When your phone is lost or stolen, you have more at stake than just a relatively expensive handheld. Your password, financial information, work documents, and other sensitive information can be compromised if the device falls into the wrong hands.
But if you take the right steps quickly after realizing it’s been stolen, you can limit the potential damage to a lost handheld and nothing more.
What to do if your smartphone is stolen or lost
If you lose an iOS or Android phone, you can find it, lock it, and erase it with built-in security features. However, before taking any advanced measures, make sure that your phone is not temporarily misplaced.
Here are some steps you can take to find and recover your stolen device or, as a last resort, wipe the device to protect your data.
1. Confirm your smartphone was stolen
Call your phone number with another phone to see if you can find it nearby. If you left it behind or dropped it, there’s a chance a Samaritan will pick up the call and help you locate it or even deliver it if possible.
Also, send a short text with a return request and your alternate number to your phone number. If your device is set to Silent, use the play sound feature of Google Find My Device to ring. It will ring continuously for five minutes even in silent mode.
2. Locate your phone using FindMyMobile (Samsung only)
Samsung offers its proprietary FindMyMobile tracking service for Galaxy devices. It allows you to remotely backup data, retrieve calls and messages, and even unlock the device. You can also extend battery life or set tutors.
To track your stolen or lost Samsung Galaxy device:
Go to the Samsung FindMyMobile page and sign in with your login credentials associated with your Samsung account. A verification code will be sent to your email address. Use the verification pin to verify ownership.
Once verified, FindMyMobile will locate your device and show it on a map. Click on the Pin icon to view location details.
Here you can use Lock power off to prevent others from shutting down your phone, back up your apps, settings, calls, save or erase data to protect your privacy.
If you don’t have a Samsung device, you can still use Find My Phone from Google to track your stolen phone.
3. Locate your phone using Find My Phone
By default, iOS and Android devices enable Find My Phone, provided the user is signed in to their Google or iCloud account. This is a built-in security feature to find, lock or erase data on your device in case of theft or loss.
On Android, Find My Device can display an accurate GPS location of your device on Google Map. You’ll be surprised to see location accuracy in action. Otherwise, type find my phone on Google search, and you can view the live location on the search results page itself.
Similarly, Apple offers Find My iPhone feature to track the location of an iPhone. You need to turn on location services and access your iCloud account from a computer for this to work.
Read our guide on how to track and find your phone’s location, which discusses both services in detail.
5. Lock or wipe your phone remotely
If you are sure the phone has been stolen, act quickly to lock or wipe your phone. You can remotely lock your Android phone and sign out using Find My Device.
On Android phone: To secure your device, go to Find My Device and click Secure device. Here, enter a new password and click on Following. Follow the on-screen instructions to set a lock.
If you want to delete all content from the device:
- Click on Erase device on the Find my device page.
- Click on Erase device earn to continue.
- Authenticate your account by logging into your Google account.
- Once the verification is complete, Find My Phone will permanently delete all data from your device. If your device is offline, the wipe process will begin the next time it is online.
Note that once the data is erased, Find My Phone will no longer work and you will no longer be able to track the device using the service.
On iOS devices: Go to icloud.com/find and use Find My iPhone to erase your phone’s data.
6. Change the password for essential services
Banking apps on your smartphone are protected with a PIN code or biological authentication verification. But email, online shopping, and other apps often don’t have additional layers of security.
So, change the password for all the essential services you frequently use on your smartphone, including email, online banking, shopping apps, and password managers, to prevent access and unauthorized use.
7. Call your bank
It is extremely difficult to bypass the biometric authentication or PIN-based security measures of your banking apps on your stolen phone. But some users save their financial credentials in plain text to a cloud service, email, or note-taking app. In this case, it is imperative to alert your bank and temporarily block your cards and accounts.
Also, block all UPI and Mobile Wallet services by contacting the respective service provider’s helpdesk.
That said, with access to your SIM card, the possibility of anyone being able to reset your financial app password is extremely high. So, your next immediate step should be to block your SIM card.
You should notify your mobile carrier or carrier as soon as you determine that your phone has been stolen. You can ask the operator to block your SIM card to prevent unauthorized transactions or access to other services through the OTP-based password reset system.
If you have a paid monthly phone plan, your carrier may lock the device, rendering it unusable with a new carrier or SIM card.
9. File a complaint with the police
Filing a complaint with the police about a stolen or missing device can help you in several ways. First, it can help you defend against fraudulent activity through your phone after it’s been stolen. And if you have phone insurance, the insurer will require a police report to process your claim.
Get ready to find your lost or stolen phone
Phone tracking services like Samsung’s FindMyMobile and Find My Phone on iOS and Android only work if you’re signed in. If you haven’t lost your phone yet, be sure to enable these services on your smartphone as a precaution.
Also, don’t save your banking credentials in plain text to your phone or cloud storage account. Temporarily blocking your SIM card and filing a police report in time can also help you minimize damage.
If your Android phone is stolen, you’ll need a way to get it back. Here are the best Android anti-theft apps.
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