If you've lost your iPhone or, worse, it's been nicked by some scumbag here's how to track it, wipe it and, most importantly, locate it.
Your iPhone. You likely dropped a ton of money on it, and your whole life's on there; people, places, bookmarks, memories, photos, your diary/calendar. You name it. It's one of those pieces of tech that worms its way into our lives and we don't realise how important it is until it disappears - like having an internet connection suddenly drop out or a power cut and realising you can't be productive or entertained.
If you lose your iPhone, or even worse it's snatched from under your nose by some prize douchebag, there's really only one set of emotions; anger and distress. This is even worse if you haven't insured it (and let's face it, there are legitimate reasons why you may not want to).
As iPhones became more popular and desirable, related crime rates –– i.e. theft of iPhones –– began to increase too. The logic behind this spike in theft, initially, was easy to see: if you stole an iPhone you could quickly sell it on for A LOT of cash. And back in 2007 through 2009 there was no way for consumers to track or securely wipe their handsets in the event somebody stole it.
“Every 3.5 seconds, someone in America loses a cell phone,” reports Market Watch. “And more often than not, it happens in a coffee shop, a new study says. All those absentminded moments add up to $30 billion in annual losses, the report, from mobile security company LookOut claims. And after cafes, the most common places people abandon their handsets are bars and offices.”
Criminals had a good run of it, but pretty soon tech companies began to fight back with the introduction of remote tools that not only showed the location of the phone but also, if required, erased everything on the phone and, in the event it was not going to be returned, brick (destroy) the device completely.
This article is designed to show you exactly what to do in the event your iPhone is lost or stolen. It also covers quite a bit preliminary stuff too –– things you should do now to ensure should the worst happen you’re prepared. Right, let’s do this!
Before your iPhone is Lost or Stolen:
1. Enable Find My iPhone
Find My iPhone is the anti-theft software made by Apple. It’s a free app that can be downloaded here. Anyone who has an iPhone (or iPad, iPod touch, or Mac; Find My iPhone works on all of them) should download this app right away. With it if your device is ever lost or stolen you can see its location on a map, lock the device remotely, and even choose to wipe it remotely.
With iOS 7 Apple has strengthened the iPhone’s anti-theft software called Find My iPhone. Before iOS 7 the thief could erase your iPhone or turn of the software tracking features at his will, but now Apple requires the iPhone owner’s registered Apple ID and password to be entered before Find My iPhone can be disabled.
But in order for Find My iPhone to work at all it must already be installed on your iPhone – SO DO IT NOW! If it’s not installed on your iPhone, you’re out of luck if it’s stolen.
After your iPhone is stolen:
2. If your iPhone is stolen the first thing to do is find a computer right away and log into iCloud. It doesn’t matter if the computer is a Mac or a PC. It just needs a modern web browser. Go to www.icloud.com and enter your iCloud user name/Apple ID and password. This will be the same iCloud/Apple ID you used in the Find My iPhone app.
3. After you have logged in, find the Find My iPhone button and click it.
4. At the top of the screen you’ll see the label “All Devices”. Click it.
5. From the drop down menu select your stolen iPhone.
6. The iPhone info window will pop up. Here you’ll be able to see how long ago the iPhone last checked in. You’ll also find three buttons below that: Play Sound, Lost Mode, and Erase iPhone.
Play Sound will allow you to activate the iPhone to play a sound. This is only really useful if you lost your iPhone somewhere around the house, not if it’s stolen and in another location.
Clicking Lost Mode will prompt you to enter a phone number where you can be reached. This phone number will then be display on your stolen iPhone’s screen. You can also enter a message that will be shown on your stolen iPhone’s screen. But both of these options are more for lost iPhones rather than stolen ones.
It’s not like the thief will be ringing you up to tell you he has your stolen iPhone (unless he wants a ransom). But Lost Mode does one other thing: it automatically locks your iPhone, which means the thief can’t get into it even if you didn’t have a passcode set before it was stolen.
Erase iPhone is a last step nuclear option that should only be used if the information on the stolen iPhone is more valuable than the iPhone itself. If you proceed with Erase iPhone all the iPhone’s content and settings will be erased, which prevents the thief from hacking into the phone to get your info, but then the iPhone will not be able to be tracked or located anymore.
My recommendation is that if you want to see your iPhone again you steer clear of using any of these three options in the iPhone info screen. What to do instead?
7. You’ll notice that the background of the Find My iPhone web app on iCloud.com is a big map with green dots on it. Each green dot represents the location of one of your devices. When you select your iPhone from the drop down devices list the map will automatically center on the green dot that represents your stolen iPhone. This is the location your iPhone is now at.
8. Don’t be a hero. I know, you’re angry some loser stole your phone, but don’t go running off after it like some vigilante just because you now know where it is. The fact of the matter is you don’t know who stole your phone and they could be a lot more dangerous than you think they are. So once you know where you iPhone is, note the address or – even better – take a screenshot of the Find My iPhone page on the web. Then call the cops and give them all the information. It will often be enough evidence they need to show up at the perpetrator’s premises to search for your stolen iPhone.
Removing Cards From Apple Pay
Apple’s new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus both support Apple Pay, and while the service is not yet live in the UK, plenty of our US readers will no doubt already be familiar with the service, which allows you to pay for goods in store using just your iPhone.
Time For Some Basic Insurance?
If you don’t have home or contents insurance then it is 100% worth investing in some basic insurance for your phone, tablet and laptops. The simplest reason why is because if you ever damage or lose any of these things you’re covered – and that’s worth the £4 a month it costs.
The wider reasons are myriad, however, and include things like having to pay for a phone that you no longer have for 24 months and not being able to do anything about it except suck up the cost and fork out a few hundred quid for a new phone.
Travel a lot? Then you definitely NEED insurance. I’ve lost a couple of phones abroad, both without insurance, and it wasn’t a fun experience. Dealing with foreign police via email and phone sucks. What sucks even more, though, is if you never get your phone/tablet/laptop back and you have to buy a new one.
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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the (others) author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of StickeeBra, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.
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