to locating, ringing or erasing your phone remotely. To access these features, type “Find My iPhone” or “Find My Device” (for Android phones) into the browser of another device or computer or log directly into your Find My Device (formerly called Android Device Manager) or iCloud account.
However, in order for you to remotely lock your phone (and remotely locate, ring or erase it), the lost smartphone must:
- be turned on
- be connected to cellular data or Wi-Fi
- have Find My iPhone or Find My Device turned on in phone settings
- have “Location” turned on in phone settings (Android users only)
- be signed into a Google Account (Android users only)
3. Add a recovery message to the lock screen
It’s a good idea to display a message with a contact number on your device’s lock screen so whoever finds it can call you without accessing the rest of your phone’s information. This can easily be done via the Find My iPhone or Find My Device feature.
4. Locate your device via GPS
See where your lost phone is by accessing the “locate phone feature” on the Find My iPhone and Find My Device option. Hopefully you’ll be able to see its approximate location on a map. To see its current location, your phone needs to be turned on, but even if it’s not, you should be able to see where it was last located.
5. Ring your phone
If you can’t see your phone via GPS, you may be able to hear it by choosing the “Play Sound” option in the Find My iPhone and Find My Device features. It will ring your device at full volume for 2 minutes (iPhone) or 5 minutes (Android) even if it’s set to silent or vibrate.
6. Report your device lost or stolen
Contact your carrier as soon as possible and report your phone as lost or stolen to minimize the risk of a thief racking up long-distance and data charges on your phone. Depending on the carrier, they may be able disable or suspend your phone service temporarily until you’ve recovered your phone.
It’s also a good idea to file a police report. A thief can potentially add thousands to your cellphone bill in just an hour by making international calls. Some carriers may require proof that the phone was actually stolen instead of being lost, and having a police report may make your wireless carrier more cooperative.
7. Safeguard your accounts
If you do any mobile banking, it’s best to inform your financial institution immediately that you’ve lost your phone, and they’ll most likely deactivate your account, ending any text alerts you may have set up through your mobile banking app.
Even if you don’t have a mobile banking app, your emails may likely contain bank statements, account information and perhaps even your Social Security number so it’s a good idea to monitor your accounts.
Also, changing your passwords for all banking, email and social media accounts can help keep your data safe. Apps like Facebook and Twitter let you view current sessions and log devices out of the sites remotely.
8. Erase your phone remotely
If you’re pretty sure your phone’s gone for good or want to err on the side of caution, the ultimate way to safeguard your phone’s information is to delete all of it. Both the Find My iPhone and Find My Device features allow you erase your phone’s information remotely.
If you erase and then find your device, all is not lost. You can restore your phone’s information using iCloud Backup or your Google account if you had backed it up before you erased it.
What’s your experience with misplacing or losing cellphones? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.