Stolen Cell Phones
Stolen Cell Phones: What to do?
Cell phones disappear daily. They're sometimes merely misplaced but too often they are stolen. For a thief, cell phones are a pretty popular target due to the fact they are small and easier to take and to sell than most items. They can easily bring in $50 or more per phone. Then of course, most thieves merely take the phone and use it until the owner has the phone disabled.
Find out how to prevent cell phone theft, what real risks are, and what to do about stolen cell phones here.
Preventing Cell Phone Theft
There are a few things cell phone owners can do to reduce the possibility of losing the cell phone, having it stolen, or reducing the damage that can occur in either instance:
- Use a clip or leash to keep your cell phone attached to your body.
- Don't leave an unattended phone laying in clear view or in a purse that isn't in a locked compartment.
- Another possibility to reduce the likelihood of phone theft is to use a wearable device; a smartwatch.
Of course, the thing is, it's not just a phone, it's the information inside that makes it even more valuable to you and to some thieves. Identity theft and other critical information can be devastating.
- It might be a more drastic step, but consider carefully what information you store on your cell phone. If it would create too big of a disaster if it fell into someone else's hands, don't store it. You can store data remotely with a secure online server. Then there is no data on your phone for someone else to access.
- For the information that is on your phone, encrypt it to prevent others from using it. Most smartphones have free software downloads for this.
- Of course one of the most basic first steps is to set up PINs for access to your phone (or pattern lock), to connect to the network, and a SIM card lock with PIN number so anyone taking your phone wouldn't be able to get access to a network.
- Again, security software is the best protection from information being used or sold by a thief if the owner chooses to store such sensitive information their phone. Most phones have software to help you locate a lost or stolen phone, to wipe information, to reset the passcode or lock the device remotely. Windows, Apple, and Android devices are among those that have these capabilities.
- Users also want to be sure to update their phone when updates become available. Security vulnerabilities are sometimes remedied via these updates.
- There are a number of mobile security apps available for purchase from companies like Norton, McAfee, TrendMicro, and others.
Stolen Cell Phone Charges
Here are two important points for anyone who has a stolen cell phone:
- Cell phone owners are responsible for all charges that are incurred prior to the point that the cell phone is reported lost or stolen. Keeping in mind that the "average" thief steals a cell phone to use it rather than sell it, these charges can be significant.
- Cell phone contracts have no liability limitations. Thus, owner's responsibility for paying any charges is not limited, capped, or anything else.
Note: Although the owner is responsible for all calls, if the owner set up and paid for their cell phone service via their credit card, they should contact the credit card company to see if the fraudulent calls could be covered through their service.
Report Stolen Cell Phones
What should you do if you have a stolen cell phone?
- Check the cell phone contract for the specifics but generally, if a phone is stolen or missing it should be immediately reported it to the police. They will want to know the name of the cellular provider, the make and model of the cell phone, and it's Electronic Serial Number so be sure to keep this information on hand.
- With the case number assigned by the police, call the cellular provider to let them know what has happened. The company can render the phone unusable if given the IMEI number. (Users can get the IMEI number by dialing *#06# on their cell phone and keeping it on hand) Following notification, the owner can no longer be held accountable for any additional calls.
A rapid response is important and the best defense.
Locate and Disable Stolen Cell Phones
Locating and/or disabling stolen cell phones is sometimes possible. As mentioned above many phones have software available to remote wipe, lock, locate, etc. (For instance, Apple has "Find My iPhone" and Android has "Find My Device". ) It's best to have location GPS enabled for these to work.
However, some third party software is also available that can help in protecting a cell phone's information and to locate or disable the phone.
One possibility is GadgetTrak which can be used with many mobile devices including smart phones and laptops. It offers encrypted backup, remote data wipe, location tracking, detection of changes to the SIM card or software, and an alarm on your device.
Cell Phone Insurance
With millions of cell phones stolen each year, many consumers consider the purchase of cell phone insurance.
Manufacturer's (Apple, Samsung, etc.) often offer insurance when the phone is sold. In addition, cellular providers (Verizon, AT&T, etc.) offer coverage too. Then there are also third party insurers.
Before deciding to go this route however, there are a few things to consider:
- What is the monthly expense of the insurance over time?
- What is the deductible? (the insurance likely won't cover the entire cost of a new phone)
- Will the replacement phone be the same as the current phone?
- Will the phone be replaced immediately?
- If your phone is stolen and you don't have insurance, what will your cellular provider do to help you out? (compare how much benefit there is to having the insurance and not having it)
And Another Thing: Fraudulent Accounts
As we mentioned above, stolen cell phones are a bigger problem than just the missing device. It's possible of course for others to open a cellular account using your personal information (which they can obtain in a number of ways including via your unprotected cell phone).
For more information about this go to FCC.gov.