Whether it’s from carelessness, misfortune or theft, losing your smartphone can be a pretty stressful experience. It’s one of the most valuable pieces of kit you’ll likely carry with you on a daily basis so if it goes missing, you’ll want the best possible chance of getting it back.
Lost or Stolen Mobiles - next steps
Luckily manufacturers and app developers have created a multitude of tools to help in the event you are parted from your smartphone.
Top 5 things to do as soon as you realise your phone’s lost/stolen:
- Report your phone to the Police as lost/stolen and contact giffgaff so that they can bar use of the phone
- Do you use NFC with your handset? If so contact your bank immediately (more information on this below)
- Change any email, Social passwords that are stored on the phone
- Wipe the data stored on your phone (Find out how to do this retrospectively below).
- Check with your Insurance can you claim on your Contents Insurance?
What to do if you have NFC set-up on your phone
At the moment most NFC payments are tied to select banks, so you’ll need to contact the bank to inform them and block any more payments. ASAP - much like a credit card. You should also put a pin on any NFC apps on your phone.
The Barclays Paytag website (a sticker that goes on the back of a phone to make it NFC compatible) says: ‘In a word, yes. ‘If you lose your Barclaycard PayTag or it gets stolen, you’ll be protected against fraudulent activity, in just the same way as your Barclaycard. For extra security, we may call you from time to time to check payments on your account were made by you and no one else.’
Set up tracking capabilities on your phone
iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry OS-based phones all have methods which in the event of losing your phone, enable you to keep tabs on where your smartphone is via a computer and in some cases, what state it’s in.
Remember if someone has taken your phone and you’ve tracked it down, the safest thing to do is call the police.
Although there’s no inbuilt location-based smartphone tracking service on Android, there are a host of applications available on Google Play to download, some paid for, some free. Two great choices for the services in question are Where’s my Droid and Lookout. Both have free and paid iterations, with increased functionality and better security if you’re prepared to fork out a few extra pounds, although you can still find your phone without spending a penny.
Once you’ve installed and set up an application like Where’s my Droid enable ‘Location Services’ in your phone’s ‘Settings’ menu and if possible, leave GPS switched on (this runs the risk of draining the battery a little faster than normal, so use at your own volition).
Then if you’ve lost your phone, log onto the corresponding web interface and you can make your handset ring, display a message on the phone’s screen and broadcast its location.
BlackBerry users need to head to BlackBerry App World download an application called BlackBerry Protect and login using your BlackBerry ID.
Navigate to protect.blackberry.com on a PC, login using your BB ID and you’ll be presented with a control panel. You can see your phone on a map, make it play a sound or display a message, lock or even wipe it remotely.
Head to the App Store and download Find my iPhone (or iPad if you’re tablet inclined). Once you’ve toggled the service on from your phone’s ‘Settings’ menu, along with active location services you’re good to go.
Head over to www.iCloud.com on a computer and log in with your Apple ID. The Find my iPhone adar-style UI shows your phone’s location, enabling you to lock the device, make it play a tone, display a message or perform a wipe, all the while letting you keep an eye on your iPhone’s battery too.
Windows Phone has a toggle built right into its Setting app. Make sure both the ‘Find My Phone’ and ‘Location Settings’ toggles are ‘On’ and you’re device is then configured.
Go to WindowsPhone.com and log in with your Windows Live ID. Choose ‘Find My Phone’ from the drop-down menu to view the location of your phone, ring, lock, display a message or erase the handset.
If you haven’t installed an app on your phone and you’re an Android user don’t panic. You can install a tracking app remotely such as Plan B from Lookout.
Plan B will start locating your phone using cell towers and where available, GPS, which it can switch it on automatically on some devices. It’ll then broadcast the phone’s location for ten minutes, sending you an email to your Gmail account (the one you use for Google Play) each time it is located, as well as being able to determine whether or not it’s in transit. Start location logging by texting “locate” to your number from any other phone.
Register your phone
Immobilise.com is supported by regional police forces across the UK as part of the UK National Property Register, it’s on online service enabling you to make a private portfolio of precious items, including personal electronics. Input a description of the item, unique identifying characteristics and in the case of a smartphone, its IMEI number, so it can be identified and returned if it’s handed in.
Plan B your IMEI
NOTE: An IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number is an identifier unique to your phone. You can find it printed somewhere inside the device (often behind the battery) or by typing in #06# on your phone’s keypad.
Back up your phone
Smartphone’s now offer sophisticated backup capabilities depending on the OS.
When you first setup your Android device there was an option to back it up to your Google account, if you didn’t do this select ‘Backup my data’ and ‘Automatic Restore.’ If you lose your device, setting up a replacement should be painless, as your account login will also bring with it your apps, passwords and wallpapers.
Provided you set your device to sync to iCloud; which can be found in the ‘Settings’ under iCloud, when you get a new/replacement iPhone you can restore photos, apps, passwords and anything you’ve set to sync from the cloud.
If you become parted from your phone, whether it’s gone for good or eventually returned to you in an unfit state, it’s worth taking out insurance. If you’ve bought a new phone it will come with a manufacturers warranty, but this is not the same as insurance and does not cover for loss or theft.
giffgaff doesn’t offer insurance but there are numerous third-party companies who can offer competitive insurance for your prized smartphone. Find out more here.
What to do if you lose your phone
So you’ve lost your phone and you can’t find it. It’s crucial you quickly contact giffgaff, the police and your insurer.
giffgaff offers two options you can either Permanently Bar and Replace, which blocks the SIM card so no-one will be able to use it and you’ll be sent a new one, alternatively if there’s a chance you might find your phone, raise a case with an Agent and request to Suspend/Temporarily Bar/Do not replace which suspends your SIM.
giffgaff has more information here.
Next, contact the police and ask for a Crime Reference Number, you’ll need to do this within 24 hours.
Finally contact your insurer, this also needs to be done within 24 hours (sometimes 48 hours depending on your policy so check) and want to know exactly what happened and the Crime Reference Number.
Tips to help prevent theft:
Make sure you set a passcode lock on your smartphone. It’s a feature available on every OS and means in the event it’s stolen, it’s much harder for the thief to use the phone.
Flaunting your phone excessively in public or leaving it easily accessible on the outer pocket of a bag is only going to increase your risk of theft. At night use your smartphone only when you need to, keep it concealed, keep tabs on where it is on your person and don’t leave it out on a table or a seat when you’re not using it in public.
Lastly should your phone disappear, remember, speed is key. The sooner you take action, the greater chance you have of finding it again.
Hopefully there are enough tips and tricks to help prevent or at least rectify the dilemma of losing your smartphone. Nothing is ever guaranteed to work, but by making a few simple changes, you can give yourself the best chance possible. If you have lost your phone or had it stolen, a good tip is to buy an unlocked handset from giffgaff.