Smartphone theft is big business—or at least it used to be. Called “Apple Picking,” theft of an iPhone was a cash earner for bad actors who preyed on those without a tight grip on their smartphone—often shipping them overseas to resell at a phenomenal markup.
Today, due to the design inclusion of activation locks, and so-called “kill switches,” theft of iPhones and other devices has declined. Let us show you how to track an iPhone if you lose touch with your smartphone.
Using “Find My iPhone” to track your iPhone
Designed to be slim, sleek, and unobtrusive, smartphones are easy to lose. The most common scenarios for losing a smartphone by theft or loss include:
- Leaving it behind: Most lost smartphones are…lost.
- Theft: Smartphones are commonly stolen from restaurants, cars, and nightclubs.
- Pickpocket: Smartphones are still targeted by pickpockets.
If your iPhone goes missing, the Find My Phone feature is an essential service to help you locate and lock, or wipe data from your iPhone.
Assuming that the Find My Phone feature is enabled on your iPhone, here is how to track your iPhone:
- Use another device—like a PC, iPod Touch, Mac, smartphone, or tablet to sign in to Find My Phone or in to iCloud.
- When you are logged into Find My Phone, select the device that is missing. You can view its location on a map if it is turned on. If it is nearby, you can direct the device to emit a sound to help others in the vicinity locate it. If the device has been stolen, it will reveal its whereabouts until it is turned off, runs out of battery, or loses connection. After loss of signal, it will show its last known location for 24-hours.
- Activate Lost Mode from the Find My Phone feature. This is where you can remotely lock your device, and create a custom lock screen with a phone number to call if the phone is found. When the device goes into Lost Mode, the debit and credit card numbers in your Apple Pay account can no longer be used.
- Use Find My Phone to erase your device as a last resort. With the phone locked with a passcode and completely wiped of data, it is essentially a silent brick, and cannot be tracked by Find My Phone any longer. It does give you security that your information can be found by no others.
A couple of other important points:
- With Family Sharing enabled on your iPhone, all of the devices can be tracked from one device in the group.
- If it appears your iPhone has been stolen, resist the urge to track it down yourself and confront the thief. Instead, call the police.
- Contact your internet service provider (ISP) to disable use of your account and deter additional data fees.
If Find My Phone was not enabled on your device, you can still change your iCloud password, and any social media or other passwords stored on the device. Report the loss to law enforcement and your ISP.
Devices running Google’s Android system also have a kill switch. Whether iPhone or Android, kill switches and location tracking offer the best chance for you to find your smartphone when it is lost or stolen.