Steps to Take Before…and After…You Lose a Phone

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Losing your phone is a nightmare scenario, and even if it was just an accident and not stolen, many of us feel totally victimized by it. There is so much personal information on our phones, not to mention photos, tools, and apps that we use every day. Fortunately, if you are in this situation, there are some things that you can do to get back in business as quickly as possible.

Before you lose your phone…

Set Up Tracking

This is a no brainer. Right now, whether you are on an Android or an iPhone, set up whatever “lock, locate, wipe software you have available to your device. Seek out Find My iPhone or Android’s Find My Device, and play with it. These services not only help you to track your phone, they also help you to remotely lock your phone with a new passcode. You can also totally wipe the phone. Set up tracking on your phone and a friend/family member who can locate your phone should it go missing.

Lock It With a Password

One of the best ways to prevent any unauthorized access to your phone is to lock it with a password. Though this seems like a very obvious step, research shows that only about 58 percent of us actually lock our phones. Furthermore, only 21 percent of those people have a unique password for all of their mobile accounts, and that drops all the way to 11 percent for people aged 18 to 29.

It’s kind of scary to think that so many people don’t have any type of protection on their phones. It’s even more frightening when you think of all of the information on there, such as mobile banking information. You should make it as difficult as possible for a bad guy to access the information on your phone, even if they have your phone in their possession.

If it’s too hard to remember all of the different passwords you have on your phone, consider a password manager. These offer help with encrypted passwords that you control with a master password. This way, you only need to remember one password, but all of your accounts are protected by very strong encryption and unique passwords.

Change Your Passwords

Let’s say you have been responsible and have a passcode of some type. You should still think about the type of passwords you have on your phone. For example, if you have an Android phone, you might be safe with a swipe pattern, but you are much safer with an alphanumeric passcode. Why? Well, because they can be pretty easy to guess by looking at the finger smudges on the screen. You should also consider two-step authentication.

It can take time to go through all of the passwords you have on your phone, so consider making a list of all of the accounts you have. Then you can remotely sign out of them. That way, even if a thief gets your phone, they can’t automatically get into your apps.

Keep Your Operating System Updated

You know when you get those annoying alerts on your screen that tell you an update is available? They are annoying for a reason; you should definitely download it and install it. These updates almost always include important security updates. This means, the longer you put off updating your phone, the longer you will be the perfect bait for a hacker.

Clean Up All of Your Apps

We all have our favorite apps, and you probably use them all of the time, right? What about those apps that you don’t use a lot, though? You might not realize that many phone apps can be used by hackers to get into your phone and steal personal information. So, to further keep yourself safe, consider deleting any apps that you don’t use very often. If you don’t want to do that, at the very least, keep your apps updated.

Use a Specific Email Address for Your Mobile Phone

Most of us use our email addressed and phone numbers to access our online accounts, and most of us also use the same email address for every, or at least most, accounts. However, you should instead have a minimum of three email addresses. Your main email, one for sensitive accounts, such as your bank, and one for your mobile carrier account. This way, if your main account, the email you use the most, is hacked, your other accounts are safe.

Talk to Your Carrier

You also might want to consider contacting your carrier to ensure that the only way account changes can be made is with a photo ID and a unique password. This means only you could make account changes.

After you lose your phone…

Call the Cops If It Was Stolen

If your phone was stolen, your first step is to call the cops. You should give them the registration number of the phone, called the IMEI. You can get this from the provider. If you have a CDMA phone, which is typical of Sprint and Verizon, it is called the ESN number. If you are just reading this for informative purposes and haven’t actually lost your phone, take a look at your phone’s registration number right now and write it down. You can find it somewhere in the settings menu.

Contact Your Cell Phone Provider

It doesn’t matter if your phone was stolen or lost, you should get in touch with your phone provider. If someone uses your phone, you could be liable for the charges if you don’t report it as lost or stolen. Your provider can suspend the service, but just keep in mind that anyone who has your phone can still use it on Wi-Fi, even if they don’t have service connected to it.

Try to Track It

If you have an app installed on your phone to help find it, such as Find My iPhone or Android’s Find My Device, try to use it. These services not only help you to track your phone, they also help you to remotely lock your phone with a new passcode. You can also totally wipe the phone. Keep in mind, however, that you can’t use these features if the phone isn’t connected to a Wi-Fi network or cellular network. You can send the command even if it isn’t connected, and it executes when the phone connects to the network.

These apps also allow you to disable mobile payment services. Though that should have you covered, you should also contact your bank to report the possibility of a fraudulent charge.

Put Your Head in the Cloud

You probably have your phone connected to some type of cloud-based storage, and if you do, some of the information you might be missing from your phone could be in the cloud. For instance, Google automatically syncs app data, contacts, and device settings on its devices. If you have an iPhone, you probably have it in your iCloud, assuming you have synched recently/automatically. You can get all of the apps you had back by going to the app store. The bad news, of course, is if you haven’t backed up your device, the information might be long gone.