A reader asks: 'Yesterday I lost my smartphone in a taxi cab, and have not been able to recover it.
If it’s an Android phone, immediately try to locate the phone using the built-in Android Device Manager.
If your device is turned on and can be reached via cellular or wifi signal, its location will appear on a Google map. You should know up front that if your phone is turned off, if the battery has died, or if you lost your phone while hiking in a remote area, your chances of recovery are slim to none. Never agree to meet a thief to exchange money for phone at your home or in an unsafe location.
If you have insurance against theft, the better course would be to avoid a risky meetup, contact your mobile carrier or insurance agent, and get a new phone. If you're sure your phone is gone for good, contact your phone carrier and deactivate the phone’s access to the network, preventing calls to Ukraine and other expensive use of your lost or stolen property.
Next, make sure your phone is configured in advance to use the recovery options in Android Device Manager or Find My iPhone.
Another free option for lost phones, laptops and tablets is Prey, a tiny software agent that silently waits for a remote signal via the Internet or text message. Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint all offer optional paid services to locate lost phones, but why bother paying an extra $5-$10 per month when you can get the same thing for free?


Go to the Google Play store (the old name of "Android Marketplace" was a better name!) and download the app "Plan B" from Lookout Software. I have read that a typical phone thief will switch a stolen phone immediately to "airplane mode," which will defeat measures to find or disable the phone. When a credit card is stolen, the company's system detects unusual activity, if the thief so much as makes a purchase above your usual dollar level or even goes to a gas station outside of the area where you usually drive.
I like "Where's My Droid?" ("WMD") for Android phones, available free from the Google Play store, with enhanced features available for a one-time payment of a couple of bucks.
With WMD you can make your phone ring (even if the ringer is off--works great if the phone is buried in your Barcalounger). You can track your lost phone on a map as the schmuck drives to Mexico, lock your phone remotely, even if you haven't set up a pin or other security feature, and, of course, if you're desperate, wipe your phone--all, of course, assuming it's on. You do all this either from the company's web site OR--even niftier--from a friend's phone, via text messages to your lost phone, such as "WMD Ring" to make it ring. Find My iPhone will display the current location of your iPhone on a map, and also where it's been.
Your phone must be able to receive both cellular and GPS signals, in order for these phone locator services to work.
Ask your carrier if it can remotely deactivate or “brick” your phone so that a thief can’t just slap in a new SIM card and continue using it.


Documenting the theft is important in case the phone turns up in someone else’s hand later.
Before your phone is lost or stolen there are steps you can take to make recovering it or rendering it useless to a thief easier.
When Prey activates, it will gather info on the location and status of your device, and optionally trigger certain actions on it.
When I lost my phone between the seats of my car, however, I didn't remember that I had WMD for a couple of days (duh!) and by then the battery on the phone had run down, and I only just happened to find it when I was rummaging between the seats for a nickel I dropped. At first, I installed it on his iPhone just for parental control, and I don't know its GPS tracking feature helps me find it so easily!
Make sure the report includes unique identifying information such as the phone’s serial number or its phone number. You can remotely sound a loud alarm, snap a picture, lock down the device, or monitor what the stolen phone is doing online. With a little luck, you might get a picture of the schmuck who stole your phone--suitable for framing--or for a "Wanted" poster.



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