What Should I Do if I Lost My Phone
When it comes to security, the majority of discussions revolve around how to secure oneself from various attacks such as malware (also known as Trojan horses or viruses), online scams, and more.
However, we often forget that one of the biggest threats to our personal security isn’t found on cyber channels, but can be mainly caused by a stolen or lost phone. If I lost my phone, there are good news and bad news. The good news is that there are measures I can take in the hope of retrieving my phone, or at least retaining the data saved on it.
All phone manufacturers, whether their phones are running on iOS or Android, have put a lot of efforts to provide users with the ability to take action in such situations.
The bad news, however, is that some of these features may require activation in advance. Therefore, if you find yourself reaching this article while searching for help with a lost phone and these features have not been activated, some of the advice in this article may not be of much help to you. If this is the case, you should still continue reading, as there are actions you can take to minimize the damage. Feel free to skip directly to the “I lost my phone. Now what?” section and come back to “How to be prepared” once you get your phone (or a replacement one) back, to ensure you won’t find yourself in the exact same situation a second time.
If you’re reading this article while your phone is safely next to you, we recommend following the steps below to ensure that damage will be minimal in such an event. After all, it can happen to anyone.
How to be Prepared
Here are some tips on how to protect your phone and the data on it in even if it never gets stolen:
Enable “Find my iPhone” / “Android Device Manager”
To be able to locate your phone in case it is lost or stolen, you must enable the “Find my iPhone” on iOS, or “Android Device Manager” on Android.
To activate on iPhone, click on “Settings”, then “iCloud”. Make sure “Find My iPhone” is set to “On”.
To activate on Android, open the “Settings” app, under “General”, tap “Security”, then under “Android Device Manager” make sure “Remotely locate this device” and “Allow remote lock and erase” are turned on. Furthermore, make sure location services are turned on, by going to the “Settings” app, “Location” then at the top make sure it is on.
Set up a Passcode
One of the most important things you can do to ensure unwanted individuals– whether they’re thieves or good Samaritans who found your phone– from accessing your personal data is by setting up a passcode. While it makes things a tad more cumbersome, having to key in the passcode every time you wish to access your phone, it is a highly recommended feature that can protect you in various other scenarios, such as a friend or spouse that are interested in snooping around your phone.
To activate a passcode on iPhone, click on “Settings”, then “Touch ID & Passcode”. There, you can click on “Turn Passcode On” to set up a new passcode. With the newer iPhone models, it is also recommended to set up Touch ID, which can remove said hassle of the passcode through biometrics fingerprint identification.
On Android, go to “Settings”, then “Security”, then “Screen Lock”. There are several types of passcodes that you can set up, most people choose the 4-digit code. Some phones offer facial recognition. Keep in mind that as this technology is not mature enough, it isn’t as strong as the other types and is not recommended.
Set up Cloud Sync
Uploading your personal information to the cloud is not without its security issues, the case of Jennifer Lawrence’s leaked nude pictures being a prime example. However it can be a lifesaver when it comes to lost phones. By synchronizing contacts, images, notes, and more you can get your life quickly back on track after losing your phone.
iOS has the iCloud, which you can easily set up by going to “Settings”, then “iCloud”. Make sure that all the synchronization of relevant data types is enabled.
On Android, access the Google Photos app, tap the hamburger button (the three lines stacked one on top of the other), then select “Settings”, then “Back up & Sync”. You can simply switch images backup on to enable sharing. As for the rest of the data, go to the “Settings” app, then “Account & Sync”. Tap on the Google account you wish to back up.
There are also many third party backup apps for both iOS and Android that you may want to consider, including OneDrive, DropBox and more.
By enabling backup you can minimize the damage of losing one phone, as it can help you get all your settings back automatically once a new phone is obtained. Together with synchronizing your data with the cloud, it can set up an exact replica of your old phone once you get a replacement.
To set up backup on iOS, go to “Settings”, then “iCloud”, then “Backup”.
To set up backup on Android, go to the “Settings” app, then “Account & Sync”. Make sure “Back up my settings” is turned on.
Third Party Applications
For Android, there are several applications on the Google Play marketplace that may provide additional functionality in case your phone gets lost or stolen. For example, some apps have the ability to take a picture and capture the exact phone location once several incorrect login attempts have been made. If you’re interested in installing such an app, we recommend doing some due diligence about which protection app is best for your Android or iOS.
I lost my phone. Now, what?
If your phone is currently missing, first – don’t panic. Then, follow the below steps:
Use Phone-Finding Features
In case phone-finding features such as “Find my iPhone” or “Android Device Manager” are enabled, you can use them for a few things.
On iPhone, go to http://icloud.com/ and type in your username and password. Once logged in, click on “Find iPhone” (if the icon does not appear, alas, this feature was not enabled).
Your phone should appear as a green dot, indicating its location on the map.
If you need further assistance in locating your phone, click on the green dot, then the “i” icon. A pop-up window will come up, allowing you to either play a sound (even if the phone is on silent) to help you find it (very useful in case the green dot appears to be in your home).
You can also turn on “Lost Mode”. In this mode, you can display a custom message on the screen (such as your contact information), the device will not display any alerts and any payment card details associated with an Apple Pay account will be suspended.
Finally, if all else fails and the phone is yet to be found, you can use the same pop-up window to activate the “Erase iPhone” option – which is crucial in such a case. It is irreversible, so use it only when you’re sure the phone is lost for good.
If you have an Android phone, go to https://www.google.co.il/android/devicemanager. Use your Google account credentials to log in. Similar to “Find My iPhone”, a map should come up and similar to the iOS features, you can call your phone, lock it with a custom message, and delete the device’s contents.
Change Your Passwords, Stop All Active Sessions
In the event your phone is unlocked and ends up in the hands of a stranger, it would be possible for them to tap on one of your many apps and gain direct access to your profile. After all, many apps keep you logged in once you’ve initially provided them with your credentials.
To protect your identity, it is recommended to go to the web version of every app you may have, such as Facebook, Google and Twitter and change your passwords.
Please note that changing your password alone may not be enough, as some apps may still remain connected until their current login session will expire. Some sites, such as Facebook, allow you to proactively end all active sessions, basically kicking everyone logged-in through apps or otherwise and requiring them to provide the credentials again. As you have changed your password beforehand in each of these accounts – those individuals will not be able to log in.
For more detailed information on how to change your password or how to stop active sessions, read our articles:
Losing your phone can be quite an ordeal, but losing the data stored on it or having a stranger access your personal accounts can make matters even worse. We hope you take the necessary precautions to ensure your data is protected in such an event, and hope you will always find your phone in case it disappears.