What to Do When Your Device is Stolen

Your iPhone or iPad probably has your entire life on it—from photos, apps, contacts, and communications. What would you do if it is ever stolen?

There are some preemptive measures you can take to make the loss less traumatic in the event your device does get stolen.

First of all, always be aware of your surroundings. Thieves target those who are oblivious to their surroundings, such that they will sneak up behind you and steal your device right out of your hands, or smoothly lift it out of your pocket or your bag– all without you ever knowing until your device is long gone.

Next, add a passcode lock on the phone so that whoever stole your device can’t scroll through your data or access your apps. Just make sure it isn’t 1234 or something easily guessable; otherwise it defeats the purpose of a passcode in the first place. Generally, the thief is going to format the device or dump it instead of trying to figure out the passcode.

iPhone passcode screen

Invest in an app that will let you encrypt your text messages, photos, and notes. Take advantage of any device encryption capabilities to protect your data.

You should also be performing regular backups with iCloud. This way, you can remotely wipe the stolen device and restore all your data and apps once you have a replacement. It’ also a good idea to turn on Apple’s “Find My iPhone” or download and install a similar device-finding app. If you don’t have the Find My iPhone feature enabled before the device is stolen, you are out of luck. If you have it turned on, you increase your chances of getting it back.

But what should you do if the device is gone, gone, GONE?

Notify Relevant People
The first step is to notify the authorities and all the people who need to know. File a report with the police, since without it, they won’t be able to help you recover your device. The report may help when dealing with the mobile operator and insurance company.

Inform your cellular provider, so that you won’t be on the hook for any data charges or calls made without your authorization. Try to have the account suspended or canceled, so that the thief can’t rack up any charges. Also file a claim with your insurance company to get the ball rolling on a replacement.

Notify your employer, especially if you used your device to access work-related emails or downloaded corporate data. The IT department may have tracking tools at their disposal, or at least remotely lock it so that thieves can’t use it. Finally, let your friends and family know about the theft so that they are on the lookout for calls and emails that appear to be from you but were actually sent by the thief.

Track Your Device
If you have Apple’s free Find My Device service enabled, or if you’d downloaded one of the many location-tracking apps out there, then you can go online and try to figure out where your device is. These services use the device’s GPS tracking feature to display a dot on a map showing the general vicinity of the device. You can pass on this information to the police.

Find My Phone

It’s important to remember that you should never confront the thief on your own to recover stolen property. Provide the police with the information you have so that they can take action, not you.

Depending on what kind of tracking device you have installed, you may have access to other security features, such as remotely changing security settings, remotely wiping the data entirely off the device, and even taking a snapshot of the user holding the device. Some apps offer a “scream” feature, where the owner can make the device emit a loud alarm to pinpoint its physical location. Even if you don’t have a tracking app, your IT department may still have the ability to monitor where your device is.

Change Your Passwords
Just in case, change your passwords, so that the thief can’t gain access to all your accounts. This includes email accounts, social networking, online banking, and even the iTunes store. This is important to protect yourself from the very real risk of identity or financial theft.

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