What do you do if your cell phone is stolen? I appeared on Fox TV 5 in Washington, DC this morning to talk about your options. As more and more people are using smartphones, we are now carrying a lot of personal and sensitive information on these devices. This has simplified our lives and made daily tasks more convenient when we’re on the go. But what do you do when your smartphone is stolen? How can you make sure your private information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands?
Yesterday, Washington DC Mayor Gray announced an education plan to do something about this. With 40% of all DC robberies involving stolen smartphones, the mayor is encouraging DC residents to learn about disabling their device after it’s been stolen. It’s called “bricking.” The mayor hopes to reduce cellphone theft if consumers brick their stolen smartphones so thieves can’t sell them.
To “brick” your phone is fairly simple. Most of us buy our phones from the wireless carrier we have a contract with. They can use what is essentially a serial number to permanently disable your device. Consumers should keep in mind that this is the nuclear option. Once you brick your phone, it can no longer be used, with any phone company anywhere in America.
If your phone is stolen – and you’re sure it’s stolen – call your wireless carrier and ask them to disable your phone. They’ll ask for information about your account that only you should know. Some carriers will ask for a police report before beginning this process. That helps to avoid the situation where someone – say an angry ex – tries to impersonate you to disable your phone.
Thankfully, there are some simple steps consumers can take to protect their private information on their smartphone and possibly avoid this nuclear option.
1. Use a Password. Make sure your phone has a password. This is the simplest and most important way to ensure your information is protected, especially right after it’s stolen.
2. Use Find Phone App. If you’re like me, you may have misplaced your phone, believing it stolen, only to find it in the couch cushions later. Thankfully most smartphones have apps that help you find your phone. These apps also let you lock them and wipe all your data. Check out these sites to learn about the app that will work for your phone.
3. WindowsPhone. Window Phone users can visit the website, http://WindowsPhone.com to perform the same functions.