What to do if your phone is stolen

Here’s an ac­tion plan for when some­one pinches your cell­phone, in­clud­ing steps you should take now to pro­tect your data


IT’S that time of year when tourists flock into town and every­one starts set­tling into hol­i­day mode. But that also means plenty of op­por­tunis­tic crime – es­pe­cially phones be­ing plucked from pock­ets and hand­bags. Here’s what to do if your phone gets swiped – and how to pro­tect your data be­fore­hand.


Track your phone Log in to Find My iPhone or Find My De­vice on a com­puter to en­sure the de­vice is not just ly­ing un­der the bed or in the boot. (See how on next page.)

Change your pass­words Change the pass­words of apps on your phone via their web­sites. Cer­tain apps such as Face­book, In­sta­gram and Google will al­low you to log out on all de­vices – log onto the web­site and go to the Set­tings or Se­cu­rity menus.

“It’s very im­por­tant you don’t use the same pass­words for all your ap­pli­ca­tions,” warns Charl Ueck­er­mann, CEO of AVeS Cy­ber Se­cu­rity. Call your ser­vice provider Have your ser­vice provider block your SIM card. This works on pay-as-you-go SIMs too.

Be sure to ask for an ITC ref­er­ence num­ber, which you may need for your

SSSin­sur­ance claim or po­lice case num­ber. You can also ask to black­list the de­vice by giv­ing them the phone’s IMEI num­ber (se­rial num­ber), which you’ll find on the bar­code of the pack­ag­ing it came in.

Call your bank Call your bank so they can mon­i­tor any sus­pi­cious on­line trans­ac­tions. If they pick up some­thing un­to­ward, con­sider can­celling your cards.

Go to the po­lice If your phone is in­sured, you’ll need a case num­ber to process your claim. Put the word out Whether it’s a mes­sage blast, email, tweet or Face­book post, let your friends know your phone has been stolen – and not just so they know how to reach you.

“The per­pe­tra­tor could im­per­son­ate you and use your in­for­ma­tion as a phish­ing at­tack,” warns Gavin Hether­ing­ton, cy­ber­se­cu­rity of­fi­cer at Magix Se­cu­rity.

For ex­am­ple, they could send mes­sages to your fam­ily and friends, ask­ing for money, or worse, ask­ing them to meet “you” some­where.

“Peo­ple are des­per­ate,” Hether­ing­ton adds.

“Bribery and black­mail have be­come a com­mon oc­cur­rence.”


For iPhone When you first used your phone, you’ll likely have set up your iCloud ac­count and Find My iPhone.

If not, go to Set­tings> [your name at the top] > iCloud. Scroll down to Find My iPhone and slide to turn on. Now you’ll be able to use your Ap­ple ID to track your phone with a com­puter, by log­ging in to icloud.com.

If you have two-step ver­i­fi­ca­tion (or the newer two-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion) en­abled, a code will be sent to your “trusted de­vice”, which you’ll need to en­ter in or­der to log in – ob­vi­ously a prob­lem if your phone has been swiped.

The good news is you can add more trusted con­tacts in the event your own phone isn’t an op­tion (see be­low for more.)

To track your phone log into icloud.com on a com­puter and click the Find My iPhone but­ton on the bot­tom left. Then turn on Lost Mode.

This will re­motely lock your de­vice and dis­play a mes­sage on your lock screen that reads some­thing like “This iPhone has been lost. Please call me”, with a

‘It’s very im­por­tant you don’t use the same pass­words for all your ap­pli­ca­tions’

con­tact num­ber you choose.

Or you can re­motely erase all the data on it – a must if you know it’s been stolen. But if you do erase it, you’ll no longer be able to track it.

You’ll be asked to ver­ify your de­vice to pro­ceed (see two-step ver­i­fi­ca­tion and trusted con­tacts be­low).

For An­droid

An­droid’s Find My De­vice is usu­ally set up au­to­mat­i­cally when you first start your phone and sign into your Google ac­count.

