Lost or Stolen iPhone
Here's everything you need to do to make sure your information is safe.
Has your iPhone been stolen? When you discover that your iPhone has gone missing, you may feel anger, worry, and surprise. Don't dwell on those feelings, though— you need to take action. What you do right away when your iPhone is stolen is very important. It could make the difference in protecting your data or getting your phone back. Following these 11 steps can help you recover it or, at the very least, minimize the damage a stolen phone can result in. Good luck.
1) LOCK YOUR IPHONE & POSSIBLY DELETE DATA
The first thing you need to do is protect your personal information. If you have a passcode set on your iPhone, you're pretty safe. But if you don't and you set up Find My iPhone before losing your phone, log in to Find My iPhone on a friend's phone or on your computer via iCloud.com to lock your phone and add a passcode. That will at least prevent the thief from using your phone. If you can't get the iPhone back or it has extremely sensitive information on it, you may want to choose Erase iPhone to delete the phone's data. Deleting data won't prevent the thief from using your iPhone, but at least they won't have access to your personal data after that. If your iPhone was issued to you by your employer, your IT department may be able to remotely delete the data, too. Contact them to learn about your options.
2) REMOVE DEBIT & CREDIT CARDS FROM APPLE PAY
If you use Apple's wireless payment service, you should remove any credit cards or debit cards you've added to the phone for use with Apple Pay (they're easy to add back later). Apple Pay is very secure, but it's nice to have the peace of mind that your credit card isn't virtually sitting in a thief's pocket. Sign in to iCloud.com > Settings > My Devices, select your phone, and click Remove All under Apple Pay.
3) TRACK YOUR PHONE WITH FIND MY IPHONE
You already locked your phone in Step 1 using Find My iPhone, but you can also use this free service to track your phone's location using the device's built-in GPS. The only catch? You need to have set up Find My iPhone before your phone was stolen.
4) DON’T TRY TO RECOVER IT YOURSELF; GET HELP FROM THE POLICE
If you've been able to locate your iPhone using Find My iPhone, do not try to recover it yourself. Going to the house of the person who stole your phone is a definite recipe for trouble. Instead, contact the local police department (or, if you've already filed a report, the one you reported the theft to) and let them know that you've got information about the location of your stolen phone. While the police may not always help, the more information you have, the more likely police are to recover the phone for you.
5) FILE A POLICE REPORT
If you can't recover the phone right away, file a report with the police in the city/neighborhood where the phone was stolen. This may or may not lead to the recovery of your phone (in fact, the police may tell you there's very little they can do either because of the value of the phone or the number of thefts), but having documentation should help when dealing with cellphone and insurance companies. Even if the police tell you they can't help at first, if you can get data about the location of your phone, having the report may be necessary for getting the police to help you recover it.
6) NOTIFY YOUR EMPLOYER
If your iPhone was given to you through work, notify your employer of the theft immediately. You may even want to do this before you file the police report, since your corporate IT department may be able to prevent the thief from accessing critical business information. Your employer may have given you guidelines about what to do in case of theft when they issued the phone to you. It's a good idea to brush up on them.
7) CALL YOUR CARRIER
Whether this should be the seventh step in the process or should come earlier depends on your circumstances. Some phone carrier may be more inclined to take action when you've got a police report, while others may act right away without one. Calling your carrier to report the theft and have the account tied to the phone suspended or canceled helps ensure that you don't pay for charges incurred by the thief. Before you cancel your service, try tracking your phone using Find My iPhone. Once service is turned off, Find My iPhone will only work when connected to Wi-Fi.
8) CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS
Changing your email account passwords will prevent the thief from reading or sending mail from your phone. Beyond that, changing online banking, iTunes, and other important account passwords will help prevent identity theft or financial theft.
9) CALL YOUR PHONE INSURANCE COMPANY, IF YOU HAVE ONE
If you have a phone insurance policy from your carrier or an insurance company that covers theft, be sure to call the company. Having a police report is a big help here. If you can recover the phone with the help of the police that's ideal, but reporting the situation to the insurance company will get the ball rolling in the meantime and help you get money to replace your phone if you can't recover it.
10) NOTIFY PEOPLE
If your phone's gone and you weren't able to track it via GPS and/or lock it, you're probably not going to get it back. In that case, you should notify the people in your address book and email accounts of the theft. They probably won't be getting calls or emails from the thief, but in case the thief has a bad sense of humor or more seriously bad intentions, you'll want people to know that it's not you sending troublemaking messages.
11) PROTECT YOURSELF IN THE FUTURE
Whether you get your iPhone back or have to replace it with a new one, you may want to change your habits and behaviors to prevent future thefts. Setting a secure passcode, enabling Touch ID or Face ID, and enabling Find My iPhone are all great places to start.
Sam Costello has been writing about technology since 2000. He has published articles with CNN.com, PC World, InfoWorld, and Computerworld, among others. He has written about PDAs, monitors, and printers for Samsung's consumer websites, and about apps, streaming media, and eBooks for the Que Publishing website.