Based on survey results, Lookout projected that lost and stolen cell phones may have costed U.S. consumers $30 billion in 2012. Not only do you lose your professional and personal contacts when you lose your cell phone, a thief can use your personal information to assume your identity. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of losing your cell phone, take steps to protect yourself.
Protecting Your Info as Soon as Your Phone Goes Missing
If you have a smartphone, you may be able to protect your personal information remotely. This can provide great peace of mind that someone won’t use your phone to steal your identity. If you can, remotely lock your device so that no one can access it. If you have an automated password lock, your phone may already have locked itself.
Right after you realize your phone is missing, it can be tempting to wipe the device remotely. This way you have 100 percent peace of mind that your information is safe. However, as Stanford’s IT Department cautions, don’t do this! If you do find your phone (or if an honest person returns it), you will have unnecessarily lost all of your information.
At this time, do activate any type of phone locator software you have on your phone, such as the Find My iPhone for iPhones. The software will show you the GPS location of your device and you may be able to recover your phone. If you don’t have the software, try texting or calling your phone. You may discover that someone has found the phone and wants to return it to you.
Taking Additional Steps to Protect Yourself
Assuming that your phone doesn’t turn up over the course of a couple of days, you can incentivize its return by offering a reward. In the meantime, you must take additional steps to protect your identity.
While you wait to find your phone, change all of your account login info, including passwords for online banking, credit card, email, and any other source where a thief could find sensitive information. It’s better to do this and then discover you left your phone at the gym, than it is to assume your phone is at the gym before finding that a thief hacked into your bank account.
Suspending your service is a good idea if you’ve called or texted your phone but received no response, and cannot find it on a phone-locator app. Contact your carrier and ask for service to be suspended. Ask specifically that they turn off the phone service without wiping the data. This way, if your phone does turn up, you can reactivate and you’ll have all of your information. If you really don’t think you will get the phone back at all, you can ask the carrier to wipe all data. If you cannot find your phone, it may be time to purchase a new one. There are a a multitude of provider sources out there, such as T-Mobile.com, which at the moment, offers some pretty decent deals on Samsung, LG and Windows phones.
Finally, watch your online credit card and bank accounts for any fraudulent activity. If you suspect fraud, contact your bank or credit card company right away to initiate a claim.