According to technology solutions company Asurion, 19 million phones are lost or stolen each year, and traveling puts you at higher risk for theft. Don’t wait until it’s too late—know what to do if your phone is lost or stolen on a trip so you can recover faster, protect your identity, and not lose all those great vacation photos.
Call and Text Your Phone
Once you realize your phone is gone, immediately call and text your number. This simple step is an easy way to see if someone has turned it in. Hopefully you’re traveling with a companion whose phone you can use; otherwise ask the hotel front desk to use the phone. You can also text or leave a voicemail on the phone with your information and a number to call back.
With the latest iOS update, Apple included a feature called Lost Mode that will remotely lock your device with a passcode and display a custom message on the lock screen. This mode can also suspend the ability to make payments via Apple Pay.
Use Find-My-Phone Feature
The find-my-phone feature is available on both iPhone and Android and can help recover a lost or stolen phone. If you have this feature turned on or installed, you’ll be able to see where the phone is remotely by logging into your Apple or Google account on another device. You’ll also be able to play a sound from your phone. If you have Family Sharing with Apple, other users on your account will be able to see where your phone is.
If the phone is off or offline, unfortunately it means that tracking is not available.
If you can’t track your phone or know it has been stolen, you should wipe its data. Though it will mean losing any data you don’t have backed up, it’s the best way to ensure your identity and information are protected. You can wipe your phone remotely within the find-my-phone app on both iOS and Andriod. If your device is offline when you perform a remote erase, the erase will occur when the phone is turned back on.
Important Note for Apple Users: Once you erase your phone, you can’t track it anymore. If you try and remove your device from your Apple account while it’s offline, it will reappear in Find My iPhone. If you remove your device from your Apple account while the phone is online, the activation lock will be turned off, which means another person could activate the phone.
Change Your Passwords
Even if you wipe your phone, you should also change your passwords for email and any other accounts (like banks or airlines) that are downloaded on your phone. If you have cards attached to any apps, like Venmo, Apple Pay, Spotify etc., monitor them for suspicious activity.
Contact Your Carrier
Your carrier can disable phone and data service and help you figure out next steps for getting a new device. Depending on your plan and carrier, lost or stolen devices might be covered, and the carrier could potentially ship a new phone to where you are staying or direct you to a local service location.
File a Police Report
It’s worth reporting any stolen property, especially phones, to local law enforcement. They will probably ask for the serial number. I email myself this information every time I get a new device, but you can also find this information via iTunes or on the original packaging for Apple and Android products. This is an important step because if you want to protest any fraudulent charges made with a stolen device, you might need a police report.
Look into getting device protection plans if you travel frequently, especially abroad. This plan covers loss, damage, and theft, and offers a replacement device within as little as 24 hours. The replacement phone you receive will even have a one-year warranty—and you can process your claim online.
Another way to ensure you don’t lose your photos and information is to make sure your phone is backed up before and during your trip. Travel with a charger that automatically backs up your phone or a portable flash drive.
More from SmarterTravel:
- This New Travel Scam Hacks Directly Into Your Phone
- How to Prepare and Use Your Cellphone Abroad
- 7 Sneaky Smartphone Hacks You Should Be Using
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.