How To: Deal With a Missing Phone

Showed-Us-What-Do-When-You-Lose-Your-Cell-PhoneYou’ve checked your pockets, the car, retraced your steps twice – but it seems your phone is missing. Cue the panic that sets in once we realize our partner in crime is gone. It’s hard not to imagine some stranger holding your beloved, trying to gain access to your accounts, and invading your personal space.

However, if you know some simple tricks and steps to recovering lost phones or even remotely wiping your device, you may be better off than most in the unfortunate event of a missing phone*.

*If you believe your phone has been stolen, it’s always best to make that first phone call to the authorities. To be very clear on what stolen is, before you call the police, I mean that someone ran up to you, pushed you and stole your phone right out of your hand and then ran away. Or stole your phone right off the table of that coffee shop you always go to and ran away. Or stole your purse, wallet, satchel, hang bag, etc., off your persons and ran away. Yes, all of these scenarios include someone running away, but you need to be absolutely positive that someone stole your property before contacting the authorities about it. Also, call the non-emergency police. This is not a 9-1-1 contact call.*

Right now as you read this, we encourage you to go ahead and set up a passcode. I get it – entering a code every time you want to get into your phone can get annoying really fast. On a lot of models though, under your Settings, you can adjust how long before your phone “times out”, or decides to require a log in to access the interface. A passcode won’t be a wall; if someone who has picked up your lost phone really wants to get in, they can find a way. The passcode simply acts as a barrier so that there is an additional step people have to go through to access your information. This simple measure could buy you the time you need to remote wipe your phone to protect everything that you have stored on it. This will also buy you time to track down your phone. Even with all the great technology these days it can still be hard to track down a missing phone from an app.

Recently, my sister lost her phone. She left her beloved companion sitting in a communal employee bathroom and the panic and fear of never seeing her phone again set in.

Below are the steps she went through to become reunited with her phone. These steps are just guides to what you should do if you ever find yourself without your phone and have no idea where it could be. Again, if you believe your phone was stolen, your first step should be to call and report the stolen phone*.

  1. Find My Phone (Android Device Manager) / Find My iPhone
  2. Instruct your phone to show a message on its locked screen, like a number or email to contact you at
  3. If you’re getting concerned that you won’t find your phone, remote wipe it
  4. If you notice that your phone begins to move on the Find My Phone/iPhone app, and your phone is turned off when you call it (your phone battery dying doesn’t count as stolen*), start getting ready to report a stolen phone*

Remote wiping may be one of the coolest features. It’s kind of a bummer if you never bothered to back up your phone in the off chance you do recover it after remote wiping, but it will prevent an unwanted intruder from accessing all of your information.

Luckily, in the case of my sister, she didn’t need to remote wipe her phone. After she sent the contact message on the home screen, the nearby store that had picked up her phone gave her a call on the home phone to let her know that they had it. We had our doubts that anyone would call, even with the message on the screen, but there was a happy ending to this story.

It’s important when trying to find a lost phone that you keep the tracker apps up and running just so you can evaluate whether or not your phone is staying in one place or if it’s moving around. Also, keep tabs on that battery life. You need to be able to distinguish the different between someone turning off your phone or the battery just dying. Once your phone is “offline”, the tracker apps won’t serve you anymore, so there’s a bit of a time crunch here.

In any case, it’s happened to the best of us and even those of us who never thought we would lose our phone. It happens, and the important part is knowing what to do when it happens so that you don’t spend the majority of the time away from your lost phone freaking out. Take the time when you buy your phone to make sure you go through all the loss prevention steps. Although registering your phone with Find My Phone/iPhone won’t prevent you from leaving your phone on the subway or the bus, it will ease the burden of hopefully being reunited with it.