Everyone has an occasional moment of panic when you can’t find your phone, and then you hear it vibrating in the sofa cushion. But what if you accidentally left your phone somewhere and have no idea where it is, or someone walked away with it when you weren’t looking? Either way, if you don’t find it quickly, it’s possible that a bad guy will end up with your phone.
Do you know what to do next?
People steal phones to sell the device or the information on it – or both. They sometimes target places like conventions or trade shows, especially where they know high-level executives or security professionals will be in attendance.
Lost or stolen, here are steps you can take:
Contact your carrier’s customer service right away to report the phone missing.
Take your phone number off key accounts like your email where you use it for extra authentication to log in (such as text-message verification). Temporarily switch to a different number or method.
Change passwords on key online accounts, especially those you access from your phone like email, to block bad guys from getting into them.
If you have a company-issued phone, notify your company’s IT department because there may be network access and security considerations.
Contact the AT&T fraud department if you see suspicious activity on your AT&T account. If you see unauthorized payments on your credit card or bank account, you will need to contact the bank or the financial institution to have them reverse the unauthorized charge to your account.
You can also take some simple steps now, before you lose your phone:
Make sure your phone is set to lock after a short period of inactivity. While it may seem inconvenient, this simple step will be a big roadblock to those with bad intent if your phone is ever missing.
Do not keep an ID or business card in a phone wallet. If you lose your phone, you lose these valuable personal identification items, too.
Use the “Find my Phone” feature on your phone, if available. This can help locate your missing phone.
Back up your phone to protect the data and make sure it’s available in the future. Also, with your data saved to the cloud, you can safely wipe your phone remotely and not lose precious information.
Keep a list of the accounts and websites where you list your cell number as a way to contact you. You don’t want to be trying to figure out all those places when you’re racing a potential hacker who may have your phone.
With luck, someone may contact you saying that they have your phone. But be careful. If they ask you to “verify” yourself by revealing your password, that could just be a trick to get your password.
And if you get an email or text that offers help finding your phone, these offers may look legitimate, but the messages and any links or attachments may just be the bad guy trying to get more information. It could also be an attempt to keep you from reporting the missing phone to give the bad guy time to access your accounts. (Learn more about phishing here.)
When you report your phone lost or stolen, your carrier will share that information with other carriers. The carriers work together to block the phone number and the device’s unique IMEI number, preventing someone else from using the phone on any of their networks.
You can find additional tips to help set up your new phone with better security from the start in this blog on new device setup.