How to Prepare Yourself for a Lost or Stolen Smartphone

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If you carry your smartphone on you at all times, something bad is bound to come of it eventually — or at least the odds are high. Maybe you’ll misplace your phone by leaving it on a restaurant table? Perhaps it will fall out of your pocket or a hole in your bag? Or, there’s always the worst case scenario where someone snatches it right from under your nose.

However it plays out, losing your smartphone can be a nightmare, especially since many of us keep so much of our personal information stored within them. But there are some ways you can alleviate such a loss.

You can use the cloud to back up your data, such as your documents, app settings, emails, photos, and videos. You can protect your device by locking it down with a secure passcode, just in case it does fall into the wrong hands. You can also enable encryption for internal device storage, which makes your sensitive data that much harder to access.

Unsure how to do all this? Don’t fret, we’re going to take a look at some ways you can protect yourself before you misplace your phone, as well as some things you can do after it happens.

Before Losing Your Phone

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The first thing you should do with any new phone is write down all the identifying serial numbers and ID tags. This will help you find the device should it ever become lost or stolen.

Things to write down:

  • Phone Number
  • International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI)
  • Mobile Equipment Identifier (MEID)
  • Serial Number (usually found on the packaging)

If you’re having trouble locating the IMEI number for your phone, this guide from Gadgets360 should help.

In addition, it’s extremely important that you configure any and all backup services before you lose the phone. It might take a while to sign up for an account, customize settings, and perform your first sync, but it’s definitely worth it. In the event that you lose your phone and have to get a replacement, you can simply transfer all of your backed up content to the new device. Things to backup include app settings, contacts, messages, photos, videos, saved games, and more.

There are many services you can use to this end. Apple and iPhone users have iCloud for backing up most of their data, while Android owners have Google Drive and Google’s native apps. Of course, you can also employ third-party services such as Dropbox, OneDrive, and SpiderOak.

Bolster Security on Your Phone

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In the event that you do misplace your phone — or it gets stolen — you want to ensure that your sensitive data is safe and secure. There are several precautions you can take for this, the most important of which is activating the password or screen lock feature. You’ll also want to lower the amount of time the device auto locks after a period of not being used; 5 to 10 seconds is the ideal time frame.

If anyone tries to access your phone while it is locked, they won’t be able to do so without performing a factory reset. While that does mean they can use the device and you lose your data, the positive is that said data remains out of the hands of unscrupulous individuals.

Another safety feature you can enable for your device is encryption. You should double check that the encryption setting also handles external storage that may be connected to your device, such as a memory card.

On Android, you actually have to enable storage encryption to turn the feature on. With iOS, the option is preconfigured and happens automatically, provided you have the passcode feature activated.

To enable encryption on Android, open the settings menu and navigate to Security. Once there, choose the “Encrypt Device” option and enter your admin passcode or pattern to enable the function. You’ll also need to do the same thing for any external SD cards you have connected to your device.

Configure Remote Access Services

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Google’s Android has the Android Device Manager service while Apple’s iOS has the iCloud and Find My iPhone service. After being configured, these platforms allow you to remotely track the whereabouts of your phone via location services.

If it’s stolen and the person in possession of the phone has not wiped the data yet, you can still locate where it is. You should never chase down someone who has stolen your phone, but you can certainly get in touch with the local authorities and provide all available information — including the current location of your phone as indicated by one of these services.

Other features of these services include remote locking your device — if it’s unlocked for some reason — and remotely ringing the device. The latter option is great if it’s lost somewhere nearby and you’re having a hard time finding it.

The final thing you can do with these services is factory reset the device. This will erase any and all personal information, data, and stored accounts. While it does protect your information, it will allow the thief or person in possession of your device to use it. This is because it also resets everything to default, which means erasing the passcode or custom password you may have configured.

Alert Mobile Carrier and Disable Service

If you cannot recover the device for some reason, and you don’t have time to replace it immediately, ensure that you get in touch with your wireless carrier. If your service is still active, then deactivate it immediately. This will prevent anyone from using your phone, racking up additional charges and purchases, and accessing personal accounts such as voicemail.

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