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Last year, over 2 million Americans had their phones stolen. Phone thefts usually happen in public areas when your guard is down. Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to prevent this from happening, as well as precautions to put in place so that if it does get stolen, you have a better chance of tracking it. Be alert, be smart, and be intentional about living in a way that is ensured to keep your phone safe from theft.
Record the ID.
Your phone has a unique serial number that your mobile device company keeps a record of. It’s good to store this in your own notes because if your phone gets stolen, you can use this number to make sure it’s returned to you when the thief is caught. Sometimes the police will ask for your phone's ID when you file a police report, so that they can identify the phone. To figure out what yours is, just dial *#06# and it should pop up.
Be aware of your surroundings.
There are certain situations where your mobile phone is more likely to be stolen, like high traffic public arenas and very touristy areas. If you’re in a place with a lot going on where you’re likely be distracted, just keep your phone out of sight. Don’t leave your mobile phone out on a restaurant table, and don’t pull it out to check the time in the middle of Times Square on New Years Eve. Someone could see it, swipe it, and get away with it.
Set strong habits.
Keeping good habits could be the most important aspect of phone security. Decide on a specific place to keep your phone when you’re on the move. If you travel with a purse or backpack, choose a strategic pocket, preferably on the inside of the bag, accessible only through unzipping or unbuttoning the outside layer. Not only does this help keep track of where you put it, it prevents you from accidentally placing it somewhere that a thief could easily access, like the back pocket of your pants. This is especially important while traveling in highly populated areas. To keep your phone safe from theft, establish anti theft habits to minimize the chances that you'll slip up when it matters most.
Set up a tracker.
Since mass cannot be created or destroyed, if your phone is lost or stolen, it has to be somewhere. One of the most effective ways to deal with a missing phone is simply by connecting it to a tracker in advance so that you can scout out the exact location if someone swipes it. If you have an iPhone, try Find My iPhone, which you can access through logging into iCloud. If you have an Android phone, you can access the Android Device Manager with a computer to track your phone. (There are also a number of security apps for Android phones that provide extra added protection of your device.) This does require your phone to be on, however, and you need to set up the device manager beforehand.
Lock it up.
Even though you can’t lock your phone like you would a bike, you should make sure to set up phone security so that only you can get through to the home screen. The physical device is just a material good—it’s what’s inside that people are trying to get to. Make sure you use a random code and preferably use a feature like fingerprint recognition to make it extra secure, so that if it does get into the wrong hands, they won't be able to do any further damage.
Put a glove on it.
A great way to keep your phone safe from theft is to wrap it up, dispelling calculating eyes and protecting it at the same time. A shiny new cell phone is much more tempting to swipe than a phone in a plain black case with scratches and dents. If you buy a phone cover that’s shaped like a notebook, with a front flap to shield the screen, that takes your level of protection a step further. You can also hide a lost and found tile that helps you find lost items inside your protective case, so that you can secretly track your phone and apprehend any thieves who may have caught you off-guard (with help from local authorities, of course).
Wipe the slate clean.
On both Find My iPhone and the Android Device Manager, you can remotely wipe your mobile device clean of information so that if it falls into deviant hands, you don’t have to worry about being exploited. This is especially important if you’ve ever used a credit card to pay for something, or if you have private photos or videos. Make a habit of backing up your phone at the same time every week, or on any of the available iPhone security apps, so that if you do have to erase the memory, you still have a copy of the information to yourself.
Inform the cops.
If your phone does go missing, an important step to take is filing a police report. Filing a report that your phone has been stolen is essential for a number of reasons. First, it launches an official investigation and if the phone is found somewhere, they will be able to get it back to you more quickly. Next, if you shut down your credit cards, the major credit agencies require a police report as part of the process. Finally, if the thief uses your credit cards to buy stuff, having a police report can help in disputing those charges.
Bring in the big guys.
After you file a police report, the next thing to do is call your bank and credit card companies to warn them about the possibility of fraudulent charges so they can be on alert in case someone gets into your phone and tries to cause some damage. Being proactive about what could happen after a phone theft is better than sitting around and attempting to clean up the chaos afterwards. You can request a formal investigation from your carrier and they can also freeze your account so that you won’t be charged for any criminal activity.
Shut it down.
If your phone is gone and you’re pretty sure it’s been stolen, you should disable the phone number completely by calling your phone company. If it’s gone, all you can do to keep your phone safe from theft at this point is shut it off and move on. Begin a relationship with a new cellular device; it may be painful at first, but you’ll both warm up in time.