Before It's Gone: Steps to Deter Smartphone Thefts & Protect Personal Info
Written by CTIA   
Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Today's average wireless users spend a lot of time texting, talking and browsing the Internet, which usually means smartphones contain their personal information. But what happens to that data if your smartphone is lost or stolen? 

CTIA and participating wireless companies have taken several important steps to protecting its customers and their information on smartphones. As part of the voluntary agreement announced in April 2012, a database that prevents stolen smartphones from being reactivated will be implemented by December 31, 2012.

In addition, carriers, device manufacturers, police departments, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and CTIA have been individually and collectively educating consumers about passwords, apps and other preventative measures to take so that if their smartphones are ever lost or stolen, their personal information is protected.

To help consumers, CTIA and its members developed a public service announcement (PSA) video, which serves as a funny reminder to use their smartphones' features and apps to remote lock, track and wipe if the devices are lost or stolen.

CTIA and its members remind you that your personal safety, not your smartphone, should always be your number one priority.

BEFORE your smartphone is lost or stolen:

  1. Be Aware. Know your surroundings and be cognizant of your smartphone use behavior. Similar to your purse or wallet, it's best to not call attention to your smartphone and create an opportunity for a thief to steal it (e.g., leave it on a restaurant table, use it while walking or taking public transportation, allowing strangers to "borrow" it to get directions, etc.). By knowing your surroundings, you may protect your smartphone from being lost or stolen.
  2. Lock It. As soon as you get a new smartphone, set a hard to guess password to protect your device and change it on a regular basis. If you don't know how to set a password for your Android, BlackBerry, iOS (Apple) or Windows smartphones, here are video and print instructions.
  3. Add Apps. There are a number of appsavailable that will remotely track, lock and/or erase your smartphone. In addition, some apps will remote trigger an alarm so people know that smartphone is stolen or take a photo of the thief so you can send it to police. By adding these apps now, in the event your smartphone is stolen or lost, you're personal information will be protected.
  4. Save It (Again). If you have photos, emails, contacts, videos or anything else that you want to make sure is available if your smartphone is ever lost or stolen, save it somewhere else such as a computer, USB drive or cloud service. It's always a good idea to have a backup copy.
  5. Insure It. If you are prone to losing things, you may want to consider insuring your device through your wireless provider or a third party entity so that if it is lost or stolen, your replacement device is covered. 

AFTER your smartphone is lost or stolen:

  1. Report It. If you know your smartphone is stolen, immediately notify your wireless provider so you can avoid incurring charges on the usage. If your device is lost, tell your provider to put a "hold" on your account so that if it ends up being stolen, you've prevented unauthorized usage. You may also report your smartphone stolen to your local police department. Let them know what tracking or other kinds of apps you have installed that may help them locate the thief.   
  2. Locate it. CTIA and its members remind you that your safety should always be your number one priority so you should never attempt to recover your smartphone on your own. But since you've already installed apps that can remotely track your smartphone, activate the app from a safe location. In addition to tracking, remote lock your smartphone so the thief cannot access your personal information.
  3. Erase It. If you have sensitive information, such as financial, health or work, or you believe your smartphone won't be returned, it's best to remote erase, or "wipe" it. Essentially, wiping your smartphone is similar to resetting it to its default, or factory installed settings. If you stored any passwords on your smartphone, it's a good idea to change them.    

For more information on the participating wireless providers' progress reports on stolen smartphones, please see the quarterly reports below.