So Your iPhone Was Lost or Stolen: Here’s What To Do

If your iPhone is no longer in your possession, you might never see it again and the last thing you want to worry about is data security. Here’s what you need to do.

Data theft can be just as damaging (if not more so) than losing a very expensive gadget. Your iPhone might be your pride and joy, but just imagine if someone gained access to your email, bank or social media accounts – wouldn’t that potentially be worse?

Here’s what to do when the unthinkable happens.

Use Find My iPhone

With the power of iCloud it’s now possible to locate your device provided it still has access to some sort of data connection (cellular or Wi-Fi). This won’t work if your device is not using the Find My Phone service (by default you have to opt out), has run out of battery or was last seen in Airplane Mode, but it’s certainly worth a shot.

Head over to iCloud.com, login with your Apple ID and the same password you use to authorise app purchases and click on Find My iPhone. iCloud will attempt to locate your device, if found you can take a note of whether it’s moving, whether it’s down the back of the sofa or indeed whether it appears somewhere entirely different to where you last had it – in which case, it’s probably been stolen.

lost mode   So Your iPhone Was Lost or Stolen: Heres What To Do

Using iCloud.com it’s possible to initiate a remote wipe of the phone, which will cause the phone to reset itself to factory settings and preserve your data. Do this by logging in, clicking on Find My iPhone then selecting the device and enabling Lost Mode. Don’t forget to leave a message and a phone number in the hope that whoever took it might actually return it (or leave it somewhere, at least).

If your phone has been stolen but remains traceable, you may want to hand the information over to the police. There have been a few examples where law enforcement have used Apple’s Find My iPhone location data to recover stolen devices, though be prepared that this may not be the case.

activation lock 2   So Your iPhone Was Lost or Stolen: Heres What To Do

If your phone has been updated to iOS 7, you’ve got another safety net in place in the form of Activation Lock. Even after wiping the device, it will require your own personal Apple ID and password to be usable. Until these credentials are provided, the phone will refuse to work as intended. It’s useless to the thief, and not even Apple will unlock it.

ios comparison   So Your iPhone Was Lost or Stolen: Heres What To Do

You can tell if your phone has been updated to iOS 7 first and foremost by the graphical style. Apple introduced a new, cleaner interface. You can see the difference at-a-glance in the screenshot above (iOS 7 is on the right). You can also head over to Settings > General > About and look at the number under Version.

If you’re reading this before your phone has been stolen (touch wood, it won’t be) this is just another compelling reason to upgrade to the latest and greatest.

What If You Can’t Find It?

If you can’t find your phone (and for the very security conscious out there, even if you can) there are still a few things you should do to ensure your most important accounts remain safe.

Your personal email address is probably more important than you realise. It’s where your password resets go, quite possibly your Apple ID is registered there and I bet you’ve got a bank account or similar financial service that uses it too. Access to this (and any, connected work email addresses could be just as devastating) should be revoked immediately upon noticing your phone has gone walkies.

Changing your password is often enough to require a re-authentication for your various devices, though if you’re using an application-specific password for logging in (such as those provided with Gmail’s two-factor authentication) then you can just revoke access under security settings.

twitter apps   So Your iPhone Was Lost or Stolen: Heres What To Do

Twitter and Facebook (among others) integrate with iOS 7 too. Revoke Twitter access by visiting Settings > Apps on Twitter’s main website (above), then clicking Revoke next to each entry. If you have core integration that won’t allow you to revoke access, simply change your main Twitter password and your phone’s login will then be outdated. Facebook’s approved apps can be revoked under Account Settings > Apps (below).

facebook apps   So Your iPhone Was Lost or Stolen: Heres What To Do

It’s especially important you do this as soon as physically possible if you were walking around without a passcode lock.

Once all account access has been revoked, you’ll probably want to cross your fingers that the thief or police are able to return your device. Having access to the IMEI (Settings > General > About) makes it easy to initialise a carrier-block, but iOS 7 takes care of much of the problem of stolen phones through Activation Lock.

Preventing Problems

At present, the best thing you can do is to lock your phone with a passcode or more adventurous password to delay any potential security breaches. Making sure you’ve got Find My iPhone running under Settings > iCloud will ensure your iPhone is traceable should it go missing. Upgrading to iOS 7 provides some peace of mind in the form of Activation Lock, rendering the phone useless even after it has been erased.

Even if you think your phone is secure, there’s always a chance the thief will guess and gain access. For best security, don’t choose easy “1234″ passcodes. You can read more about how disabling Control Centre may help protect your phone, as well as a breakdown of the current vulnerabilities faced by the iPhone 5S in our Touch ID security article.

If you’ve had your iPhone stolen then we’d love to hear your story – did you get it back? Did you use Find my iPhone?

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

20 Comments -

0 votes

musa

What about Samsung and Nokia phones??

0 votes

logan

This is an iPhone thread. Take that one somewhere else.

0 votes

lurch1963

Disable the option to delete software otherwise the first thing the thief will do is delete “find my iPhone” app which means you cannot locate it anymore via find my iPhone!

