What should I do if my mobile phone gets stolen?

17 July 2023
What should I do if my mobile phone gets stolen?

Our smartphone is our daily companion. Whether we go to the toilet, to the supermarket or on holiday: our mobile phone is always with us and is even closer to us than our friends. So it’s all the more annoying when our companion is stolen. Find out here what you have to do if your mobile phone is stolen and what precautions you can take!  

How many mobile phones are stolen?

Stealing smartphones has become unattractive thanks to numerous security measures taken by manufacturers. But far too many mobile phones are still stolen – especially in non-European countries. In Europe, too, many people become victims of theft. As the BBC reports, in London alone there is a smartphone theft every 6 minutes, that is 248 stolen smartphones a day. However, only a vanishingly small proportion (2%) of crimes are solved. 

Where and how are smartphones stolen?

Contrary to what one might think, most smartphones are not stolen from homes. The number one reason for theft is carelessness: the mobile phone is left unattended on the table while you get a coffee or visit the toilet. Only then do flat and car break-ins follow. 11% are due to pickpocketing. Forcible theft (robbery) is rare, but still occurs.

Why mobile phone theft is so devastating

Normally, we would reassure you at this point and tell you that everything won’t be so bad. But a mobile phone theft is your personal worst-case scenario, especially if you haven’t protected your smartphone sufficiently. From social media to banking and messenger to private matters: We manage almost everything with our smartphone. 

The problem: no one knows what the thief will do with your mobile phone. Will he use it for himself? Sell the smartphone? Or is he after your data and information? No one knows. 

While smartphones used to be stolen mainly for resale, today false identities and your personal data are in high demand. Criminals can use these to blackmail you or people close to you (sextortion). In the worst case, the theft even affects your employer and its IT systems!

Therefore, you should assume the worst-case scenario. You can block and replace a credit card, but not your identity. 

What do the following terms mean?

IMEI: IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity and is a unique 15-digit number. You can usually find it in the settings under “Information” or device IDs or by dialling *#06#.

SIM lock: For a long time, mobile phones with a SIM lock were the rule. Mobile phone providers wanted to prevent you from using SIM cards from other providers before the end of the minimum contract period. Nowadays, mobile phones with SIM lock are hardly an issue, but especially if you are still using an older subscription with an equally old (prepaid) smartphone, it may still have a SIM lock. 

What to do if your smartphone is stolen

Call your mobile phone

This tip should only be followed if you are unsure whether your mobile phone has been stolen. Ask someone close to you if you can call your phone with his/her mobile phone. If you have only misplaced it, this will help you to find it. If someone has actually stolen your mobile phone and it is still in the same place, the thief can be found. 

Contact your network operator and block the SIM card

If you have been the victim of theft, you should have your SIM card blocked immediately. To do this, call your phone provider or block it in the online customer centre of your mobile phone provider. This means that you will no longer be able to make calls or use the internet with your mobile phone, and depending on your provider, this may also apply to other networks. The SIM card cannot be used in other devices either.

Mobile phones with SIM lock

If you have a mobile phone with a SIM lock, you can also use it to lock your smartphone. You can find out whether your mobile phone has a SIM lock for other SIM cards on sites such as imei.info. Enter your 15-digit IMEI there. However, mobile phones with SIM locks have become very rare.

Locate your smartphone

OK, your phone can no longer connect to mobile networks – but it can connect to Wi-Fi networks. Wi-Fi networks also send out location information – the more Wi-Fi networks your smartphone has access to, the more accurately it can locate your smartphone. Note the last location of your smartphone, but do not go there on your own, report it to the police first. 

“Where is?”, “FindMyMobile” and “Find My Phone”: Mark your smartphone as stolen

You can find out where you are by using the localisation apps from Apple, Samsung or Google. You can also have your mobile phone rung there. However, the prerequisite is that you allow the apps to access the location services, which is usually done during the initial setup. Again: Don’t go to the location without reporting it to the police first!

You can also mark your device as “lost” in these apps. This locks your smartphone and it can only be used again when you unlock it.

Caution with remote extinguishing!

If you are absolutely sure that you will never see your smartphone again, you can have it remotely wiped. If it is switched off, this will happen the next time it is switched on. But be careful: this should only be done as a last resort! With remote deletion, the location services also no longer work. (As of iOS 15, iPhones can be located via “Where is?” even after remote deletion).

Change your passwords or delete the phone from your accounts 

Your smartphone knows your most intimate secrets. To keep those secrets out of the hands of strangers, you should immediately change your passwords to the most important services. Because we are lazy people, we often leave password fields pre-filled. If you don’t activate an additional security layer, thieves will find it extremely easy to access banking apps, social networks and the like. 

Depending on the service, your device may also be linked to your account. If this is the case, you can easily disconnect the link in your account. If the thief wants to use this service, he first has to log in with your data – in the best case, you haven’t saved them in advance. 

You should change the password for these services

Go to the police and file a report or report of loss

Next, you should go to the police and file a report. Show the police where your smartphone was last located. The police will also need the IMEI or serial number. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can find the numbers on the box itself or, depending on the manufacturer, online or in the tracking apps. A police report or report of loss is usually also a prerequisite for any insurance claims.

