What to do if your iPhone is lost or stolen

Find My iPhone situation

Better safe than sorry, they say. This is particularly true when it comes to expensive items that contain a considerable amount of private information, such as your iPhone or your iPad. If you can’t necessarily prevent losing your iPhone or even worse, having it stolen from you, there are however some steps you can take to ensure that in the eventuality such thing would happen, you will be completely ready to handle the situation.

While we hope you’ll never have to deal with this, we want to make sure you know your options and have been proactive in securing your iOS device, whether it is an iPhone, an iPad, or an iPod touch. In this post, we will share with you some of the actions you can take to prepare your iPhone or iPad, and to protect it in case it is lost or stolen.

Enable Find My iPhone

Find My iPhone 5s

This is the most basic, yet the most important step in protecting your iOS device. Once enabled Find My iPhone will let you locate, track, lock and even completely wipe your iPhone in the event it’s been lost or stolen.

Starting with iOS 7, if you use iCloud, then you automatically use Find My iPhone. Opting you in this feature by default is Apple’s way to make sure you have at least a basic level of protection without requiring you to do anything specific.

Even if you use iCloud, I strongly recommend that you check right now if Find My iPhone is enabled on your device(s). My wife, for example, uses iCloud to backup her iPhone, but when I recently checked her device, I realized that Find My iPhone was disabled for some reason. I obviously turned it back on immediately.

Must read: How to set up Find My iPhone for your iPhone or iPad

Put your device in Lost Mode

iPhone in Lost Mode

If your iPhone was lost or stolen, the first thing you should do is to put your device in Lost Mode.

Lost Mode will allow you to passcode protect the device (if it wasn’t before), and add a personal message and phone number to the Lock screen. This way, if someone finds your phone, they can immediately call to let you know they found it.

Thieves being what they are, they won’t call you to tell you they stole your device, but by putting it in Lost Mode, you at least make sure that not only they can’t get into the phone, but the phone itself makes it clear that it was lost or stolen.

The best part of Find My iPhone is that it automatically enables Activation Lock, a feature that prevents anyone from restoring your device and activating it to make use of it. If your device is in Lost Mode, no one will be able to restore the device or use it as their own, making it completely useless for everyone but you.

Must read: How to put your iPhone or iPad in Lost Mode

Track the device

Locate find my iPhone map

Assuming you have enabled Find My iPhone and took the time to put it in Lost Mode, the next thing you want to do is to locate your device.

If you believe you lost your iPhone around the house, you can simply play a sound on the device, directly from the Find My iPhone app. This might help you locate your device if it’s close by, even if it is on mute.

Find my iPhone has a feature that lets you locate a device on the map, and even get turn by turn driving directions to it. This can help you figure out you lost your iPhone at the park for example.

This feature can potentially take you to the doorstep of a thief as well. We’ve seen quite our share of horror stories related to Find My iPhone, so don’t be a hero! If you believe your iPhone was stolen and you track it down to a certain location, we highly suggest you do not confront the thief but call the police instead.

Obviously, for all this to work, your device has to be on and online, whether it is via Wi-Fi or cellular.

Must read: How to track an iPhone or iPad with Find My iPhone

Erase the device

erase this iPhone situation

If all attempts to recover the device have failed, your very last resort should be to erase all the data contained on it to make sure it doesn’t fall in the wrong hands. Of course, if you followed the step above to put your device in Lost Mode, your data is supposedly safe, but it’s still physically on the device. The only way to clean the device is to erase it remotely.

We can’t stress enough that this should be your last course of action because once erased, you won’t be able to lock or track the device with Find My iPhone. When you remotely erase the device, you pretty much understand you’re never going to see it again.

Worth noting is that even if you erase the device remotely, the person who stole or found it will not be able to do anything with it. If they try to activate the phone, they will get stuck as they’ll need your Apple ID and password to proceed.

Must read: How to remotely erase an iPhone or iPad

Report your device to the police

While this might not prove to be really effective, it doesn’t hurt to report your lost or stolen device to your local authorities. You might have to spend a while at the police station to get it done, but if they ever find your device, they will be able to trace it and give it back to you.

In order to do so, they will most likely need the Serial Number of the device. You can find your device’s Serial Number on the original box or receipt. If you don’t have these, you can always find it from https://getsupport.apple.com, assuming you registered your device with your own Apple ID.

Report your device to your carrier

Your iPhone might have been somewhat secured thanks to Lost Mode, but your SIM card can still be used in a different device to make phone calls, send text messages and use data. This is why we strongly recommend calling your carrier as soon as possible and reporting your device as lost and make sure they deactivate your account. The sooner you do this, the quicker you make sure no one is going to make expensive calls on your dime. The carrier might also be able to add your device to a database of lost and stolen devices.

Any other tip?

Do you have any other tip to share about what can you can do when your iPhone is lost or stolen?