To do this (IO6 – no idea about IO7) go under Settings -> General
Turn on Restrictions, add passcode and then disable “deleting apps” option.

Yes, they may get past your passcode, but they cannot delete anything which means you still stand a chance of getting the phone back.

You also have other security options.
After 10 failed passcode entries – delete the contents of the phone. If you have sensitive data on your phone you also may want to set this up, although this will mean Find my iPhone app will also be deleted so you will not get the phone back, however no one will get access to any of your data either.

You also have options on the passcode, simple which is 4 digits, or you can have an advanced passcode, with numbers and letters.

0 votes

Tim B

This quite simply untrue. What has confused you is the fact that there is indeed a “Find my iPhone” companion app, which you can download from the App Store to help track your other Apple devices (laptops, tablets and so on).

This has nothing to do with the Find my iPhone service which is installed as part of the core software. Deleting the Find my iPhone app has no bearing on the ability to track and remotely wipe your phone, and the only way you can disable it is to turn off the Find my iPhone service under Settings > iCloud, which requires you input the linked Apple ID password.

You can read more about Activation Lock and how it works here: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/buying-or-selling-a-used-iphone-running-ios-7-read-this-first/

0 votes

James

If you’re in the UK you can add your device to the National property register on immobilise.com, I think this works in some other countries too. Police look on there if a device is handed in and get can’t see who’s it is easily. It’s free to use too.

0 votes

Tim B

Thanks for letting us know!

0 votes

Linda R

Three years ago my husband accidently left his iPod in his car when he went to work. He forgot to charge it the night before and was charging it with his car charger. He works as a manager at a local cheese factory and didn’t think it was necessary to lock his car in the secured parking lot. He realized at lunchtime when he usually plays a video game or two that it was gone and remembered leaving it plugged into the car. It was gone as was the charging cord. He tried all of the usual ways to retrieve it to no avail. About three months later he was back in the lunch/locker room when he heard two of our grandchildren laughing and talking. Of course they were not there, but their voices were coming out of one of the lockers. Security opened the locker and there was my husband’s iPod with a video playing that the kids accidently taped while playing with his iPod during one our Sunday visists. The woman who had stolen it didn’t even attempt tp erase anything. It was filled with mostly gaming apps and I guess she didn’t want to erase all of them to start over; who knows? We had already replaced the iPod with a newer model anyway so he gave it to the kids who had made the video.
He learned a valuable lesson and we now use the Find My iPhone option on all our devices. It has helped us find iPads, iPhones and iPod’s more than once under couch cushions, pillows and even pants pockets. With 6 kids and 18 grandchildren, we collectively have a lot of Apple devices to protect.

0 votes

TPhil

Stolen iphone? Good, don’t look for it

0 votes

logan

Life too boring for you?

0 votes

DMZ

Agree with TPhil above. No cell phones, no trouble!

0 votes

Joyce

About a year and a half ago my iphone was stolen in a casino while visiting Reno, NV. Later that evening I was reading on my ipad about ways to possibly retrieve it. I installed Find My iPhone at that time. My phone turned up on a map showing it to be across town. I sent a msg including their own address and asked them to return it to the casino security or I would turn over their address to the police. The next day I once again looked at the map. This time it showed my phone at the casino! Thank you Find My iPhone!

0 votes

Shellbells

I was at dairy queen just a couple days ago and had my iphone sitting on the table by all my stuff and when I came back to sit down with my food my iphone was gone I installed find my iphone but it keeps saying its offline so I think I can say my iphone is gone.

0 votes

Andrew

If you never enabled Find My Iphone and want to try to track your iphone using IMEI number these guys do that: http://www.iphonetrace.com/
Not sure about other phones though, I think they only work with Iphones.

0 votes

MADIHA

i take a glimpe and i found that i must pay ; but i ask if it s secure site and how i could know that s true

0 votes

MADIHA

a few days later my iphone was stolen but i didn t install find my iphone. so what i have to do if i want get it back?

0 votes

Tim B

Go to iCloud.com

Login with your Apple ID

Click Find my iPhone

Wait and see!

0 votes

MADIHA

thanx for your help tim B but when i click on find my iphone i found this msg: all devices offline so i think i lost my iphone

0 votes

Lekha

My iPhone has been stolen. find my iphone is of no use. couldnt get it back.

0 votes

Jane

my iphone 5 was stolen, used find my phone app, put the phone in lost mode. And bam !!!! my phone was found about an hour away from where I live, So I called the police and they came with me to the house, I knocked on the door, losers answered the door at first denying they had my phone, I showed them the app on my ipad showing a map leading me to their property. so got my phone back, losers took happy snaps of themselves on my phone, so I shared those photos on social media , with the title ‘thieving scumbags’ :)

0 votes

Tim B

Thank you for sharing Jane, I absolutely love a story like that. It’s great that law enforcement are embracing the technology put in place by manufacturers. You did the right thing by acting quickly – delay and it could be too late.