Every day, dozens of people realize “Oh no, I’ve lost my cell phone!” A lost cell phone or a missing or stolen cell phone can be more than just an inconvience. Particularly these days, with email, text messages, and more on one’s cell phone, losing a cell phone can be a big security issue.
Here is a list of things that you should do if you’ve lost your cell phone (Note: If your phone was stolen, you should read this article too):
1. Calm down, take a deep breath, and take a few minutes to think about where you last remember having it. Retrace your steps. Often you will find your phone just by taking this time to relax and reflect.
2. Use another phone to call your cell phone so that you can hear it ring. If you don’t have another phone handy, ask a friend to make the call for you. It’s important to do this shortly after you realize that your cell phone is missing, before it runs out of battery.
*Bonus: If you have an Apple Watch, you can use it to find your phone! Just tap on the “find my phone” button and it will cause your phone to make a loud ping noise so that you can track it down!
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3. If you don’t find your cell phone after calling it, contact every place you’ve been between the time you last had your cell phone and the time that you realized that your cell phone was lost. It doesn’t matter whether or not you actually used your cell phone there; it may have fallen out of your pocket, or you may have placed it on the table or counter during a meeting or a meal.
4. If you don’t locate your lost cell phone within a few hours, call your cell phone provider and have them turn off all services to your cell phone! This is the most critical step. Be sure to do this. Whether it was lost or stolen, if your cell phone falls into the hands of the wrong person a great deal of your information can be gleaned and used to steal your identity. In addition, it can be used to compromise your friends and colleagues, especially if you have email and text messages on your phone, but even if you don’t.
UNLESS you want to track down your stolen cell phone, and you are very confident that you know what you are doing.
After having them turn off all your services, go into your carrier’s local store, pick up a new cell phone, and have everything restored to your new phone. Depending on what kind of cell phone you have, and who your carrier is, you may be able to have everything restored and back up and running within a matter of minutes. But even if not, the hassle of having to set up a new phone is nothing compared to the hassle of having someone pretend to be you and drain your bank accounts, harrass your friends, post your pictures on the Internet, and more.
By the way, there are now programs for some smart phones which will turn your ringer on remotely for you, so that you can try to find your cell phone by calling it even if it was set to mute when you lost it. They do this by having you text a PIN to your cell phone, which tells the phone to set the ringer to high. One such program is PinTail.