Help! I've Lost My Phone Or Tablet

A smartphone

As we now manage large aspects of our lives from our phones & other devices (even our watches!), it's no surprise that losing one can be hugely inconvenient.

But have you ever stopped to consider what access your phone would give to any criminal who stole or found it? We often have them set to log straight into our social media apps, email, and any number of other websites that should be private.

Read on for tips as to what to do if you ever lose your phone or tablet.

Can you locate the device?

Many smartphones & tablets these days come with an inbuilt feature for remotely locating them. You often need to activate it in advance, and the device must be turned on & have network or wifi coverage, but it's always worth using this first to try to locate your device.

iPhones & iPads (iOS)

The Find iPhone app icon

The Find iPhone app icon

The software to locate your iphone has been built into iOS (the operating system for iPhones and iPads) since iOS 4 in 2010. Simply called "Find iPhone", this app allows you to view your phone's location on a map, make it emit a noise to help you find it, remotely lock it & provide contact info to anyone who may find it and, if all else fails, to even remotely wipe it clean.

To use it, either use the app on a friends iPhone or iPad, or go to Apple's iCloud website and login with the iTunes account that your phone or iPad is associated with.

If it turns out that the phone is nearby then use the "Play Sound" option to make it ring (even if it was on silent) and see if you can find it that way. If it's not nearby then the "Lost Mode" feature can be used to remotely lock it and provide a phone number for anyone who may find it to contact you on.

If you're sure your device is completely lost then the "Erase iPhone" feature can be used to permanently erase all data on it.

Android phones & devices

The Android Device Manager app icon

The Android Device Manager app icon

If your Android phone or tablet is signed into a Google account, you've got location services enabled, and the phone has network or wifi connectivity, then you'll be able to locate it via one of several methods.

To do this either use the Android device manager website or the Device Manager app on a friend's Android device. From here you can either:

  • Find the phone;
  • Lock it & provide a contact number for anyone who finds it;
  • Completely erase it's contents.

Alternatively, and if you're only wanting to locate your device, you can just simply type "Find my phone" into Google search from any computer (you have to be logged into Google for this to work).

If you have a Samsung phone, and have previously enabled tracking, then you can also try locating it with Samsung's website.

Windows phones

Windows phones may not be as common as iPhones or Android devices, but they too have all the same remote management features.

Simply head over to Microsoft's device manager website and login. From here you can also locate and lock your device, or erase its contents.

Change your passwords

So you've lost your phone or tablet & haven't been able to find it, what now?

Even if your device requires a pin number or password to unlock it, you should still go through and change the passwords to all the accounts you have apps for. Most pin numbers on phones are quite short and can be broken with enough time and effort.

Think about what apps are on your phone - which ones log you in automatically without requiring a password? Some common ones (with links to change their passwords) are below, but try thinking of all your other ones too.

By changing your passwords you'll deny any attacker the chance to access your personal data on these apps, or to send messages as if they're from you.

Facebook login?

The Facebook screen for linking apps to your Facebook login

Some apps link to your Facebook account, logging you straight in without needing a password. You may think that changing your Facebook password will stop anyone from accessing these but that's not the case - you need to actively disable each login.

Open Facebook up and go to the Settings page. Clicking on "Apps & Websites" in here will show you a list of all the apps and websites that are currently linked to your account. Hovering over any of these will display an "X" to remove them - click this for all the apps that are installed on the phone or tablet that you've lost.

Remove any payment information

Apple, Android, & Samsung pay

Do you use your phone for contactless payments (such as Apple Pay or Android Pay)? This recent technology makes paying for shopping and travel really easy, but it can also become a risk if you happen to lose your phone.

And whilst they generally need your fingerprint or other check before a payment is taken, it's still a good idea to remotely delete all payment cards from any device you lose.

  • For devices with Apple Pay: Go to the iCloud website and login to your account. It will ask you for a code that it sends to your phone, but if you ignore this for now and instead click on the "Apple Pay" link. Here you'll be able to remove the credit cards associated with your account.
  • For devices with Android Pay: Go to Google's payment website and login to your account. From here ensure you're in the Payment Methods page and remove all your cards.
  • For devices with Samsung Pay: Go to the Samsung mobile website and login to your account. In the sidebar on the left you can lock or wipe your Samsung Pay account; this may take a few minutes depending on the network coverage for your phone.

In addition to remotely disabling the card it an be a good idea to alert your bank too. This is especially important if it's been a while since you last had your phone - if a thief has somehow gotten into your phone and used a saved card to order goods online then it may still be possible to stop the payment.

Store cards

Some companies, such as Starbucks, allow you pay in store directly from their app. If you have any cards like this then visit these retailers' websites to disable this payment method.

Report it as lost or stolen to your carrier

The final thing to do is report your phone as lost to your carrier. They'll then put a block on your SIM card, preventing any fraudster from racking up huge expenses in your name.

Generally you'll just need to provide your phone number, but if they need your phone's 15-digit IMEI number as well (which stands for "International Mobile Equipment Identity") then here's how to find it (in addition to it often being on the original packaging, if you still have that):

  • For Apple devices: Check the "Devices" tab within iTunes (under the "Preferences" menu option) and click the Device Backups menu. Hover the cursor over your phone in here & its IMEI information will appear.
  • For Android devices: Log into your Google account and go to the Device Manager menu.
  • For Windows devices: Log into your Windows account, go to the Phones tab and select your phone, then select the "Find it, get support, and more..." link. Your phone's IMEI number will be in here.

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