What to do if you lose your iPhone?

by Sandra Fathi on February 9, 2008

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First, cry! I did. I lost my iPhone at a business function on Thursday and I was pretty hopeful that someone would turn it in. Alas, it hasn’t happened and I may have to face the cold, hard reality that it just might not be coming back.

Second, fight for your iPhone. I am not giving up without a fight. I scoured the Web, called AT&T and Apple and thought that I’d receive a plethora of advice and support. Unfortunately, I got a lot of “Sorry, but there is nothing we can do for you” and “Just go out and buy a new one.” Well, neither of those options seemed fair. So I thought I’d try to make a list of things that you can do to help yourself. Even if you don’t get your iPhone back, you don’t want someone else using it or accessing your files.

What to do if your iPhone is lost or stolen?

1. Check your phone usage online or call AT&T. You should be able to logon and see if anyone has used your iPhone. If they are using it, and its not to call you, your journey probably ends here. You may need to shut off (cancel) your account and spend another $300 bucks on a new iPhone. However, if it hasn’t been used, keep checking it periodically.

2. Suspend your account with AT&T. Logon to www.attwireless.comand go to your account. Click on your device, click on lost or stolen phone, and click on suspend. This will prevent someone from using your iPhone to make outgoing calls. However, they can still open it and see recent phone numbers or your contact list. Hopefully, you have one that says ‘home’ or ‘work’ and they’ll still use it to contact if you if they are trying to return your phone.

2. Change your email passwords. If you are like me, you may have personal and work email synched with your iPhone. Immediately, change your email passwords so that no new mail can be retreived by the device. This will at least prevent new messages from being intercepted. This is also a lesson not to store too many emails on the device. Keep it to its lowest setting so that you are less vulnerable if the device is lost or stolen. (There is a locking feature on the device similar to the Blackberry. It’s off by default, but if you were smart enough to activate it, it could help prevent access as well.)

3. Change your Apple iTunes passwords. If you have a credit card on file with iTunes, and your iPhone is associated with that account, that will prevent the user from using your iPhone to buy music on your account.

4. Report it stolen to the local police. Hey, you never know. The folks at Apple and AT&T kept suggesting this when I called them but when I asked why, they really didn’t have an answer. I think the NYPD has more high priority crimes than a lost/stolen iPhone, but maybe if someone walked the phone into a precinct, it would help if I had reported it stolen.

5. Reach out to the community. In my online search, I saw people post appeals on Craigslist, EveryBlock.com and other sites. I even saw a few people post a few days later that they did get their iPhone back, mostly from good samaritans rather than readers of the post. Usually, you get a lot of comments from people that share in your sorrow with you since they too, lost their iPhone. So at least,  you can be miserable together.

I hope this helps someone. I’ll let you know if mine comes back. I have good karma, so it should. (But, I won’t hold my breath.)

UPDATE: March 6th, 2008

I got a call today that my iPhone was found! I am thrilled, and grateful, that it was returned. But, I am also kicking myself because I bought a new one 2 weeks ago. So, I have now paid more for 2 iPhones than what I paid for my wedding ring! (I am not sure what is more pathetic, how cheap my wedding ring was, or how ridiculous it is to buy an iPhone, or 2 for that matter!)

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Aaron Wakling 02.09.08 at 6:45 pm

I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

Aaron Wakling

nick fletcher 02.10.08 at 3:13 am

i left mine at wholefoods
not long ago
and i freaked out
more than i would for a credit card
thinking about the mess this could make,
and the complications of sorting it all out.
luckily, someone had handed it in.
since then i use the passcode.

ac 02.10.08 at 4:28 am

Don’t forget to check the buyer’s protection policy on the credit card that you used to buy the phone with. Sometimes they will be able to reimburse you for the original cost.

Sandra Fathi 02.11.08 at 1:38 pm

Aaron, thanks for the positive feedback!

Nick, I am so jealous! It’s day 4 and I think I am having withdrawal symptoms.

AC, thanks for the advice. I am going to check on it!

Lisa 04.16.08 at 2:40 pm

I lost my iphone and apple said that if someone finds it they can activate it. I think that is so wrong!!!!!

iPhoneJoe 11.21.09 at 4:58 pm

My iPhone was stolen when I was out to dinner one night a couple weeks ago – literally disappeared in less than 30 seconds.
I found this place to report the stolen iPhone online:
http://www.stolen-property.com/report-stolen-iPhone.php
It’s a website that you can report stolen property not just iPhone theft, and it’s free!
This permanent record the iPhone’s serial number online makes me feel better.

