What to Do When Your iPhone Is Stolen

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Has your iPhone been stolen? Following these 11 steps can help you recover it or, at the very least, minimize the potential damage a stolen phone can result in.

When you discover that your iPhone has been stolen, you may feel anger, worry, and surprise. Don't dwell on those feelings, though — you need to take action. What you do right away when your iPhone is stolen is very important. It could make the difference in protecting your data or getting your phone back. 

There's no guarantee that these tips will protect you in every case or recover your iPhone, but they increase your chances. Good luck.

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Lock iPhone and Possibly Delete Data

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The first thing you need to do is protect your personal information. If you have a passcode set on your iPhone, you're pretty safe. But if you don't, or want extra security, use Find My iPhone to lock your phone and add a passcode. That will at least prevent the thief from using your phone.

If you can't get the iPhone back or it has extremely sensitive information on it, you may want to delete the phone's data. You can do this over the web using iCloud. Deleting data may not prevent the thief from using your iPhone, but at least they won't have access to your personal data after that.

If your iPhone was issued to you by your employer, your IT department may be able to remotely delete the data, too. Contact them to learn about your options.

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Remove Debit and Credit Cards From Apple Pay

Apple Pay
Apple Inc.

If you use Apple's wireless payment service, you should remove any credit cards or debit cards you've added to the phone for use with Apple Pay (they're easy to add back later). Apple Pay is very secure — thieves shouldn't be able to use your Apple Pay without your fingerprint or face scan, which they likely won't have — but it's nice to have the peace of mind that your credit card isn't virtually sitting in a thief's pocket. You can use iCloud to remove the cards.

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Track Your Phone With Find My iPhone

Use Find My iPhone
Find My iPhone in action on iCloud.

Apple's free Find My iPhone service can track your phone using the device's built-in GPS and show you on a map approximately where the phone is. The only catch? You need to have set up Find My iPhone before your phone was stolen.

If you don't like Find My iPhone, there are many third-party apps from the App Store will help you locate the phone. Some of these apps also allow you to remotely change security settings.

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Don't Try to Recover It Yourself; Get Help From the Police

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If you've been able to locate your iPhone via a GPS tracking app like Find My iPhone, do not try to recover it yourself. Going to the house of the person who stole your phone is a definite recipe for trouble.

Instead, contact the local police department (or, if you've already filed a report, the one you reported the theft to) and let them know that you've got information about the location of your stolen phone. While the police may not always help, the more information you have, the more likely police are to recover the phone for you.

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File a Police Report

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If you can't recover the phone right away, file a report with the police in the place where the phone was stolen. This may or may not lead to the recovery of your iPhone (in fact, the police may tell you there's very little they can do either because of the value of the phone or the number of thefts), but having documentation should help when dealing with a cell phone and insurance companies.

Even if the police tell you they can't help at first, if you can get data about the location of your phone, having the report may be necessary for getting the police to help you recover it.

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Notify Your Employer

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If your iPhone was given to you through work, notify your employer of the theft immediately. You may even want to do this before you file the police report, since your corporate IT department may be able to prevent the thief from accessing critical business information. Your employer may have given you guidelines about what to do in case of theft when they issued the phone to you. It's a good idea to brush up on them.

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Call Your Phone Company

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Whether this should be the seventh step in the process or should be earlier, depends on your circumstances. Some phone companies may be more inclined to take action when you've got a police report, while others may act right away without one. Calling your cell phone company to report the theft and having the account tied to the phone suspended or canceled helps ensure that you don't pay for charges incurred by the thief.

Before you cancel your phone service, try tracking it using Find My iPhone. Once service is turned off, you won't be able to track it anymore.

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Change Your Passwords

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If you don't have a passcode and aren't able to set one using Find My iPhone (the thief could have blocked the phone from connecting to networks), all of your data is exposed. Don't let the thief gain access to accounts whose passwords are saved on your iPhone. Changing your email account passwords will prevent the thief from reading or sending mail from your phone. Beyond that, changing online banking, Apple ID, and other important account passwords will help prevent identity theft or financial theft.

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Call Your Phone Insurance Company, If You Have One

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If you have phone insurance — either from your phone company or an insurance company — to protect your iPhone and your policy covers theft, be sure to call the company. Having a police report is a big help here. If you can recover the phone with the help of the police that's ideal, but reporting the situation to the insurance company will get the ball rolling in the meantime and help you get money to replace your phone if you can't recover it.

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Notify People

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If your phone's gone and you weren't able to track it via GPS and/or lock it, you're probably not going to get it back. In that case, you should notify the people in your address book and email accounts of the theft. They probably won't be getting calls or emails from the thief, but in case the thief has a bad sense of humor or more seriously bad intentions, you'll want people to know that it's not you sending troublemaking emails.

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Protect Yourself in the Future

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Whether you get your iPhone back or have to replace it with a new one, you may want to change your habits and behaviors to prevent future thefts (there's no guarantee against all thefts or losses, of course, but these may help). Check out these articles for some other useful precautions: