How to Locate and Track a Lost or Stolen Smartphone Device

Losing your smartphone or having it stolen can be extremely stressful. Not only is it inconvenient to suddenly lose access to an essential device, but there is also the concern that sensitive personal data on the phone could fall into the wrong hands. Fortunately, there are several ways to locate and track lost or stolen smartphones to help you get your device back.

Set Up Find My Device or Find My iPhone Before Losing Your Phone

The easiest way to track a lost or stolen phone is by using the built-in finding services:

  • Android: Google’s Find My Device service
  • iPhone: Apple’s Find My iPhone service

You should set up and enable these services on your phone before it is lost. This allows the phone to periodically send its location to the company’s servers.

To set up Find My Device on Android:

  • Open the Settings app
  • Go to Security & Location
  • Scroll down and enable Find My Device

To set up Find My iPhone on iOS:

  • Open the Settings app
  • Tap on your Apple ID Banner
  • Scroll down and enable Find My

Use Find My Device or Find My iPhone to Locate Your Phone

Once Find My Device or Find My iPhone is enabled, you can use it to locate your lost phone:

On Android

  • Go to android.com/find
  • Sign in with your Google account
  • You will see your phone’s location on the map
  • You can make it ring, lock it, or erase data remotely

On iPhone

  • Go to icloud.com/find
  • Sign in with your Apple ID
  • You will see your phone’s location on the map
  • You can make it ring, lock it, or erase data remotely

Take Additional Steps to Track and Recover Your Phone

Along with using Find My Device or Find My iPhone, you can take other steps to help track and ultimately recover your lost smartphone:

Contact Your Carrier

Contact your phone’s carrier and report it as lost or stolen. Provide them the IMEI or MEID number. The carrier can blacklist the device to prevent it from being activated on another network.

File a Police Report

File a police report about your stolen phone. Provide officers the device’s IMEI/MEID number. Police can sometimes help track stolen devices.

Check Pawn Shops

Check local pawn shops to see if someone tried to sell your phone. Provide shops with your phone’s description and IMEI/MEID number to help identify it.

Use a Tracking App

Install a tracking app on another phone and use it to help locate your lost device. Quality options include Life360, Tile, and Lookout.

Set Up Remote Access

If possible, set up remote access on the lost phone. This allows you to access data, track location history, view photos for identifying thieves, and more.

Protect Your Data if Your Phone Can’t Be Recovered

If your phone ultimately cannot be recovered, you should take measures to protect your personal data:

Remotely Erase Data

Use Find My iPhone or Find My Device to remotely wipe your phone. This protects sensitive info from being accessed.

Change Passwords

Change the passwords for important accounts logged in on your phone like email, banking, social media, etc. This prevents unauthorized access.

Contact Banks and Credit Cards

Contact your bank and credit card companies to report cards that were stored on your phone. Request replacement cards with new card numbers to prevent fraudulent charges.

Review Credit Reports

Carefully review your credit reports and bank/credit card statements for signs of any unauthorized access of your accounts. Report any suspicious activity.

Losing your smartphone can be extremely disruptive, but utilizing all available tracking features and services can help you locate and recover your device quickly. And if your phone ultimately cannot be retrieved, make sure to prioritize protecting your personal data.

Conclusion

  • Enable Find My Device or Find My iPhone before losing your phone
  • Use these services to view location and remotely lock or erase phone
  • Contact carrier and police to report lost phone
  • Check local pawn shops for stolen devices
  • Install a tracking app for additional location capabilities
  • Set up remote access to gather info from lost device
  • Remotely wipe phone, change passwords, contact banks if phone can’t be recovered