Mila 08.17.10 at 7:05 pm

Hi,

You article is SO cheerful.. Someone has stolen mine today at our PEDIATRICS office :(((((. I just cannot believe it happened. I came home in tears, there are so many personal apps and data, like pictures, my favorite apps, my dear boys favorite apps, smss, budget charts…

I followed all your advices (except I didn’t report it to the police station yet), and it did make me kind of feel better.. I am still sad, but at least I am prepared! >:(

Thanks a lot
Mila

Sandra Fathi 08.18.10 at 10:29 am

Hi Mila,
It still stings when I think about it! I hope you get your iPhone back. But, hey, if you don’t, now you have an excuse to by the iPhone 4. ;) Think positive.
Best,
Sandra

Tera 09.10.10 at 10:26 am

Yesss. i left my iphone in a cab on friday night…. i was very very upset naturally. but i went out and got the Iphone 4 and i absolutely love it!!! it may have put a dent in my checkbook but it was definitely worth it. and as long as you sync your phone periodically, you should still have all your info :)
Thanks for the advice
Tera

Linda 01.29.11 at 7:42 pm

Yes, this is a huge bummer. I just lost mine.

Another thing to mention is changing the password to your other apps accounts. If you are like me with an Amazon account and app, the person who finds your phone could purchase things if your payment information is stored for the “one click” option.

Michele 05.14.11 at 8:42 pm

I just lost my new white iPhone 4!!! ugh it took no time for someone to walk off with it at the pharmacy counter! I hadn’t even left the parking lot. It truly is a nightmaire when you lose your phone nowadays!

amy to 05.18.11 at 12:08 pm

hi i lost my iphone at my school! someone walked off with it! didnt take that long for them to do that! then i went to the school and told the head to search this boy who was pionted out by the soources of evidence and the head searched nothing out! of course who would not hide it when he knows were on to him . he’s not stupid! but then the school said when i asked them again its not our responsilbility so sorry! i was like ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!! and i cried and cried but still poooff nothing came to me! :( good to know some poelpe had met some nice people by giving their iphone back but come on who would return a iphone when they could keep it! my only protection is the lock i have but it isnt hard to unlocki it!!!! im soo sad.

Kate 07.17.11 at 5:55 am

Hey thanks for the advice. My phone was snatched out of my hand in a Paris Metro! Anyone who is traveling, BE AWARE! The stories you hear are true!
So now I am in a foreign country without my best friend :(
I don’t know what to do :(((((((

joyce 08.08.11 at 7:03 am

Thanks for this article
my iphone just got stolen
i was at a mall at korea (overseas) and someone just stole it from my bag
it was my first phone
and it was my birthday lunch too
so distressed…

i don’t know if i will be able to get another iphone…

cindy 09.03.11 at 2:56 am

well, there are good people in the world! my son dropped his at Heathrow airport last year when he was catching a flight. I got a call at 3am from a british gentleman saying he found it, he said he was taking it to ba lost & found, i gave him his name to attach to it, he had him paged, and my son got his phone!

Zoe 09.22.11 at 10:38 am

I just got my new Iphone as a wedding anniversary 25 daysss ago !.. it was stolen two days ago while i was waiting for my coffee at Starbucks in the rest area exit 6 NJ Turnpike ..i texted my husband , put the phone in my bag (side pocket) and the phone was gone.. in less than one minute !! .. I couldn’t change my email passwords until i got home which it took me another 4 hours .. i did police report .. Yesterday I made a failed trip to Apple & AT&T stores at the mall .. they said they can do nothing and on the top of that i have to pay 400 $ for the stolen one and 600 $ for a new iphone because I got it less than one month ago so am not eligible yet for upgrade !

Emmy 10.13.11 at 5:06 pm

Thanks for the article. I’m 13 and it got stollen on the bus, the article made me feel a lot better though. It calmed me :).

Carrie S. 10.27.11 at 5:07 pm

I’m in Paris at the moment and my iPhone was stolen at an anti-abuse conference! How ironic. I was devastated and disbelieving and now I’m coming to terms with it. This article made me think about changing all my passwords which I hadn’t thought of myself (strangely enough). Thank you!

Nick 02.24.12 at 2:21 pm

I lost my iphone today. I got a password so if found no one can use it, unless unlocked, I dont know if i need to report it to apple. Do I need to cahnge my aplle i tunes password???? I dont think i dont cos they cant access the phone ,,,Right?? :(( im confused… will they be able to unlock it and go to i tunes?? or see my files??

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