There are few things in life that create the sense of panic a person feels when they realize their smartphone is lost, or worse, stolen. The rapid heartbeat, feeling of nausea, and constant rummaging through the car, house, or office trying to retrace your steps can leave a person feeling weak, angry, and frustrated.
What Should I Do? I’ve Lost My Phone!
Smartphones are prime targets for criminals. They have a very high resale value, and the personal information often contained on one can fetch a high price on the black market. If your smart device is lost or stolen, take these steps to try to find your device or keep thieves from stealing more than just your phone.
- Try calling your device. Some phones are even equipped with anti-theft software that allows a GPS to locate it.
- Remotely lock your phone. Phones that have anti-theft software installed on them can be remotely locked, wiped of sensitive information, and even have the alarm activated.
- Report the theft to the police. Many service providers will require proof that your device has been stolen.
- Turn to the FCC. Yes, the Federal Communications Commission. They have links and phone numbers to every major phone carrier in the U.S. From AT&T to Verizon, a simple phone call can suspend your service and replace your device. This may not help you protect your personal information, but it is a start. Use this page to locate your provider and report your phone stolen.
- Depending on your service provider, they may be able to disable your device or block access to sensitive information carried on it.
What to Do Before a Theft
Safeguarding your device before it is stolen can often keep you from losing time and money. Take these steps to deter would-be thieves from exposing your secret information:
- Never leave your device unattended in public or visible in your vehicle.
- Write down your phone’s make, model, and serial number and keep in a safe place. In addition, look for the Mobile Equipment Identifier (MEID), Electronic Serial Number (ESN), or International Mobile Equipment Identifier (IMEI). These can be found inside the device’s settings or located underneath the battery.
- Purchase device insurance.
Protect the data on your phone:
- Create a strong password. Some phones have fingerprint or face recognition software.
- Purchase anti-theft apps. Some of these apps will locate the device, lock the device, wipe sensitive data (such as credit card information) from the device, set off a loud alarm to assist the police in locating the device, and provide an alternative phone number or email on the lock screen.