Someone Stole Your Phone; Now What?

So it’s finally happened…..

You were just gone for a few minutes to use the restroom leaving your iPhone unattended on the restaurant table by the napkins. When you returned it was gone. You checked everywhere, under the table, on the seat, in the restroom, you even retraced all your steps in case you dropped it somewhere. You quickly found your server and talked to the friendly looking folks at the adjoining booths but nobody seemed to see or notice anything. Your heart sinks as the reality starts to sink in that someone has just stolen your phone!! You recall “your whole life is on that phone” and it wasn’t locked when you put it down. Now somebody has access to everything…. your contacts (including your home address), your phone history, your email, your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, your digital wallet, photos and all your Smart Home automation services (cameras, front door lock, lights, Alexa). Now what? That phone was just months old on a 2 year plan. You’ll have to pay out the balance to your carrier and replace the phone somehow…. only $850 plus tax. Holy s***!

Now’s not the time to panic, but you do. You feel sick to your stomach and it will take months if ever to replace everything and recover from the financial and emotional losses. The theft of your smartphone is aggravating and embarrassing. A thief now has possession of your entire digital life. And while you undoubtedly feel violated, there are some important things you should and shouldn’t do when you realize a thief has taken your handset.

Here’s what you do…..
You should:

1. Log into your carrier account online, or call and immediately suspend your service for the phone. The person who stole your phone could be running up the bill and you’ll be responsible if you don’t tell your carrier. By the time you realize your phone was missing, the thief may have already bought goods on-line, accessed your social media accounts and called long-distance to the folks back home etc. B y contacting your mobile service provider and updating them on the theft, the device IMEI will also be entered into a lost/stolen database which limits the thefts ability to sell or reuse the phone. So just stop the bleeding.

2. Use the iOS “Find My iPhone” or Android “Device Manager” feature built into the operating system to locate, lock and/or remotely wipe the data from your stolen device. (See details on “How to Think Prevention”). Find My iPhone lets you locate your device but only if the Location Services are enabled. This feature typically meant for those times when you lose your phone in the back of a cab or leave it somewhere in your house. If your phone was stolen, you should think twice before tracking it down via the app in an attempt to catch the person who stole it. Instead, you should contact the police and show them your device’s current location. They might be able to use that information to track down the perp and recover your phone (unlikely). There’s no reason to confront a potentially violent thief over a phone. Leave that part to the professionals.

3. File a Police report for assistance in recovering your property. To do this you will need

  • The approximate date and time you discovered the theft and the last date and time you saw your phone
  • The IMEI serial number for the phone as well as its make, model and description 

In most police jurisdictions cell phone theft is treated as a low priority and you will be asked to fill in an on-line report. In some jurisdictions you may be interviewed over the phone. Rarely will an officer personally attend to facilitate filing a report. The accuracy of the information you provide will greatly assists the police service in processing your report.

4. File an insurance claim. You may be able to file a theft claim under your homeowners insurance. As many smartphones today cost upwards of $1000 it may be well advised to file an insurance claim and settle for some amount of cash towards a replacement phone subject to the deductible. To do this you must provide:

  • A copy or reference to the filed police report
  • The IMEI serial number for the phone as well as its make, model and description
  • Proof of ownership such as receipts, photos, user manuals, warranties, original packaging or bank or credit card statements
  • Photographs or video you have as part of your home inventory checklist will help prove that the stolen valuables existed.

Think prevention: - If you’ve got an iPhone, now is the time to pat yourself on the back for having the wherewithal to sign into your iCloud account when you first set up your handset. That’s because you can now use Apple’s to remotely lock your handset to keep thieves from accessing your private information or to reset your phone. To use Find My iPhone, you’ll want to log in to your account from another device, using your Apple ID and password. Click on Find My iPhone, and select your stolen iPhone from the All Devices tab at the top of the screen. From there, you’ll be able to remotely lock your phone. If, under the circumstances, you’re pretty certain that you won’t ever see your handset again, you might want to go ahead and just remotely erase it, to be doubly sure your information is safe. To do so, select Erase iPhone from the Find My iPhone device screen. The next time the thief connects your handset to the Internet, your iPhone will receive the erase message and automatically wipe itself.

(Similar remedies are available for Android devices)

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