Lost or Stolen Android Phone? Here’s How to Find it

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Losing your primary phone or having it stolen can be stressful and panicking, especially if you are concerned about your media, banking credentials, passwords, and other personal information falling into the wrong hands. Not to mention, buying a new phone will leave your wallet lighter at the end of the day.

If you manage to misplace your Android phone or have it stolen, you must take some key steps as fast as possible. For those who didn’t know, every modern Android smartphone comes with built-in tracking services. It allows users to track down their lost devices with pinpoint accuracy and lock them remotely to protect sensitive data.

However, you also need to ensure that the tracking services are enabled beforehand. If you still have your Android phone and worry about losing it, make sure to follow this guide and prepare yourself for the worst-case scenario.

Be prepared before you lose your Android phone

As much as we don’t like the idea of losing our phones, anything can happen in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hence, you should take precautions to minimize the damage today rather than panicking after it’s gone. Here are a few things you should do while you still have access to your Android phone:

Set a secure lock screen 

Source: TechCodex

First, make sure you are using a strong password, PIN, or pattern lock to secure your Android phone. Adding an extra step to unlock it is worth the effort, given someone else could easily get access to your personal information and commit identity theft.

We recommend using something tricky but simple enough for you to memorize so that you don’t lock yourself out of your device.

  1. Head over to the Settings menu from the app drawer or the notification shade.
  2. Scroll down and tap Security, followed by tapping Screen lock under the “Device Security” section.
  3. Select the screen lock style you prefer, then follow the on-screen prompts to secure your device.

Quick note: The above steps apply to Google Pixel and other phones running a stock version of Android. Depending on your device, the steps may vary vastly.

Once you set a secure lock screen, do yourself a favor and enable biometric authentication as well. We highly advise using fingerprint over facial recognition, as most Android phones rely on two-dimensional face scanning that can be easily tricked with a photo of yours.

Though if you use a Google Pixel 4 or a Pixel 4 XL, you won’t have to worry about it as they use a secure and reliable face unlocking system like Apple’s Face ID. It’s worth mentioning that you can use biometric authentication to lock banking apps and encrypt your personal files on the device.

Enable Google’s Find My Device

Almost every Android phone comes with Google’s “Find My Device” feature baked in. When you sign in to your device with a Google account, the feature gets automatically enabled.

In the event your phone goes missing, you can log into your Google account from another device and track its last known location, ring it when you suspect it’s nearby, or remotely erase it if you think it’s stolen.

To ensure Find My Device is enabled on your Android phone, follow the below steps.

  1. First, go to your phone’s Settings menu, scroll down the options, and select Security.
  2. On the next page, tap Find My Device under the “Security Status” section.
  3. Tap the toggle switch to enable the feature. Ignore if it already says “On.”

Quick Note: Again, the steps vary depending on the Android phone you use. The above instructions apply to devices running a vanilla version of Android.

When you have “Find My Device” enabled, you can go to android.com/find from another device, sign in to your Google account, and check out how it all works. However, bear in mind that the feature works only when your phone is connected to the internet via a Wi-Fi or cellular network.

Note down your Android phone’s IMEI

Source: IMEI24

If your phone gets stolen, the thief will most likely try to flip it online. In that case, you want to have its IMEI number noted down so that you can later prove that the stolen phone is yours when you find it.

  1. Open the Phone app on your Android device.
  2. Next, dial *#06# from the dialer. A new “Device Information” window should appear.  
  3. Carefully note down the IMEI and serial number on a paper and keep it somewhere safe.

In case you are wondering, the IMEI number is a unique identifier for every smartphone. It’s what your Android phone uses to register cellular services, so it’s crucial to have the phone’s IMEI and serial numbers handy. You will need them to file a complaint to the police.

Get insurance for your phone

Most people believe insurance does nothing but waste money. But when an insured phone is lost or stolen, all the user has to do is file an insurance claim. Hence, you should also consider paying for a protection plan for your phone so that you will be covered when that day comes.

You can get in-house insurance directly from manufacturers and mobile carriers. Some of them also cover accidental damages and extend your phone’s warranty period. You can also go for any third-party insurance companies that provide better coverage.

What to do when you lose your Android phone

If your Android phone is currently missing, the following tips are for you. Some of them might potentially help you find it, and others will protect your personal information from being stolen should you fail to locate the lost phone.

Send a text or call

When you lose your phone, the first thing you should do is call or text it from another device. Provided the person who may have found the phone and doesn’t intend to steal it, they will answer the incoming call and try to meet up with you to return the device.

Make your phone ring in another way

Assuming you have “Find My Device” enabled on your lost Android phone, you can make it ring from another device, even when your phone is put on silent mode.

  1. First, visit android.com/find from a web browser on another phone or computer.
  2. Sign in to your Google account (the same one linked to your lost phone) if prompted.
  3. Now select your lost device and click the Play sound option.

That’s it! The lost phone should keep ringing for five minutes, giving you some time to locate it nearby.

Track your phone

If you are fortunate enough, you can try tracking your lost Android phone from another device using Google’s “Find My Device” service– assuming you enabled the feature and location services (GPS) before your phone went missing. All you have to do is visit android.com/find, sign in to your Google account, and check your device’s last known location.
However, if your phone has been stolen, we strongly advise you not to go to the tracked location alone to recover your device. Doing so could be dangerous for you or someone else, so you should report immediately to the local law enforcement instead.

Lock your device down

If the above tips don’t work out for you, we recommend locking your lost phone remotely to make sure your personal information remains safe. Again, “Find My Device” must be enabled for the feature to work.

  1. Open a browser tab on a different device and go to android.com/find.
  2. Log in to the same Google account linked to the lost Android phone.
  3. Click the Secure device option under your lost device and follow the on-screen prompts to add a lock screen message or phone number.

If the lost or stolen phone is still somehow connected to the internet, the “Find My Device” service will lock your device remotely and sign out of your Google account.

Erase your phone

When you aren’t expecting to get your lost phone back anymore, it’s time you remotely erase all the stored data on it to ensure whoever has it can’t misuse your private information. Given the severity of identity thefts these days, this is a critical step to take.

  1. Go to android.com/find on another phone or computer, and sign in to your Google account.
  2. Now select the lost or stolen phone you wish to erase.
  3. After that, click the Erase device option.

The next time the device is connected to the internet over Wi-Fi or cellular, “Find My Device” will remotely erase all of the data stored on it. In case you manage to recover your phone after that, you won’t have access to any of your data.

Contact your carrier

Another crucial step is to contact your mobile carrier and report your phone is missing so that they can suspend your cellular services. They will also blacklist the lost phone’s IMEI to prevent another person from activating it. Visit either your carrier’s local store or call their customer service for further assistance.

However, if you are still trying to track your lost phone, you won’t be able to do it anymore after deactivating your carrier services– unless your Android phone somehow connects to a public Wi-Fi network.

Additional steps to take when you lose your phone

Here are a few other things you should immediately do after losing your Android phone:

  • Log out of all the services you used on your phone remotely, including social media platforms and net banking apps.
  • Change passwords for all the accounts that were linked to your phone.
  • Contact your local cyber-crime police department and block your phone’s IMEI number.
  • Those who regularly used your Android phone for making cardless payments should contact their bank or credit card agency.
  • If you pay for phone insurance, file a claim and request a replacement.

Related article: 3 Simple Steps to Find Lost or Stolen Smartphone Through CEIR in India

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