Sunday, July 27, 2014

What to do when you lose your phone

Losing a smartphone is one of the worst nightmares that can happen to you, especially if the device is one of the high-end handsets that cost you a fortune.

Recently, a friend came to me looking utterly distraught. “My phone is gone!” he declared. I could see tears rolling down from his eyes. His sadness and worries were clearly visible and palpable.

The phone that he had lost was an expensive Android phone he had bought about two weeks earlier. With the technology offered in the latest smartphones, he had his entire business and personal life uploaded to that phone. His emails, photos (some of which were pretty sensitive) and contacts were all there. This is not to mention how easily one could get into his social media accounts, as well as online and mobile banking accounts through the phone.

My friend obviously had a million reasons in this world to feel like a chicken with its head cut off. He had gone to the bank and placed the phone on a bench as he was filling out some forms.

A couple of minutes after leaving the banking hall, he remembered that he no longer had possession of his phone. He rushed back to the bank, but his frantic search for the phone was not successful. The staff at the bank even went over the CCTV footage but owing to the large amount of human traffic in the banking hall, nothing conclusive was found.

My friend had an Android Device Manager in his phone. Android Device Manager has some remote phone tracking capabilities. My friend had already tried to call his phone number, but there was no response.

This could have been coincidental because the phone’s battery was already dying at the time he was at the bank, however, it could probably be that whoever had picked it had already removed and most likely replaced the SIM.

Since the phone was synced to his online Google credentials, Android Device Manager would help to locate the phone when the phone was connected to the internet through mobile or Wi-Fi. It is also possible to lock or wipe my friend’s credentials remotely using Android Device Manager.

We, therefore, used my friend’s details to log into Android Device Manager Web portal. Unfortunately, we could not trace the phone. This could have resulted from the person resetting it to factory settings. If this had happened, then we would have better luck finding a pin in a haystack than tracing the phone!

Nonetheless, we used Android Manager to set a message on the phone’s lock screen. The message was simple “if you find this phone; please contact me on XX-XXX-XXXX a cash reward of ….. Naira will be given.” We even changed the phone name to read the same message.

If we did not get a reply in the next few days, we would have to remotely wipe the data on the phone, block the phone and deactivate the SIM.

My friend, on the other hand, had already given up and was planning on saving up for a new phone. Nonetheless, two hours later, the kind stranger who had picked the phone called. We planned a meeting where he obtained his reward, and we received the phone.

There are a few lessons that we can pick up from this experience.

In case you lose your phone:

• Do not panic; calmly retrace your steps to where you last remember having the phone. Try calling your phone and ask around if anyone has seen it.

• Ensure that the phone is locked; this is a precaution that you ought to take before you lose the phone. Locking your phone with a PIN or password will keep the personal details safe in the event of your phone disappearing.

• Install a tracker app in your phone; having Android Device Manager or Find My iPhone may not be adequate. There are several third party apps that are excellent phone trackers. Such apps will be of great help in finding your phone. Use the phone tracker software to find your phone.

• Leave a message on the phone; the phone tracing app should easily help you put a message on the phone’s lock-screen. Let anyone who finds the phone know how he or she can reach you. The message had better be simple and straightforward. Incentives such as cash can be promised for returning the phone.

• Do not judge; it would be wrong to assume that whoever has your phone stole it. It could be that the individual picked it up with no bad intention. Your interactions with the finder should, therefore, be positive.

• Contact your mobile provider; this is especially important if you are on a post-paid talk-time plan. Calling the mobile provider will not only deactivate the SIM but will also help you block the phone.

• Finally, when meeting the person who finds your phone; be cautious. Meet in a public place and have a friend or two to accompany you.

Someone reading this might be asking; is this possible in Nigeria? I’d say yes because aside my friend, someone has actually returned my phone that dropped while stepping out of the car and after we met and he is back, I gave him a cash reward

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