Lost your smart phone? Here's what you need to do

Consumer Reports says the number of stolen phones nearly doubled in the past year, but there are ways to find them
April 17, 2014 8:31:34 PM PDT
A warning for smart phones users: Experts say thefts are way up and based on a recent survey. Consumer Reports estimates the number of stolen phones nearly doubled in the past year to 3.1 million.

Shari Dipaola knows the nightmare of losing a phone.

"It's almost a panic situation because if someone else gets hold of your phone they have all the texts that you sent out, where you're going, what your schedule is, who you're meeting," she said.

Dipaola secures her phone with a passcode. But a Consumer Reports' survey found more than half of smart phone owners fail to take that basic precaution.

"Four digits are better than nothing, but the strongest passcodes have at least eight digits in them and have a mix of letters, numbers and symbols," said Mike Gikas with Consumer Reports.

And what about getting your phone back? Consumer Reports says you'll have better luck if you think ahead.

"The simplest step: Tape your email address to the back of the phone," Gikas said.

Another precaution: Write down your phone's unique ID, which police may need if the phone is lost or stolen. You can find the ID by dialing star-pound-zero-six-pound.

And Consumer Reports recommends setting up a "Find My Phone" account, though the survey found less than a quarter of smart phone owners use one.

Android phones have it built in. Go to Google settings and click the Android Device Manager. In Settings, be sure to activate "access location."

On iPhones, install "Find My iPhone" from the app store. Make sure you're signed in to iCloud with your Apple ID. If your phone goes missing, sign into the account from a computer or tablet.

"Look for the phone on the map. If it's far away, or you can't see it, push the erase button," Gikas said.

If your phone is lost or stolen, Consumer Reports says change the password on all your important accounts and file a report with the police. You may need the police report to dispute unauthorized charges on your credit cards. And let your bank and credit card companies know that your phone is missing, too.

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