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Friday, December 8, 2023

My Smartphone Was Stolen! What Should I Do?

It’s all too easy for a thief to target your smartphone and steal your data and even your identity. But with these simple tips, you’ll know what to do and how to protect your phone from thieves — and damage — in the first place.

One out of ten smartphone owners in the US has their phone stolen, and most of them (68%) fail to get their device back. These are frightening numbers when you consider that a thief can hack your identity, steal from bank accounts, run phishing scams on your friends and family, open credit cards in your name, and more – even if you use biometric security, such as a fingerprint or facial recognition. 

These statistics are sobering indeed. Your best protection is preparing before your phone is swiped and then knowing what to do if and when you find it’s missing.

Safeguarding Your Smartphone Against Theft and Damage

The first thing you want to do is set your phone to lock automatically. For iPhones, go to Settings, Display and Brightness, then Auto-lock. Android steps vary according to the phone, so search for your maker and model to find instructions. The shorter time you select, the better. This is because a thief may steal the phone while you are using it or have set it down for a moment, and it is open.

Guard Against Phone Fraud

Scams are increasing, and your phone is not immune to delivering them to you. To guard against criminals who are after your money, follow these suggestions.
  • Mobile Phone Virus scams send false alerts saying a virus has been found on your phone. Scammers get you to download an “antivirus” app that is really malicious software. To protect yourself, never download anything that someone else tells you to online. Also, have antivirus protection on your phone.
  • Phone Vishing attacks are call scams that urge you to do something right away, such as mailing a payment to the IRS or charity, or coming to the aid of a relative. They may pose as staff from your bank or another respected institution, and they will stress the urgency of sending funds immediately. To protect yourself, never send funds during a call or immediately after. Never send funds without calling back a relative on a number you know or calling your bank on their verifiable number. Wait a few days and think it over with the help of someone you trust. Never answer a number that is not in your contacts. (You can always listen to voicemails and call back if it’s legitimate). 
  • SMS Phishing, or smishing, happens when scammers send a text containing malware, hoping that you’ll open it. They may also try to trick you into giving out personal information, buying a subscription or calling a pay-per-minute phone number. To protect yourself, never respond to suspicious texts with anything but a “delete and report as junk”.
  • One Ring scams are from thieves that call you and only let the phone ring once before they hang up. If you call back, you may be charged fees and the fraudster profits. The scammer may even leave a message, hoping to increase the chance you will call back. To protect yourself, don’t pick up the phone from a number you don’t recognize and don’t return calls if a voicemail sounds fishy or vague.

Make sure your phone’s find-it mode is turned on. This enables you to locate it using another phone or computer. But it won’t work unless the tool is turned on before the device is lost or stolen. For iPhones, tap Settings, your name, and then Find My. In order to see the location of your device when it’s offline, turn on the Find My Network. You can also elect to send Apple your last location when your battery is low. 

To help identify your phone if it gets lost, you should record its serial number and International Mobile Equipment Identity, or IMEI. To find them, go to Settings, then General, and then About. Keep these identifiers in cloud storage or printed out so you can give them to law enforcement in case your phone is recovered.

Set your phone to back up automatically so that photos and other data won’t be lost, even if your phone is damaged in a fire or other accident. You can use iCloud for Apple or Google storage for Android. If you have to pay a few dollars a month for extra storage, it’s well worth the price. For iPhone, go to Settings, (your name), then iCloud, iCloud backup and toggle on Back Up This Phone. 

Finally, physically protect your phone with a good case. It doesn’t take much to crack the screen, as many of us have found out the hard way. Find recommendations for iPhone cases 
and cases for Androids. Also, be aware that even though many newer smartphones have some water tolerance, sealing them up with uncooked rice is no longer the preferred method to dry them out. Click to find out how to rescue a wet phone or go to the manufacturer’s website for extensive directions.

Lost, Stolen or Misplaced Smartphones

It’s an awful feeling when you can’t find your phone. Here are the steps to take to minimize loss and ensure the best outcome possible. 

If the phone may be nearby in a quiet setting, you can say “Hey Siri” to get a response from your iPhone up to several feet away. Try having a friend dial the phone so you can listen for a familiar ring. Still nothing? Begin going through the steps below.

Use the Find My app to locate your phone from another device. If the phone’s setting is enabled and it’s connected to a network, the app will display your phone on a map. Apple has  a Mark as Lost setting to remotely disable Apple Pay and lock your phone if it is in an unexpected location. You can also perform these functions with an Android phone.

If the phone appears to be stolen or permanently lost, you should inform your carrier and report it to the police along with the serial number and IMEI. You may need a police report in order to dispute fraudulent credit card charges.  

File an insurance claim if you’re covered. Change your passwords, especially for any banking institutions, and alert your financial institutions to be on the alert for activity that is out of the ordinary. 

If Your Phone is Found

Phones that are found in a safe place, such as the trusted friend you were visiting, should be fine. But if you get a call from the police that they found your phone, you never know what malicious app or spyware may have been installed while the phone was out of your hands. Make sure to erase everything (if it is backed up) or at least reset the device to factory settings.