Losing your phone: when can an app help, and when – only the police?

A lost phone

Below, Dr. Virgilijus Stundžia, the Deputy-Director of the Infrastructure and Device Control Department at the Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania (CRA), explains how to avoid personal data theft after losing your phone and what to do if you lose your phone or have it stolen.

Apps can help find a lost phone, but in case of theft you need the police

According to Dr. Stundžia, if you cannot find your smartphone, the first line of response is to search for it using apps that locate your phone.

“Smartphone, operational system, or app developers offer free and paid apps (i.e., “Find my device”) with which to locate a mobile device; thus, if the phone is not out of battery, it should not be too hard to locate it. If it is out of battery, however, such apps can only indicate its last known location before it turns off,” notes Dr. Stundžia.

Such apps can be found easily online or in the most popular app stores. “Google Play” offers “Find My Phone,” “SeekDroid,” “Plan B,” while Apple’s “App Store” offers “Find My iPhone.” These apps can help if you are uncertain where you left a recently used phone.

However, if you suspect that the phone was stolen, the CRA expert recommends contacting the police.
“Tell the police all the information about the device that you have, including the information about its last known location from one of the phone-finding apps you might have used. The police might also need your phone’s unique number – the IMEI code,” reminds Dr. Stundžia.

You have to take care of your data beforehand

Users should never wait for an accident to back-up or secure their data.

“First, you should use a strong passcode for your phone. It could be a password, fingerprint scan, facial recognition function. The traditional swipe-to-unlock, or a simple combination are not safe. Second, you should regularly back-up the information on your phone. Third, you should also install an app or use a service that allows to locate your device. However, using these tools presents a trade-off: they allow third parties to know your location. Fourth, find out and write down your phone’s IMEI code, which you will have to present to the police in case of theft. This code is usually found on a sticker on the body of the device, under the battery; it is also often presented in the documents accompanying the purchase of the phone,” explains Dr. Stundžia.

To secure your phone’s data, downloaded apps, or your photo gallery, you may also use apps specifically designed for this purpose, such as “App Locker,” “File Locker,” or “Gallery Locker.”

If you want to protect your information from cybercrime too, it is recommended to use an antivirus app, to never install unknown or untrustworthy apps or apps from untrustworthy sources.

The first steps after losing your phone

In case you lost your phone, or had it stolen, these initial steps are strongly recommended:

1. Call the phone number to check if it is not turned off and whether the SIM card is taken out
2. Use an app or service that allows you to locate the phone
3. If you suspect that the phone was stolen, contact the police and give them all the information you have: the last known phone location, any movement of the phone after it has gone missing, if the phone is turned off, etc.
4. Indicate your device’s IMEI code and contact the mobile service provider asking to block your phone as soon as possible

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