The Best Way to Find a Lost Cell Phone

If someone steals your phone, the potential risk to your identity can equal or even exceed the impact of a stolen wallet. Using password management simplifies the task of changing login information for sites you access on the go, but before you start treating your device as a truly lost cause, tap in to its built-in capabilities to help you find it, manage access to it and even erase it, potentially saving both your sanity and your data.

Make It Ring

The simplest lost-phone scenario is similar to accidentally burying the remote control for your TV or home theater system in the sofa cushions. When your phone disappears but you suspect it remains somewhere in your immediate surroundings, you want to locate it quickly, without changing the data or apps on it. Smartphones include built-in device management tools you can use from a Web browser running on your computer or tablet device.

To ease your search, these tools can show you the location of your phone within a radius of 20 to 25 meters and make your phone ring for five minutes at full volume—even if you turned off the ringer—easing the hide-and-seek path to your misplaced device.The search-results radius covers too much ground to find a nearby phone, but it can help you confirm that you left the device behind at lunch. The only other catch to implementing this approach: If your phone's turned off or its battery lacks a sufficient charge, it can't respond.

Lock It Down

The same built-in device manager that helps you locate your phone when it decides to hide in the laundry basket can assist you even further if the location feature shows your missing gadget somewhere you know you haven't been. If you enabled remote device management before your phone went AWOL, you can lock the screen and change the password, diminishing the phone's usefulness to a thief and reducing the likelihood that a stranger accesses your data. This feature requires that your phone be charged and active, but the command that instigates it takes effect immediately—even in the middle of a call—or as soon as the phone turns on.

Wipe It Clean

With remote device management enabled, you can implement the drastic measures necessary to protect personally identifiable information, and therefore your identity, in the event that your phone gets stolen. Knowing the device's location helps you report it to the police, but if your property doesn't get returned to you, you need to neutralize its potential to compromise your security. The device manager gives you the ability to wipe all data from the phone, immediately if it's turned on or as soon as it activates. Consider this step a final option, however, as it also calls a halt to your ability to track the device's location remotely.

Other Considerations

Along with the location and security features built in to your smartphone's operating system, you also can choose from device management options offered by the carrier you use, the manufacturer of your device or third-party developers who provide free or paid apps for that purpose. Regardless of which you option choose, you'll benefit from taking the time to understand and activate the features required to protect your device, your data and your privacy. If they help you recover your phone unharmed, they save you from potentially enormous inconvenience. If its location makes it clear that the device has been stolen, report it to the authorities and leave the job of apprehending thieves to the police.

Photo Credits: Alexa Smahl/Demand Media

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