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Protect your phone: Steps to take if your device is lost, stolen, or broken


Simple changes go a long way to boost your smartphone’s security. Leave Bluetooth on 24/7? You should change that.

While taking a closer look at your phone, delete these apps to keep it running smoothly and safely.

Losing a phone is a nightmare. Are text messages the only thing you have left to remember someone by? Do you know your family and friends’ numbers by heart? How many magical moments have you captured with your phone’s camera?

It gets worse. Consider all the apps on your phone from your social media, banking, rideshare, streaming, networking, security, health, travel, delivery, and the list goes on. Your phone is a huge liability for your safety and security in the wrong hands. That’s why you must take steps now should your phone go missing, stolen, or broken beyond repair. 

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This first section is about being prepared. Here’s how to set up your phone, so you don’t get nervous whenever it’s out of sight. In the worst-case scenario that a criminally-minded stranger gets ahold of your phone, you will be glad you took these steps beforehand. 


Your old phone may lack critical security features, but you don’t have to spend a fortune on an upgrade. Here are the best used phones for $500 and under.

It’s simple: When your phone goes missing, no one should be able to unlock it. Let’s start by making sure this happens automatically. There are preset time options to choose from. The shorter the time, the better off you are.

Note: Exact steps may vary depending on your Android phone.

Your phone has built-in tools to help you locate it using another phone or computer. Here’s the caveat: You have to make sure the feature is turned on ahead of time for it to work.

Like any product, your phone has a serial number to identify it. It also has an IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity). While the serial number comes from the manufacturer, IMEI numbers are standard across the industry.

Keep a record of these numbers in case you have to report your phone is stolen or missing. When you find your phone’s IMEI number, take a screenshot of it. Then, save that screenshot someplace you can access it when needed. I keep mine in my photo cloud storage account. You can also print and store it in the phone’s original box or another handy offline place.

Your phone is replaceable — much of what it contains isn’t. Set your phone to back up automatically, so you don’t have to worry about losing anything. 

This crucial step is vital even if you don’t lose your phone. You’ll be happy you backed it up if it ever gets damaged to the point where you can’t turn it on or recover anything from it.

I recommend using the built-in storage that works with your phone: iCloud for iPhones and Google storage for Androids. They’re both affordable and straightforward to set up and use.


You get 5GB of free storage with iCloud. Need more space? You’ll have to pay 99 cents for 50GB, $2.99 for 200GB, and $9.99 for 2TB.

Money tip: My family and I share a plan that cuts the cost. 

You get 15GB of free cloud storage with your Google account. A Basic Google One plan costs $1.99 monthly and has 100GB of storage. A Standard plan costs $2.99 monthly for 200GB, and a Premium plan costs $9.99 and comes with 2TB of storage.

RELATED: 4 data backup mistakes that could cost you your photos, videos and other files

You’ve searched every couch cushion, and your phone is nowhere to be found. Or maybe you left it at a restaurant. The process is the same. Start by trying to locate it before assuming the worst. 

Did you know that Find My works even when your phone is off or the battery is dead? It’s one of three things your iPhone does after it shuts down.

Found it? Congratulations! If not, read on.

This step is essential when you don’t know where your phone is located— or if you’ve spotted it but don’t have it. The good news is it’s simple to do remotely from another device. 

You tried everything, and your smartphone is well and truly lost. You should remotely wipe the data stored on it to make sure no one else has access to it. 

This step is a last resort, but if you back up your phone, as I showed you earlier, you won’t have to worry about losing anything. 

Remember when I told you to record your serial and IMEI numbers? Here’s why that’s so important when reporting your phone as stolen.

The police can use these numbers to identify your phone if they find it, and your carrier may block the IMEI code to lock your phone out of the network. The last thing you need is someone taking over your number.

By the way, before buying a used phone, be sure it’s not stolen goods. You can search a database of stolen phones to check.

LISTEN NOW: Tile’s $1M challenge, woman stalked for years & stop robocall pro tricks

Plus, I got the scoop on how to jump Bing and ChatGPT’s waitlist, new ways to limit your kid’s screen time on YouTube and how to unsend that embarrassing email fast. Oh, photos with your dog make you sexier online! Ruff!

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Today” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”

Sound like a tech pro, even if you’re not! Award-winning popular host Kim Komando is your secret weapon. Listen on 425+ radio stations or get the podcast. And join over 400,000 people who get her free 5-minute daily email newsletter.

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