Within the last five years, smartphones have become extensions of us. And if your electronic sidekick is ever lost or stolen, you feel like a piece of yourself is missing. But worse yet, all kinds of personal information can be stolen if it falls into the wrong hands.
So, what do you do if your device meets this fate? (Besides freak out, cry and hope you deleted all those “personal” items.) Former senators and quarterbacks aside, these following critical pieces of advice will help if you ever come face to face with that fateful moment.
THE 5 ESSENTIAL MOVES
Step 1) Notify your mobile provider of the situation.
Step 2) Change all your online passwords for any accounts that were linked to your device.
Step 3) Go online and activate your device’s tracking software.
Step 4) Alert your friends, family and co-workers that your device has been stolen.
Step 5) If you bought insurance for your phone, find out what your plan covers. If not, visit myPhoneMD to get an inexpensive replacement.
SECURE YOUR DATA
The password feature is one of the simplest pro-active ways to protect your information. All too often smartphone owners use “screen lock” without activating a pin or pattern code to access the phone, which can leave their contacts, text messages, email and even social networking accounts open to anyone who obtains the phone.
Advice: Set a code that is harder than 1234 or 0000. Also, make the device’s wallpaper a “contact sheet” that lists your name, an alternate phone number, email address and a mention of $$$ for returning it.
BACKUP YOUR INFORMATION
If your phone died right this second would you have copies of its pictures or would they be gone forever? The simplest way to backup your stuff is to plug your smartphone into a computer by USB cord. Then, drag and drop items from the device onto your desktop. Fortunately, more phones these days automatically backing up your contacts and information online, such as with Android devices that link to your Google account and Apple connecting to iTunes and iCloud. Some even allow you to instantly upload pictures as you take them.
Advice: Search online on how to use your device’s backup storage option, such as the iCloud. If you want more assurance, purchase an application to save more data, including third party apps, data and custom settings. Search for “Backup.”
INSTALL TRACKING SOFTWARE
Many tracking applications allow you to locate your phone on a map if it’s lost or stolen. Some even let you display a message, remotely lock your device and play a loud alarm sound, even if it’s set to silent.
Advice: Visit your carrier’s local store and ask about their device tracking/recovery options. Also, search for “phone locator” in your smartphone’s application store.
A few suggestions:
MyLookout.com — Freemium service for smart phones that run Android, Blackberry or Windows.
PreyProject.com — Freemium service for Macs, PCs and smartphones.
Find My iPhone — Free service for the iPhone 4, the iPad or a fourth generation iPod touch.
Where’s My Droid — Free service for Android smart phone users.
Plan B – Free service for Android smart phone users. This is the only that can be remotely installed on your phone after you’ve lost it.
StuffBak.com – An innovative loss protection and recovery service that has a proven 75% recovery rate.
REPORT THE THEFT IMMEDIATELY
Let your carrier know the phone was stolen as soon as possible so the device can be disabled. You don’t want the thief making long distance calls to vote on So You Think You Can Dance, Nigeria.
Advice: Put the kibosh on as quickly as possible…the thief could be texting your mama saying you hate her cooking. Also, write down your carrier’s customer service number and keep it in your wallet or purse for quick access.
RETHINK YOUR PASSWORDS
Change all the online passwords to your bank, email services, social networks and any other accounts linked to your device. Often, these passwords are stored on your smartphone for quick access at the touch of a button, making easy pickins’ for thieves.
Advice: Regardless, it’s good to continually change your passwords every few months to optimize your protection. If it’s difficult to remember all the new passwords, keep a handwritten note tucked away.
REMOTELY WIPE YOUR DATA
If all hope is lost and you don’t want a peeping Tom checking out your goodies, this is a must. Many tracking services like the ones mentioned offer the ability to remotely erase personal information off the device.
Advice: Unless you have a complete backup of your data, be absolutely positive your phone is stolen or will never be found again before wiping it. We’d hate for you to give your device a lobotomy and then learn you left it in the car.
Losing your smartphone can be a traumatic experience, but you can lessen the blow by following these essential moves. For more guidance, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.