Never go to the location alone – the thief or robber may be armed. In 2016, a 23-year-old Alabama man died while trying to recover his stolen smartphone on his own. 

Take a look at the last account accesses

Many services also log the last accesses. Keep an eye on the access logs in your accounts and also watch your emails in case the thief wants to change your account details. Inform the services immediately if you receive change emails. Also pay attention to your bank statements!

Delete payment methods, credit cards and deactivate purchases via mobile phone bills

Besides passwords, many of us also secure payment methods including the CVV code of the credit card. Thieves have an easy game here and can squander large sums within a very short time. Therefore, delete them from your devices and block your cards in your online banking portal. Keep an eye on your bank accounts!

Inform your family, friends and acquaintances as well as employers

To prevent thieves from taking your identity, you should immediately inform your contacts about the theft. This will prevent the thieves from stealing more money from your family and friends.

If you also use your mobile phone for work, you should immediately inform your employer’s IT department so that they block access to your accounts. This prevents thieves from hacking into the company’s IT. 

Report the theft to your insurance company

You should also inform your insurance company as soon as possible. In the case of theft, the household insurance usually pays – but not all of them include this type of damage in their basic plan. Check your insurance documents. The insurance companies will ask for a loss report, so keep it handy.

For next time: How to make things difficult for thieves

Get a finger holder

Criminals often strike when you least expect it. Thefts from departing underground and suburban trains are very popular: The thieves wait until shortly before departure, then grab your mobile phone and flee from the train while the doors are closing. 

To prevent your mobile phone from being snatched out of your hand, it may be worthwhile to use a finger holder that is stuck to the back of your smartphone. In addition, you should not stay in the entrance area of public transport vehicles.

Write down the serial numbers and IMEI of your devices and secure them in a safe place.

Every minute counts after a theft. To be able to report your devices stolen to the police more quickly, you should write down all serial numbers and IMEI numbers in advance and save them. That way you don’t have to search for the packaging or the internet.

Never let your mobile phone out of your sight

Wherever you go, never lose sight of your mobile phone. Keep your phone close to you, but not in your back pockets. Lock your handbag. 

Turn on the activation locks

The introduction of activation locks had devastating consequences for the black market. With it, you link the device to your account. This connection remains even after resetting to factory settings – the phone cannot be sold and is therefore useless. 

Nevertheless, there are now various hacks, tools and workarounds to circumvent the activation lock. You should therefore not rely purely on the activation lock.

Secure all accounts and apps with two-factor authentication 

Whenever an app or account offers two-factor authentication (2FA) and facial recognition, you should use it. Even if you have pre-filled your account details, the thief will need a one-time, ever-changing code to access the account. You get more security, but less convenience, if you do not mark the device as “secure” and are prompted to enter a code every time you log in.

Chat messenger apps like WhatsApp benefit from 2FA, too. This way, the thief cannot intercept all chats.

Tip: Also protect your 2FA apps like Google Authenticator or Authy with facial recognition (such as FaceID).

Tip: iOS users can use this “emergency solution” to block any app with facial recognition.

Activate location services for the manufacturer’s location app (Where is?, FindMyMobile, etc.)

As a rule, you will have activated the location services for the respective localisation app when you set up your device for the first time. However, it is worth testing the function from time to time. Check the apps and your settings to see whether tracking would still be possible in an emergency.

Fewer apps, more web versions

Not every app can be protected with 2FA, so it may be advisable to switch to the web versions. They are often in no way inferior to the apps. The advantage is that the thief first has to search for the bank websites and co. and does not find them immediately on the home screen.

Use strong PIN and passcodes for your SIM and mobile phone.

For convenience, many have deactivated the entry of the SIM code – a mistake, because this means an additional layer of security is lost. SIM codes, unlike passcodes, can only be entered incorrectly 3 times, after which the SIM card is blocked and can only be unlocked by entering a longer PUK code. 

Like the passcode, the SIM code can have more than 4 numbers. The passcode can even consist of letters. 

Enable automatic deletion after x failed login attempts

In the settings, you can set the automatic deletion of all mobile phone data after a certain number of failed login attempts. But beware: resetting to factory settings also makes it more difficult to locate. The function is therefore more suitable for mobile phones used for business purposes. 

Conclusion: Better prepared with our tip

A mobile phone theft is more than annoying. It is therefore all the more important that you prepare yourself adequately. Experts speak of a “golden hour” immediately after the theft. This is when you have the best chance of getting your mobile phone back. In addition to the financial damage, there is also psychological damage, especially if criminals use your identity. The BBC has spoken to some victims who have been the victims of theft. 

The easy way to the perfect mobile phone plan

Unfortunately, mobile phone theft means a lot of effort, but at least changing your mobile phone plan is easy on alao.ch. Find your perfect plan on our comparison page and conclude it online in 5 minutes. We will cancel your old contract and take your old number with you free of charge. If you have any questions, our support team is available 7 days a week via email, phone and live chat.

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