What to Do Before and After Your Phone Is Stolen
Millions of phones are stolen every year, and there’s a chance yours could be one of them. But it doesn’t have to be you can make your phone theftproof! We’ll show you how, and what you should do if your phone is stolen.
Enable Remote Tracking
Remote tracking (called “Find My Device” on Android and “Find My iPhone” on iOS) gives you the ability to track a phone’s location and remotely wipe its data. This means you can find your phone if it’s missing or wipe its data if it’s stolen.
If you’re using an Android phone, go to “Settings,” open the Google option, scroll down to “Security,” and enable “Find My Device.” You can then track your phone or wipe its data from the Find Your Phone webpage.
If you’re using an iPhone, go to “Settings,” tap your Apple ID (your name), open the “iCloud settings,” and enable “Find My iPhone.” Now, you can track or wipe your phone from the iCloud website.
Use a Strong Password
A complicated lock screen password can be a pain in the neck, but it’s the best way to prevent thieves from digging around your phone. Try to set a strong password on all your devices. Ideally, a password should contain capital letters, numbers, and symbols. (You can use the How Secure Is My Password tool to ensure you’re using an uncrackable password.)
If you don’t want to type a complicated password every time you use your phone, enable biometric authentication. Face ID, and iris or fingerprint scanning are great, secure options.
Make Notifications Private
If you’re concerned about thieves reading text messages and notifications on your lock screen, you can hide the contents of those notifications on the lock screen.
On an Android device, go to “Settings,” open “Sound and Notifications,” find the “When Device Is Locked” option, and then set it to “Hide Sensitive Notification Content.” If you press “Don’t Show Notifications At All,” you won’t see notifications even when your phone is unlocked (not necessarily a bad thing).
On an iPhone, go to “Settings,” open the “Notifications” menu, and tap the “Show Previews” option. From here, you can hide notification previews on the lock screen or get rid of them altogether.
If you have an iPhone with Face ID, it hides notifications from your lock screen until you unlock your phone by default. This prevents a thief from seeing notifications with security codes without unlocking your phone.
Enable Cloud Syncing
If you care about the data on your phone, you should enable cloud syncing. Trust us remotely wiping your phone feels a lot less scary when you know all your photos and contacts are backed up on the cloud.
For Android phones, go to “Settings,” “Accounts And Backup,” and enable “Back Up My Data.” This backs up your contacts, login info, and settings. Then, download an app like Dropbox, Google Drive, Google Photos, or Amazon Photos to back up your documents, pictures, and videos. Phone settings and contacts automatically sync to a new phone. You can access your photos and videos from your chosen cloud solution.
For iPhones, go to “Settings,” tap your Apple ID (your name), open the “iCloud settings,” open “iCloud Backup,” and enable “iCloud Backup.” When you get a new iPhone, the setup process asks if you want to restore settings, contacts, photos, and videos from iCloud.
Consider Carrier Insurance
Unlike most extended warranties, carrier insurance is usually worth a few hundred bucks. Carrier insurance covers accidents, broken screens, dead batteries, and, of course, lost or stolen phones. However, you usually have to pay a deductible or finish paying off your original phone to get a replacement.
If you want carrier insurance (it isn’t a necessity, it’s just nice if you lose or break a phone), contact your phone carrier. Or, go on the Verizon, Sprint, or AT&T websites. If you own an iPhone, consider signing up for AppleCare+ (which now covers stolen iPhones).
What to Do If Your Phone Is Lost or Stolen
Now that your phone has a secure password, is synced to the cloud, and is accessible via remote tracking, you don’t have to worry too much if it’s stolen.
Still, here are some additional steps you can take to prevent a thief from accessing your private files, contacts, photos, and accounts:
- Track your phone: Go to the Find My Phone or iCloud webpage to locate your phone. If it’s nearby or in a local business, see if you can find it.
- If it’s stolen, wipe it: There’s no point battling a gang of baddies just to retrieve your phone. If you suspect it’s been stolen, wipe the data.
- Tell your carrier it’s stolen: After you wipe your phone, contact your carrier to report it stolen. You can either look up your carrier’s phone number or report it online at My Verizon or My Sprint (you have to call AT&T sorry!). This way, your SIM card is locked and can’t be used on another device. Plus, you can cash in whatever carrier insurance you have.
- Check your accounts: Even if you have two-factor authentication enabled, it’s a good idea to check that nobody’s accessed your accounts. You might also want to change your passwords (especially for bank and email accounts) just in case.
- Call the cops (maybe): If you’re 100% sure your phone was stolen (as in, you watched it happen), go ahead and report it to the police. There’s a big black market for stolen phones, and the thief might frequent the area with an intent to steal phones. Just know you probably won’t get your phone back, even if the thief is caught.
If you’re lucky, you’ll never experience losing a phone, but there’s a chance you will. While the above steps might seem a bit time-consuming, they really aren’t too much of a hassle. And they’re well worth protecting your privacy and security.