What to do when your phone/tablet is stolen

Those of you who are following me on Twitter know that my phone was stolen this past week. It was lifted from my pocket most likely while I stood at the bus stop (I know this as I had it a few minutes before getting on the bus, and not as I was about to get off the bus).

After sobbing miserably because I felt like someone had invaded my personal space and simultaneously taken one of my favourite toys — read: I don’t live through my phone, nor am I social butterfly, so it was mostly just the injustice of it all — I started the process of trying to fix the situation as best I can. Here are the best tips I can give, for before any item of yours gets stolen, and after, if you’re unlucky enough to have it happen to you.

Before the theft!

» Lock your phone: I have read guides that suggest not locking your phone with a pattern/PIN so as to encourage the thief to go online. If you are concerned about your privacy at all don’t listen. Lock your phone or the thief has unlimited access to your social media accounts, emails, and potentially private texts or photos.

» Protect yourself: Make sure that your phone is registered via either Android (eg Google Dashboard can track your phone via GPS, HTC Sense can do the same for HTC Phones) or via third party apps (make sure to do some research on legit apps). This will make it easier to track if your GPS is turned on, remotely wipe the phone, and the official apps usually allow you to see your IMEI number. Make a note of your IMEI number, if you can’t get it on these websites or via the app, you can usually find it on your phone somewhere, or near the battery.

» Write down emergency codes: If you use your phone as a security token for games or your bank, or if you have mobile verification turned on for your social media accounts, take a note of the emergency removal number. Most token systems will have one. This is in case you have to have these accounts removed. It is still possible without the emergency removal, it’s just much easier with it, as often you can do so without needing to contact support.

» Install any verified tracking software: If your phone’s OS has any verified tracking software, install it before losing your phone. Those that say they can be installed remotely rarely work; even when they’re installed they can’t always turn on GPS, and as your phone is lost you’ll have no way of verifying that it was correctly installed.

» Keep your belongings safe: I know this sounds like a nobrainer, but it could happen to anyone. My phone was in a buttoned up pocket on my jacket, and I was leaning against a wall. I didn’t even think it was possible someone could’ve got into it. Don’t use your phone outdoors if you can avoid it, as this makes you an easy target. Use frontal pockets only, preferably those with zips, or in a closed, hard-to-reach pocket in your bag.

After the theft!
If you’re unfortunate enough to have had your phone stolen, here are some things you should do.

» Revoke all app/email access: If, like most people, you use your phone for social media and emails, immediately revoke all access for those apps, regardless of whether you think you may find your phone again. Log into your social media accounts, navigate to their apps sections, and remove the relevant app’s access. For emails, go to your account section, and look for security. For Gmail, that can be found here.

» Track your phone/tablet: Using the software you already installed (you did, right?!) or your phone’s built-in software such as HTC Sense, Google Dashboard or iCloud, locate your phone via GPS. Even if you can do nothing with this information, it may help if you’ve lost the phone rather than had it stolen. You can also usually remotely wipe the phone. Keep in mind, you may need to allow this as an option on your phone prior to losing it!

» Contact your phone provider: As soon as you can, call your phone provider. This is especially important if you’re on a contract and don’t want to run up a massive bill, as your provider may very well hold you responsible for the calls/texts/data charges made before you report the phone missing. You can often also contact them via the website to have your phone service cancelled. It can be reinstated if you get your phone back, promise!

» Report the theft to the police: Occasionally your phone provider will require a police complaint ID, particularly if you’re trying to dispute charges that were made between the phone going missing and you reporting it to them. In this case, you will have to call into your local police station and let them know what happened. They will likely need your IMEI number as well.

» Keep an eye on recent sales: While you might not be able to do much, keep an eye on local sales websites for a phone or tablet matching yours going up for sale. You may be able to contact the seller and communicate, and if the phone means a lot you could also buy it back if you wanted. Though I’m more a fan of promising to pick it up and then calling the police with the person’s address, because I’m sneaky.

In an ideal world, none of this will be necessary, but I keep being reminded to “hope for the best and plan for the worst”. Honestly, it’s not a bad practice, and it will do you no harm to make sure you’re prepared!