Losing your phone can feel like the end of the world. One minute it’s in your pocket, and the next you can’t find it anywhere!

Whether it was dropped somewhere, taken by someone, or completely disappeared into thin air, you’re now in a whirlwind of worry and frustration.

No doubt you are concerned about the cost of replacing an expensive smartphone. However, you should worry more about identity theft since all the sensitive information stored on your phone is now in jeopardy.

So, what do you do when your phone is stolen or lost? Read on to discover the steps to help protect yourself and minimize your losses.

4 Steps to Take Immediately If your Phone is Stolen or Lost

The first few steps are crucial when you discover your phone is missing. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Call or Text Your Phone

Your phone might be in the hands of a good person who wants to find the owner. So, try calling or texting your phone to try to locate it.

If someone answers, explain the situation, and politely ask them to return it.

2. Use Your Phone Tracker

Most Apple and Android phones have built-in tracking software that can help you locate your missing device. For example, if you’re using a laptop or an iPad to locate your phone, you can use the “Find My” (iOS), “Samsung Find My Mobile,” or “Find My Device” (Android) features to track your phone.

It’s a good idea to set up these features as soon as you get a new smartphone.

3. Lock Your Phone & Change Your Password

Even if your lost phone has a unique passcode and biometric features, scammers can bypass them and access your data. Fortunately, you can remotely lock your phone and change its password to help prevent someone else from using it.

For Lost iPhones

If you’ve lost an iPhone, use a different device, such as a Mac desktop or iPad, to log into iCloud.com/find using your Apple ID. Then, activate  the “Find My iPhone” feature to automatically turn on the Activation Lock on your iPhone.

You can also activate the Lost Mode feature. In addition to tracking your phone, this feature displays a custom message on the screen, including your contact details. This process only works if you have enabled the “Find My” feature before losing your phone.

For Lost Android Phones

If you’ve lost an Android device, open a web browser and log into your Google Account. Then, activate the “Find My Device” feature to see the location of your missing device.

Use the “Secure Device” section to set up a new password for your lock screen. You can even wipe the data remotely via the “Find My Device” page.

4. Contact Your Mobile Carrier

If your phone is in the hands of scammers, they may attempt to accrue charges on the device or swap out the SIM card to gain access to your accounts. Contact your service provider immediately so they can be aware of possible fraud.

The provider can disconnect or suspend service to your missing device to prevent illegal use.

What Can Someone Do with a Stolen or Lost Phone?

Unfortunately, scammers can use your device to do quite a bit of damage. Here’s what they can potentially do with your missing phone:

  • Buy unauthorized goods with linked credit cards or digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay.
  • Get passwords and logins for multiple accounts, including emails, especially if you use the same password for your accounts.
  • Take over your email account and block you.
  • Access your bank accounts and investment apps and steal your money.
  • Gather personal information and commit identity theft.
  • Access your Apple or Google ID to bypass 2FA on other sites and apps.
  • Scam those close to you through phishing.
  • Trace where you visit most frequently and learn about your financial status.
  • Open loan and credit card accounts in your name.

The first thing phone thieves can do when they get your phone is try to steal your personal information. Whether banking details, credit card info, personal photos or emails, they can try to get as much information from your device as possible.

How to Help Protect Your Phone and Yourself

Prevention is always better than cure, especially when your sensitive information is on the line. That said, here are some tips on how to help protect your phone and yourself from potential security threats if your device goes missing:

Use Auto-Lock and a Passcode

Auto-lock can automatically lock your device when not in use after a set amount of time. A passcode can be an additional layer of protection, ensuring that even if your device is lost or stolen, no one can access it without first deciphering the passcode.

That means no one can access your contacts, social media accounts, emails or other sensitive information  without your knowledge. Choose a strong passcode that someone else cannot easily guess and change it regularly for added security.

Backup Information

It’s always a good idea to back up your data in case of any unexpected event. Regularly back up your contacts, photos, messages, and other personal information.

If you never regain access to your device, you still have all your information safely stored elsewhere.

Most operating systems provide cloud storage options for easy backups. For example, you can use iCloud to back up data on an Apple device while Android users can use Google Drive.

What to Do If You Recover Your Phone

If you are lucky enough to recover your lost or stolen phone, you should take a few steps to help ensure it is secure and ready for use. These include:

Resetting your device: Resetting can erase all the data stored on the device, including any personal information, passwords, and accounts. You can do this by going to your device settings and choosing “Factory reset.”

Update your software: Make sure your recovered phone has the latest security updates installed to protect against potential vulnerabilities. To do this, go to the settings menu on your phone and select “Software Update” or “System Updates.”

Change all passwords: Change all your passwords for any accounts linked with the device before it was lost or stolen. This includes email accounts, social media accounts, banking apps and other accounts.

Monitor activity: Monitor all your accounts for any suspicious activity. Watch for unusual emails or messages from unknown people and be aware of any suspicious phone calls. Contact customer service or file a police report if you suspect your data has been compromised.

Set up 2FA: Setting up two-factor authentication (2FA) on your accounts can give you an extra layer of security against online threats. However, this requires you to enter an additional code each time you sign in, usually sent via text or email.

Stay On Top of Identity Theft

A lost or stolen phone can cause stress and worry and increase your risk of identity theft and fraud.  That’s why locating your phone quickly is crucial to help protect yourself.

It’s also essential to have identity theft protection. Signing up for identity theft protection with IdentityIQ services means you receive around-the-clock monitoring, real-time fraud alerts and identity theft insurance underwritten by AIG, so you have peace of mind that you are protected.