To check that it’s on, go to Set­tings (the gear icon) then Se­cu­rity & Lo­ca­tion. If your de­vice doesn’t have this op­tion (the op­er­at­ing sys­tem dif­fers on cer­tain de­vices), go to Set­tings > Google > Find My De­vice, where you may be prompted to down­load Find My De­vice from the Google Play store. With the app, you’ll be able to track your phone via an­droid. com/find on a com­puter browser.

From the Find My De­vice menu in Set­tings, make sure Find My De­vice is switched on. Next, go back to Set­tings > Se­cu­rity & Lo­ca­tion (if you don’t have this op­tion, search Lo­ca­tion in Set­tings) and make sure Lo­ca­tion is turned on.

Next, you’ll need to nav­i­gate to play. google.com/set­tings in a browser and make sure the box un­der Vis­i­bil­ity for your de­vice is checked.

Test that it’s work­ing by go­ing to an­droid.com/find on a com­puter.

If your phone is stolen you have two op­tions: se­cure de­vice, which will lock it and dis­play a mes­sage of your choice on the screen in case some­one finds it; and erase de­vice, which will wipe all data from it and you won’t be able to track it. SHOULD I TRY TO GET IN TOUCH WITH THE THIEF? So now you might be able to see where your de­vice is – and in some cases, new pic­tures might ap­pear in your cloud, show­ing the face of the per­son who has your phone, along with their new num­ber. Should you en­gage with them?

Not un­der any cir­cum­stances, Hether­ing­ton warns. “Noth­ing good will come from the in­ter­ac­tion. Go to the po­lice.” DO THIS NOW! Set these up right away if you haven’t al­ready.

Set up Find My iPhone or Find My De­vice.

Set up an auto-lock Make sure your phone has a PIN, pass­word or bio­met­ric lock. Six-digit PINs or pass­codes are con­sid­ered the safest choice. Set up a trusted con­tact Add a loved one’s num­ber as a trusted con­tact.

For iOS, log in to ap­pleid.ap­ple.com > Se­cu­rity > Edit > Add a Trusted Phone Num­ber.

For An­droid, log in to my­ac­count. google.com > Sign-in & Se­cu­rity > Ac­count Re­cov­ery Op­tions > Re­cov­ery Phone or Re­cov­ery Email.

Keep a copy of your de­vice’s IMEI num­ber Get your phone’s se­rial num­ber by di­alling *#06#. Keep it some­where safe.

Back up your phone Back up via iCloud or Google Drive reg­u­larly so that eras­ing all data – in­clud­ing files, pic­tures and con­tacts – won’t be such a bum­mer.

For An­droid, go to Set­tings > Google > Backup and make sure Backup to Google Drive is on.

For iOS, go to Set­tings > [your name] > iCloud > iCloud Backup and turn on. You can also back up many files to Google Drive on your iOS de­vice.

Two-step ver­i­fi­ca­tion This func­tion­al­ity adds an ex­tra layer of pro­tec­tion, usu­ally by send­ing a sign-in code to your phone when you log in.

On An­droid, se­cure your de­vice by se­cur­ing your Google ac­count. Go to my­ac­count.google.com/se­cu­rity and log in.

Un­der Pass­word & Sign-in method, select Two-step Ver­i­fi­ca­tion and slide to On. Now scroll down to Back-Up Codes > Show Codes, write down the 10 eight-digit codes and keep them some­where safe. What­ever you do, don’t save them on your phone.

The next time you sign in, you’ll be sent an SMS with a code to en­ter be­fore you can un­lock your ac­count.

If you can’t ac­cess your phone, you’ll be able to use one of your Back-Up Codes to get in.

On iOS, check your two-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion set­tings via Set­tings > [your name] > Pass­word & Se­cu­rity > Two-Fac­tor Au­then­ti­ca­tion.

To make sure you never get locked out, add an­other de­vice or a loved one’s num­ber as a trusted con­tact by fol­low­ing the steps above.

Us­ing Find My iPhone on Ap­ple de­vices and Find My De­vice on An­droid, you’ll be able to re­motely track and even erase data on your phone.

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