How To Make Your Phone Unusable When It Gets Lost Or Stolen

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Losing your phone is a stressful experience, but there is a way to alleviate that a little. Take a deep breath and use Android’s built-in tools to track down your missing phone.

In this article will reveal to you how to make your smartphone (IPhone, Android and Samsung) unusable or unable to operate when it gets lost or stolen. Locking down a smartphone makes it much more difficult to login attempts and hard resets, meaning that the phone is virtually useless until you unblock it. You can block a missing or stolen iPhone, Android, or Samsung Galaxy phone by using the manufacturer’s “Find” website, which requires that your phone have the manufacturer’s “Find” service (e.g., Find My iPhone) enabled on the phone in question. Since each phone is different, these methods may not work for every phone. If you are having trouble locking down your phone, contact your wireless carrier for assistance.

Using Find My iPhone for an iPhone

1. Go to https://www.icloud.com/ in your web browser. You can use any web browser on PC or Mac.

This will only work if Find My iPhone is enabled on your iPhone.

2. Log into iCloud. Enter the email address and password associated with your Apple ID. Then click the arrow icon to the right of the Apple ID and Password boxes.

If you’re already logged into iCloud, skip this step.

3. Click Find iPhone. It’s has an icon that resembles a radar screen on the iCloud dashboard.

4. Click All Devices. This displays a list of all your Apple devices.

5. Click the device you want to lock. It is listed below “All Devices” at the top of the screen.

If your iPhone is the only Apple item listed on your Apple ID account, you may not have to do this step.

6. Click Lost Mode. It’s at the bottom of the window on the right side of the webpage. Doing so will open a new page in the window.

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7. Enter a contact phone number. Type in a recovery phone number at which you can be reached. This number will display on your iPhone’s locked screen.

This step is optional but recommended.

8. Click Next. It’s in the top-right corner of the window.

9. Enter a message. Type in a message to display on your phone’s screen. The default message is “This iPhone has been lost. Please contact me.” You can use this message or type your own.

10. Click Done. It’s in the top-right corner of the window. This will place your iPhone in Lost Mode, meaning that it won’t be unlockable or usable until you remove it from Lost Mode.

You can deactivate Lost Mode by clicking Lost Mode and then clicking Stop Lost Mode at the bottom of the drop-down menu.

11. Erase your iPhone if necessary. In a worst-case scenario, deleting your phone’s data entirely is better than losing it to an unknown thief. Use the following steps to erase your iPhone:

Click Erase iPhone

Click Erase when prompted.

Enter your Apple ID password and any other information that’s requested.

Click Erase again if prompted.

Using Find My Device for an Android

Using Android’s baked-in service requires you to remember one thing: android.com/find. That website is where you’ll go in the unfortunate event that you lose your phone. Make sure to sign in to the same Google account that’s linked to your Android phone.

Not near a computer? You can use another Android device and the Find My Device app, which you’ll have to download separately from the Play Store. Immediately after you sign in to the site or app, Google will attempt to locate your phone.

An alert will be sent to your phone to tell whoever has it that it’s being tracked. Use the menu on the left-hand side of the Find My Device site to play a sound (helpful if you misplaced it in your home!), lock down your device or erase the device altogether.

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Selecting Secure Device will lock the phone, display a message of your choosing on the lock screen and sign out of your Google account. Don’t worry, you can still locate the phone after it’s locked. If you use Google Pay for mobile payments, locking your phone will prevent anyone from using your phone to make a purchase.

If you use the Erase Device feature, you will no longer be able to track the phone. Reserve this feature as a last resort.

Should the thief turn off your phone, you won’t be able to track it until it’s turned back on and has a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Google will send you an email once it locates your device.

Once you find your phone, you’ll need to enter your PIN or passcode to gain access. That should also get rid of the lock screen message. You might also have to log in to your Google account, just to verify it really is you accessing the phone — you don’t need to turn anything off in the Find My Device app.

Using Find My Mobile for a Samsung

Samsung has long offered a Find My Mobile service to help Galaxy phones owners track down their lost phones. The service is separate from Google’s Find My Device offering, and is something you can — and definitely should — set up. Not only does it give you a backup service you can use to track down a lost phone, but it also gives you tools that Find My Device doesn’t have. With Samsung’s service, you can do things like force remote backups or see if someone has swapped out your SIM card. You’ll need to use your Samsung account to set up Find My Mobile.

However, more recently, Samsung announced a new service called SmartThings Find. The new feature works like Apple’s Find My app by crowdsourcing the location of a lost device, even if it’s offline, but telling nearby Galaxy devices to look for its Bluetooth signal and report its location if it’s found. All of which, of course, is done anonymously.

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There’s no harm in using Google’s offering, in addition to both of Samsung’s device tracking services. Turn on Find My Mobile on your Galaxy phone in the Settings app. Next, go to Biometrics and security > Find My Mobile. Find My Mobile should already be enabled if you signed into your Samsung account during initial setup. If not, take a few seconds to sign in and enable Find My Mobile.

As for SmartThings Find, you’ll need to have a Galaxy device running Android 8 or newer. The setup process should already be taken care of as long as you’re running the latest version of the SmartThings app. I had to go into the Galaxy Store app and update it myself, but once I did that the main page of the SmartThings app had a map showing the last location of my Galaxy Buds, along with other Samsung devices that are linked to my account below the map. If it’s not set up already, there will be a SmartThings Find card you need to tap on to complete the setup process. Once you do that, you’ll see a map with the location of all your Find-enabled devices.

Once it’s turned on, you can view the location of your device(s) by opening the SmartThings app and select SmartThings Find. Of course, if you lose your phone you’ll have to use another device to access the SmartThings app to locate your device. Either you can sign into the app on a friend or family member’s device, or use another one of your devices to find it via the app. 

When you view the lost device’s location, there’s a More Options button that will take you to Samsung’s Find My Mobile service where you can then use its controls to lock down your device, remotely back it up or even erase it.

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