Grand Theft Phone: How to Find a Stolen or Lost Smartphone

Grand Theft Phone: How to Find a Stolen or Lost Smartphone

Losing a smartphone would probably evoke more panic than you would experience if you had lost your house keys or wallet.

Apart from the monetary value, the phone contains private and critical information about work, your family, friends, and yourself. The fact that a stranger has free access to such information is chilling.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to find a stolen or a lost smartphone.

Android and iOS devices already have the built-in tools that help you find them. Plus, various third-party apps are already available on smartphones, especially those that come from Samsung.

So, in the event your phone goes missing, do not panic! Here’s what you can do.

How to Track My Lost Smartphone

Here are the most popular tools and apps that you can use to track down your phone. 

Find My Mobile (Samsung)

Samsung Find My Mobile app is here to help you.

This is a free feature set up when you first sign in to your Samsung account. Assuming you have your phone, confirm whether Find My Mobile is active, so locating it becomes easier.

Here is how to make sure you are secure:

  1. Open search apps and type in “Find My Mobile app”—most times, it is there but does not appear in the application drawer
  2. Tap the “Find My Mobile” icon
  3. Make sure that the app has access to storage, location and contacts
  4. Open Settings, scroll down and tap Biometrics and security
  5. The Find My Mobile toggle should be set to on
  6. Tap the Find My Mobile link
  7. Make sure that the registered account is yours and toggle on Send last location and Remote unlock options
  8. When you turn on Remote unlock a message will ask whether you want to back up the PIN, Agree

In case you lose your Samsung device, open page on any browser on your computer.

Log in to your account and a list of connected devices will appear. Click the missing one to see the present whereabouts. Some information you will find also includes the battery percentage.

If the device is on, you can:

  • Retrieve up to 50 calls and messages you have received recently
  • Lock the screen, power button, and Samsung Pay
  • Ring the device for about a minute at max volume to help you find it, if it is nearby
  • Backup data from the smartphone to Samsung’s cloud server
  • Erase data if you are concerned about someone retrieving the phone before you can get your hands on it

Find My iPhone (Apple)

Apple provides users with a roadmap that helps locate the missing device—the native Find My iPhone app.

The application is pre-installed and displays where your missing iPhone is on a map. However, you require another iOS phone or computer to use the app.

To set up Find My iPhone on your Apple device:

  1. Open Settings, tap Apple ID and then Find My.
  2. The next sheet lets you turn on Find My iPhone, next Enable Offline Finding as well as Send Last Location.

In case of loss, use a computer browser and head to where you must sign in using your Apple ID. The best browser to use when accessing iCloud are Firefox 45 and later, Google Chrome 54 and later, Opera or Microsoft Edge.

Some things you can do on iCloud include:

  • See the location of your iPhone on a map
  • Play sound to locate your device using its ringtone
  • Activate Lost Mode if a lost smartphone was at the airport and you do not want others to access your personal information. Instead, your iPhone can display a custom message informing the finder it is lost or how they can contact you
  • Erase information from the device
  • Remove the device from your account if you are selling it or gifting someone

Find My Device (Google)

This feature is part of Google Play Protect suite of services that protects your smartphone against malicious content.

Find My Device works on devices that run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and later versions, which is almost 99 percent of all active devices running on Android around the world.

Recent phones have Find My Device already installed, but you also have the option of manual download from the Play Store.

To view your phone’s location, your Android smartphone must:

  • Be powered on
  • Signed in to a Google account
  • Have mobile data or Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Able to use Google Play
  • Have its location services toggled on
  • Have Find My Device turned on

Find your phone using Google Find My Device:

  1. Open a browser tab and open and log into a Google account.
  2. The online application will attempt to detect your device and reveal its location on a map using a pin.

As you can see, using this Google tool is easy. However, there are other things you can do with it:

  • Play sound to make the phone play your default ringtone, even when set to silent
  • Secure the device, if it is missing. You also have the option to display a phone number or a message, in case somebody finds it and is looking to return your phone
  • Erase the device by wiping all your data and resetting the phone to factory setting

What to Do When You Have Tracked and Found Your Phone

In case you track and find your smartphone, there are some standard procedures you should follow.

For example, try doing the following:

Make sure it is not just lost

While you are super careful about where you regularly leave your phone, there is a possibility that you could have placed it somewhere else while in a rush. Perhaps, try calling it and listen for vibrating or ringing.

The best-case scenario is that you may have left it at the café, a good Samaritan picked it up and gave it to the head barista for safe keeping. If there is no answer, use the phone finder apps above, depending on the smartphone operating system you have.

If the app indicates your phone is nearby, then you just need to keep looking or retrace your steps. However, if the locator shows that it is somewhere you have not been to, someone has probably stolen it.

However, note that most thieves will turn the phone off, so finder apps only show the most recent location. Tempting as it may be to confront the cell phone thief, contact a law enforcement agency instead.

File a police report

Confronting the thief can end badly for you.

Instead, file a police report. Law enforcement agencies might not have the resources to investigate every stolen phone case.

But the location feature from a finder app makes it more likely to get help from the police.

Plus, the police report helps to ensure that the smartphone is unusable with other networks in the country. Your financial institution also requires a report to prove that your phone was stolen before you can be reimbursed for the loss. Also, most insurance companies will not replace your stolen phone without the police report.

Lock your phone remotely

As soon as you find out that someone has swiped your phone, ensure that they do not gain access to contents.

The exact process of locking your phone remotely depends on the operating system, as shown above.

Contact your cellular provider

With access to your stolen phone, the thief can easily rack up high data, text, and call charges. Get in touch with the service provider immediately to suspend your account.

If remote locking or erasing does not seem to work, the cellular provider can help. Some providers can deactivate the phone and even erase vital information from it.

Change passwords

Change the passwords of all accounts associated with the phone, especially if you have activated the autosave function.

Changing passwords includes those for your online banking account, investment applications, shopping apps, and even streaming sites. If you log in to any public Wi-Fi site automatically from your phone, chances are high that someone can view your financial information, including credit and debit card details.

Call your bank

Speaking of bank cards, call your bank and inform them that your phone is missing. The bank will then advise you on how to cancel your cards and get new ones.

In the days and weeks after your phone is stolen, regularly check your statements for suspicious transactions. Also, look for unauthorized activity on social media accounts.

How to Prevent Future Loss

As you can see, the course of action you take after your phone goes missing depends on how prepared you are.

Apply the information below to your next or current phone. According to cyber security NYC experts, the best ways to secure your smartphone include:

  • Keeping a note of the device’s serial number—International Mobile Equipment Identification (IMEI)
  • Activating phone finder apps that are pre-installed
  • Locking your phone against unauthorized access using strong passwords, patterns, or PINs
  • Setting up automatic backups so you never lose your calendars, contacts, videos, and photos
  • Deleting any apps you do not use
  • Logging out of online banking sessions after each use
  • Reducing the amount of information you store on the phone
  • Never storing your sensitive and intimate images on a smartphone

Final Thoughts

A stolen or lost smartphone can be a tremendous loss. The moment you realize that you do not have your device, use Find My Mobile, Find My iPhone, or Find My Device to track its whereabouts and get it back. Finally, make sure you adhere to best practices for securing your current or new smartphone.

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