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Top tips for if your phone is lost or stolen

Nowadays, we can spend hundreds of pounds on our mobile phones. They become quite important, precious, costly devices - so it can be a real hassle if yours goes missing or is stolen. But if your phone has fallen into the wrong hands, there are many steps you can take to secure your privacy and confidential details. 

Call your phone | Track your Phone | Report your phone lost | Cancel cards | Change passwords | Contact Insurance | Unauthorised phone calls | Get a replacement SIM | Finding a replacement phone | Where does my phone end up?

Call your phone

First things first, you should just try to call your phone to check if it’s actually lost or if anyone answers. 

Use a friend or family’s device to call your number. If your phone is on silent, you won’t hear it ring, but might be able to hear a vibrating, buzzing noise if you haven’t turned vibration off in the settings. 

If you know your phone won’t make any noise, then try some of the other tips below. 

Track your phone

For iPhones, you can use the Find My iPhone app, or Android Device Manager on Androids. To do this, you need to access the website for these apps from another device, like a friend’s phone, laptop or tablet, enter your details (you must already have an account set up for this to work), and locate your phone on the digital map. 

If it has been stolen and you see it moving across the map (that is, if the thief hasn’t turned the device off), call law enforcement rather than seeking it out yourself. 

Find My iPhone

On an Apple device, go to:

Settings > Apple ID > iCloud > Find My iPhone

On the internet, go to: > Login to iCloud > Find iPhone > Sign in > All Devices

The app will then allow you to either play a sound aloud (useful for if the phone is somewhere in your house, even on silent), display your number on the lockscreen in the hope someone will return it, or erase the device if you think it has been stolen.

Android Device Manager 

On an Android device, go to:

Google > Settings > Android Device Manager > Login with Google account

Like the iPhone, you can choose to play a sound, display your contact details on the screen, or erase the phone.

You should be aware that erasing your phone means you’ll no longer be able to locate it on any of the finding apps. 

Report your phone lost

Whether your phone goes missing or is actively stolen, you should report your device to your network provider as soon as you know you aren’t going to find it. Your provider can then block your phone to prevent anyone unlocking it and having access to your personal information. 

If you don’t inform your network provider, you may end up paying for any texts or calls that occur from your phone while it’s not in your possession. Depending on where it is located, these calls can start to become very expensive. 

Once you have told your provider, you can contact the police to inform them of your missing phone too. Make sure to ask your network provider what your phone’s identification number is, as you’ll need to tell the police the IMEI.  

You can also register your phone as missing on Immobilise, where traders and the police can identify it if someone attempts to sell it. 

If you know for certain that your phone is in the wrong hands, you can remotely wipe your device using the Find My iPhone or Google Device steps above. 

Cancel cards

If your phone is lost or has been stolen, but you don’t want to wipe it remotely for any reason, make sure you cancel any financial services attached to your phone. For example, any bank app or mobile wallet you have stored on your phone could lead to an extortionate loss of money in the wrong hands. 

Call your bank and ask for them to cancel or freeze all of your debit and credit cards immediately, as your phone has been stolen. 

This will ensure that you don’t lose any money, even if the culprit manages to hack into your phone. 

Change passwords

Again, if you don’t want to or can’t remotely wipe your phone, it’s important to change all of your passwords as a precaution. 

Even if you have locked or erased your phone, a thief may have had time to access your data. So you should change any passwords for accounts that are associated with your phone, such as:

  • App Store - so no one can make any purchases
  • Amazon - again, so no one can make any purchases on your account, though if you freeze your card details, they won’t be able to do this
  • Social Media - you don’t want people prying into your social media accounts for clues regarding you or other people, or potentially locking you out by changing your account details
  • Subscription Services - like Prime, Netflix and Hulu, as people could login and find your billing information 

You should change passwords immediately for any other services on your phone that could be linked to your financial details. 

Contact insurance

Contact your insurance company if your phone is lost or stolen. If your insurance deal covers it, you may be entitled to claim for a new phone, or at least won’t be charged for any excessive uses. 

If you can’t remember whether you have insurance, call your network provider and ask what’s included with your device (assuming you’re still with the same network that sold you the phone). If you have house insurance, you should check if your mobile phone is covered by the policy.

Unauthorised phone calls

If you have incurred a bill on your phone while it was stolen or lost, you’ll have to pay for the cost up until the time of reporting it missing (which is why you should do it as soon as you know your phone is gone). 

How much you pay will depend on your network. Some providers may cap you at £100 if your phone was reported lost or stolen. Others may ask you to pay the full amount. However, if your network asks for you to pay for all the calls made after you reported your phone missing, you have the right to dispute the bill. 

Once again, check what you’re covered for and use this to know how much you should be paying. 

Get a replacement SIM

You’ll usually get sent a new SIM card, but you’ll probably have to keep paying your contract until its end date. Either purchase a new phone and continue with your contract, or simply wait it out and then sign up for a new contract that includes a free smartphone. 

Finding a replacement phone

It’s rare for providers to give you a new phone, so you’ll have to decide what you want to do once your stolen or lost phone is permanently out of your possession. 

You can take a look at our list of the best phones for under £200 for a quick, cheap option.  

Where does my phone end up?

As most are locked handsets or don’t work with other providers, phone theft is becoming less frequent, but still 1 in 10 people become victims of this crime. But if your phone is stolen, it usually ends up in a market or pawn shop. If the phone isn’t locked, it could possibly be wiped and reprogrammed with a new SIM card. 

However, due to FRP (Factory Reset Protection), which is a security procedure installed on phones, it is harder nowadays to wipe and factory reset devices if they are stolen. This method makes a stolen phone more difficult to use, thus reducing the risk of theft, as you have to be signed into the owner’s account in order to authorise a reset. 

The smartphone may also just be sold for parts in manufacturing. 

If you have been a victim of phone theft, or simply lost your phone with no way of finding it, remember it’s not the end of the world. Though valuable, these things can be fixed and replaced. Just ensure you have gone through the protective measures to keep your details safe, such as erasing, locking, changing passwords, and freezing cards. 

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