Which?’s top tips for what to do if you lose your mobile phone, and what security steps you can take to protect your handset if it’s stolen.
Losing your mobile – whether it’s a smartphone or a basic PAYG handset – can be a shock to the system. Many of us are so attached to our mobiles that we’d realise our phone was missing within minutes.
If you’re lucky, a frantic search will reveal your mobile hiding down the back of a sofa, or in a random pocket. But if not, it doesn’t matter whether your phone’s been missing for 15 minutes or 24 hours – the steps you should take are the same:
- Call your mobile operator immediately. Your handset itself might be a goner, but you can minimise the risk of a thief running up a big mobile bill by asking your operator to put a block on your mobile being used. Unlike credit cards, you are not automatically covered for calls made between your phone going AWOL and reporting it missing, so the sooner you let your operator know, the better.
- Call your insurance company if your mobile is insured. If you have dedicated gadget or mobile phone insurance, you may be covered for the cost of fraudulent use between the loss and reporting it as long as you report the phone missing within a certain time period – often 24 hours. Even if you don’t have mobile phone insurance, it’s worth giving your car or home insurer a call to see if they’ll cover you for the loss of the handset at least.
Top tips to protect your mobile phone
If you’re lucky, your precious mobile phone will be located by an honest citizen and returned to you, no harm done. But it’s not worth relying on this. Which? has even heard from people who’ve received a call to their landline from the person who’s ‘found’ their phone, promising to send it back or meet them to return it.
In many cases, this ‘hero’ who found the phone turned out to be the person who stole the phone in the first place, who had called only to prevent the phone being blocked so they could carry on using it fraudulently. With heavy and consistent use of premium rate and other expensive services, it’s possible for thieves to run up bills of thousands of pounds in a surprisingly short time.
Fortunately, there are a number of precautions you can take to protect your phone should it fall into dishonest hands.
- Don’t leave your mobile phone on display when you’re not using it. This gives opportunist thieves less of an ‘opportunity’. This is particularly important in cars – even if they’re locked. A high percentage of mobile phone thefts are from vehicles.
- Lock your mobile handset with a security Pin. Ideally set your Pin to automatically activate after, say, five minutes of inactivity, as this will stop thieves being able to use your mobile phone. See your mobile phone manual for how to set the security lock.
- Disguise sensitive personal data you keep on your mobile. If you use your mobile to help remember important personal details like banking Pin-numbers, disguise them to prevent thieves recognising what they are – for example by saving a four-digit Pin as part of a mock phone number.
- Register your mobile phone at immobilise.com. This enables police to return stolen property as they find it.
- Keep a note of your mobile phone’s unique 15-digit IMEI number. This is usually printed under the phone battery, or can be accessed by keying *#06# into most phones. If a mobile phone is stolen, the IMEI number helps your mobile service provider block the phone.
- Block premium calls and texts from your mobile. Many mobile operators let you put a block on calling premium rate 09 numbers or texting premium rate short codes like (88888). If you don’t call premium 09 numbers or use premium text numbers such as those used for voting in reality TV shows, blocking them can stop thieves using these expensive services.
- Consider a smartphone disabling app. Most smartphones offer apps or services – such as the iPhone app ‘Find my iPhone’ – that let the user locate their handset if it goes missing. Some also let you lock your smartphone remotely, or even remotely wipe all the data from your handset to stop thieves accessing your personal information.