What to do when a device is lost or stolen

Realizing your mobile device has been stolen is a sickening feeling, and often one that elicits panic. As challenging...


Realizing your mobile device has been stolen is a sickening feeling, and often one that elicits panic. As challenging as it may be, you must remain calm so you can take the necessary steps to retrieve the device, or at least keep your data protected. You may never see your phone again, but you’ll know that your personal information is safe from those who would abuse it.

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Let the Right People Know

The first thing to do is to let the authorities know your mobile device was stolen. File a report with the police—not only is this helpful for insurance purposes but it also increases recovery chances. Let your cellular provider know as well in case you’re dealing with charges and calls you did not make.

File a claim with your insurance company to get started on securing a replacement device, and let your employer, family, and friends know about the theft.

what to do when a device is lost or stolen

Track the Device

One of the best things you can do is to track your device with its tracking feature. Whether you set up this feature depends on which device you own. For example, the iPhone requires you to set up the Track My Phone feature, while Android’s Device Manager allows you to track your device without having to configure first. Tracking services use a GPS signal to show the area your device is located on a map. This is vital information to give the police.

Prevent Personal Info Access

The next step is to prevent the thief from accessing your personal information. Visit the websites of the apps you use to see if you can log out and otherwise de-register. Change your passwords as well. Preventing data access also varies by device, for example Blackberry has a Blackberry Protect website that allows you to lock your device and change your password, view your device location, delete all of your data, flag the device as stolen, and more.


Deactivating your device means you won’t be able to track it, however this functions as a viable last resort if recovering your phone isn’t possible. It prevents the thief from obtaining your personal information and making charges on your accounts. It also prevents the thief from resetting the device and adding a new SIM card. Again, you will no longer be able to communicate with your device, but it’s a good protection option while you wait for a replacement.

Additional Tips

Confronting a thief yourself is not recommended. However, you can and should take the following steps to ensure your device isn’t stolen in the first place:

  • Never, ever leave your device unattended, whether on a restaurant or bar table or shop counter. Your device is an investment, so why leave it within reach of thieves? As the FCC notes, most mobile device thefts are “crimes of opportunity.”
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Keep your device out of sight when in less-than-ideal environments, and if you must use it, do so with both hands. Treat the device the way you treat your wallet—you wouldn’t go waving your wallet around, would you?
  • Set a passcode to keep personal data protected. Your device is likely full of contact information, private messages, and apps containing credit card numbers, so be sure to set a unique passcode and keep thieves out.

Unfortunately, as long as the mobile device black market exists, your phone, tablet, or smartwatch, is a target. Be smart about where you use it, take steps to keep it as secure as possible, and stay informed about the latest security tips. The newer your device is, the bigger a target it will be, so keep that in mind as well.

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Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


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