Protecting your mobile phone data if your phone is lost or stolen

Our mobile phones contain so much information about ourselves, it’s no wonder there’s so much stress if they go missing.  What should you do if your phone is lost or stolen?  Which apps can help protect you, or even track down a thief?  And how can you protect your privacy if you’re passing your phone on for recycling or a new user?MISSING

Basic house-keeping

Set a password to use your phone:  The simplest solutions are often the most effective ones.

Set the phone to automatically delete data if the password is incorrectly entered 10 times.

Add an app that allows you to remotely wipe data from your phone, or track it if it goes missing (see list below).

Keep a note at home of your IMEI number: This is the unique code that is associated with your phone, so don’t lose it.  You sometimes need to pass it on when you send a mobile to be recycled

Register with the “cloud” software associated with your phone model and use it as the default storage device for all your files.  Keep a note of the username and password for your cloud membership.  Do make sure the email address for your cloud membership and any accounts associated with the mobile are easily accessible from another device – a web email account is ideal as it can be accessed anywhere

Make sure you’re covered: Mobile phone-specific insurance isn’t essential, but make sure you are covered somehow. If you have an expensive phone model it is worth ensuring that it is specifically listed on your home contents insurance with the cost of replacing it accounted for

What to do if your phone has been lost or stolen?

If you are absolutely sure that you can’t recover your phone, then it’s time to report its loss.

Call the mobile operator first giving them the date and time that you last used it.  This will cover you for any fraudulent attempts to use your phone to download apps, or even use apps to purchase goods.  The phone should then be blocked from making any outgoing calls, but still able to receive them.

When you call the mobile operator be very clear about not accepting any liability for the loss.  Demonstrate that you didn’t accidentally leave your phone anywhere and were looking after it properly.  Be prepared to be questioned about this!

Call the police and get a crime number, you will need to provide this to make any insurance claim.

Use one of the apps listed below to attempt to trace the phone.

Change your Cloud ID password; the one on the mobile will be out of date and therefore, all apps and programmes associated with it will be unusable.

Change any passwords that are associated with your phone :  online banking, social networks, email, website communities – if you’ve accessed it on your phone, change it!

Useful apps

Find My iPhone:  Requires an Apple ID.  It will show your phone (or tablet) on a map if the device is online.

GadgetTrak: Cleverly uses the in-built camera to take a picture of anyone using a phone after it has been reported stolen and will stop apps from being deleted.

IHound: Features remote locking, data erasing and location tracking.  Very useful indeed, which is why it costs $3.99 per month to subscribe.

IFound+: If you think it’s more likely that your phone has been lost than stolen, use this handy app to replace the background wallpaper with a message to any Good Samaritans that might find it.

Mobile Spy: This one isn’t cheap, but it is like something out of James Bond…it provides real time reports on incoming and outgoing calls to the missing mobile, plus GPS location reports and lots more.

Plan B for Android:  You can install this after the phone is stolen…which is amazing, most apps of this kind must be added to the device beforehand.  It will then send location reports to your email or another mobile number of your choice.

LocateMyDroid: Tracks your phone in real-time on a web interface, it is free and works everywhere in the world.

How to delete data from your phone

If you’re passing a phone on, or sending it to be recycled, you need to be sure your personal details can’t be accessed. So, what you need to do is return it the default factory settings.  This will delete everything!  Contacts, internet history, apps, messages…every trace of you being the owner.

Before doing that, it is so important that you check that you are absolutely ready, there’s no turning back…have you saved everything you need to save?

Check the mobile phone manual for the individual settings.  These are some of them –

iPhone 4S:  Settings > General > Reset > Erase all content and settings
HTC One S: Settings > Storage > Factory Data Reset > Reset phone > Erase Everything
Nokia Lumia 800: Settings > About > Reset Your Phone
Blackberry Bold: Options > Security > Security Wipe

Have you got any tips to share?

About Jenny Simpson

Freelance writer specialising in consumer technology and lifestyle matters. A former Journalist, with a long career in online marketing, which began in the Ringtones team at Orange - she's not responsible for Crazy Frog though! Jenny also writes about TV, films, music and digital marketing on her personal blog. Follow Jenny on Twitter: @jennysimpson