Few things can make a person feel more naked in modern times than losing a phone. We use our phones for so much more than making phone calls, and the thought of a stranger having access to all that data can make your stomach turn. Learning how to find your lost cell phone can help secure your information and give you peace of mind.
Finding Any Type of Cell Phone
Call your phone.
The easiest way to find a cell phone is to call your phone number from another phone. You can do this to find any cell phone, regardless of whether it’s a smart phone. Just ask someone you know to call your number, or use a free website service like wheresmycellphone.com or freecall.com to dial your number from a computer.
Have someone text your phone.
A close second to calling your cell phone is having someone else text your phone. If your phone is truly lost (as in lost at a public place, not misplaced around your apartment), you can text your contact info to your phone so that anyone who finds the phone will know your identity and how to reach you.
- If you can’t find anyone to text your phone you can use a free website service.
- You can also try texting a reward offer to your phone. This may convince someone who finds your cell phone to contact you and arrange a meeting.
Retrace your steps.
Retracing your steps can help you find any lost or misplaced item, not just cell phones. However, if you had your phone at an earlier location and have realized that you left your cell phone somewhere, retracing your steps can help you locate your mobile phone (as long as it hasn’t been taken).
- Whatever you do, don’t panic. Panicking will only worsen your situation, and might make it difficult to concentrate or think clearly.
- Sit down for a moment and think about where you’ve been and what you’ve done. Consider when and where you last remember having or using your phone, and work your way forward from there.
- If you frequented any restaurants or stores before you lost your phone, try asking an employee if anyone found/returned a lost phone. If the phone was left with an employee, you should be able to simply give a description of your phone, or tell the employee your phone number so he can call it and verify that it’s your phone.
Contact your service provider.
Some cell phone service providers have GPS location services available to customers. Even if your provider does not offer such an option, they can at least cut off service to your phone.
- Find your provider’s customer service number online, or look up your provider’s local offices in a phone book.
Locating a Smart Phone
Find an Android phone.
If you’ve lost an Android phone there are two ways to track it down. If the phone is still turned on and in range of a wireless signal, you can track it from a computer using Device Manager. If the phone is turned off or is out of service range, you can check your phone’s last reported location from a computer.
- To use Device Manager, sign into your Google account from a computer or another device. Google’s Device Manager should instantly show you your phone’s location on a Google Maps screen. Device Manager has additional options to lock your phone, make the phone ring, or remotely wipe its contents and data clear.
- Check your phone’s last recorded location by going to google.com/settings/accounthistory. Then click on “Places You Go,” and “Manage History.” However, this option relies on wi-fi and mobile signals instead of GPS, so it will not be as accurate at locating your phone as the Device Manager.
Search for a BlackBerry phone.
BlackBerry devices do not typically include their own tracking apps or services. However, you can sign up for a third-party service like Berry Locator. This service costs $6.95 and will send a message to your lost device, as well as show you on a map where your device is located.
Locate an iPhone
The primary way to locate a lost iPhone is by using the Find My iPhone app. If your phone does not have the app downloaded, you’ll need to download it through the App Store. The Find My iPhone app is fairly accurate, but it requires the phone to be turned on, connected to the internet, and have an Apple ID to work.
- Using a computer or another mobile device, log into your iCloud and open Find My iPhone. Your phone’s location should appear on a map, which you can use to track your phone’s movement.
- Find My iPhone gives you the option of remotely making your iPhone make sounds (to alert you or others nearby of your phone’s location and its status as being lost/stolen), send a message with contact information to your iPhone, or wipe the contents and data clear off your device.
Track down a Windows phone.
Windows Phone users can use the built-in lost phone feature that comes on all Windows 8.1 and later models. Simply visit the Microsoft devices page from a computer or another wireless device to view a list of all the Microsoft phones and tablets you own. You can then use the location service to track down the device of your choosing.
- Once you’re logged into the Microsoft lost phone service, you can remotely lock your cell phone or wipe the contents and data off your device.
Be smart and safe.
If you feel that your device has been stolen, try to retrieve it yourself. Instead, report it to the police and let them take care of the problem for you. Trying to retrieve your phone yourself could land you in serious trouble, and may even cost you your life.
Cancel your passwords and logins.
The speed with which you need to do this and the extent of it will depend on how much you use your phone for online interaction. For some, this may be very little, while for others, it could be a huge task. You may also want to cancel any credit/debit cards that were registered to any online stores through that device (like the App store, for example).
- If you’re worried that the phone is in someone else’s hands, the sooner you do this the better, as identity theft is a serious and widespread issue.
- It’s better to take the time to reset your passwords and logins before physically hunting further for your phone. This will minimize the potential damage someone could do with access to your information, and if you do find your phone then using new passwords is only a minor inconvenience.
- Start with your most important passwords. This typically includes email, bank accounts, Facebook, and online storage. Deal with financial and personal information first. After you have changed your major passwords, you can reset passwords for less important services.
Contact the telephone company.
Have your account details handy, so that your account can be closed down. You may need a password or passcode, if you designated one for your account. Having your service provider cancel the phone will help keep someone (whether a thief or someone who finds your phone) from making unauthorized calls with your SIM card.
- If you have a phone that is paid by usage rather than prepaid, and you cannot find it within 2 hours, it usually is a better idea to call your phone company immediately and tell them to deactivate your phone.
Visit the police station. Smartphone insurance providers will often want a police report, if you intend to file a claim through your pre-paid insurance option. Some phone companies may also require a police report just to deactivate your account.
- Lost phones are often turned in and left unclaimed because people assume that nobody would have been kind enough to have handed them in.
Preventing Future Losses
Know your phone’s serial number.
Every cell phone is equipped with an electronic serial number. Depending on the type and model of cell phone you use, your phone’s unique number may be called an IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity), MEID (Mobile Equipment Identifier), or ESN (Electronic Serial Number). It’s often located on a sticker under the battery, though its location will vary depending on your phone.
- Find your cell phone’s serial/identification number when you first purchase it. Write the number down and keep it in a safe place at home.
- If you ever lose your phone, you can report your serial/identification number to the police and to your wireless provider.
Register your phone online.
Some online services, such as MissingPhones.org, allow you to register your cell phone with the website. This can help you in the future, should your phone become lost or stolen down the line.
- In order to register your phone, you’ll need the serial number from your device.
Have a designated place for everything.
If you’re prone to losing things, you may want to work on reducing the frequency of those losses, no matter what the item may be. Try getting into a habit of leaving things in particular places, which can help you know where to look next time.
- If you tend to lose your phone at home, try to keep it on a nightstand or coffee table whenever it’s not on your person.
- When your phone is on your person, give it a designated pocket and always check that you have everything when you get up to leave. For example, you might tap your pockets to confirm in a particular order that you’ve got your keys, wallet, and cell phone.
Prepare to avoid future losses.
There are certain precautions you can take to assist your efforts in the future, should you lose or misplace your phone again. You can register your phone for a GPS tracking service, either through your wireless provider or through an independent service like AccuTracking or Belon.gs. You can also keep a written record of your phone’s serial/identification number in your wallet or at home.
- Always password protect your phone if you can. Many phones come with an option to lock the home screen using a password of your choosing.
- Keep your contact details on the homescreen of the phone. This can help when an honest finder gets hold of your phone and just wants to return it to you. However, be aware that it can also make it easy for dishonest people to know where you live and who you are.
- Backup your contents and any data stored on your phone, in case your phone is ever lost or stolen.
- It can be really frustrating and upsetting to lose a phone. However, remember that it’s just an object and you can live without it. It’s more important to keep a clear head and ensure that your personal and financial information stays safe.