What to Do if Your iPhone Is Lost or Stolen - dummies

What to Do if Your iPhone Is Lost or Stolen

By Joe Hutsko, Barbara Boyd

Your worst iPhone nightmare: Your beloved iPhone is lost or stolen. Don’t panic — even though your iPhone may be gone for good (er, bad), all may not be totally lost. If you back up regularly or better yet, use iCloud, a good portion of the apps and data on your iPhone is in safekeeping in a remote location.

iCloud doesn’t back up video that isn’t in your Camera Roll so you’ll want to back up video files to a photo management app on your computer as soon as possible after shooting them or consider using iTunes as your backup of choice.

As for the risk of untoward characters accessing your data on your iPhone, there is potentially good news,. First the potentially good news: If you turned on the Passcode Lock or Fingerprint feature, whoever found or “borrowed” your iPhone must type in your secret passcode or have your live and attached-to-your-body finger before they can even unlock your iPhone and start snooping around.

Second, the possibly great news: If, in addition to turning on the Passcode Lock feature, you also turned on the Erase Data option, your iPhone develops a sudden case of permanent amnesia and erases everything stored on it if, after the tenth try, the interloper fails to guess your secret code. And because you regularly backup with iCloud or iTunes, erasing what’s on your iPhone isn’t such a big deal.

And finally, what may be the best-case-scenario news of all: Before unexpectedly parting ways, hopefully you configured the Find my iPhone feature it is explained here.

To use Find my iPhone, you must have an iCloud account, and then turn on the Find my iPhone option in Settings→iCloud.


With Find my iPhone activated, you may be able to track down your iPhone’s general location on a map using a web browser on your computer or other web-savvy gadget, or by using the Find my iPhone app installed on another person’s iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, which in turn may jog your memory as to where you may have lost or misplaced your iPhone.

When you turn on Find my iPhone, even without a Passcode lock, the Activation Lock is automatically activated: If the person who got his hands on your iPhone tries to thwart your efforts at finding it with Find my iPhone, he must enter your Apple ID and password to do so, information he’s unlikely to have or easily guess.

Because of Activation Lock, when you sell or give away your iPhone at some future date, it’s a good idea to back up your iPhone, and then sign out of your iCloud account, which deactivates Find my iPhone and all the other iCloud services on your iPhone.

What’s more, you can command your iPhone to play a loud bleating sound to help guide you (or anyone nearby) to wherever it’s hiding. You can lock your iPhone with a secret passcode you create on the fly in the event your iPhone wasn’t already protected using the Passcode Lock feature before it vanished.

And finally, if you still can’t find your iPhone, you can issue a “self-destruct” command that instructs your iPhone to erase everything stored on it. That way, you lose only your iPhone — which you can replace — but not your personal data and identity information.

To track down a missing iPhone, tap the Find my iPhone app on a friend’s iPhone (or iPad or iPod touch), or visit iCloud with your computer’s web browser, and then log in using your iCloud user name and password.

A map appears and shows your iPhone’s current location, give or take a few — or a few hundred — feet, depending on the service’s ability to accurately home in on your missing iPhone. Click the information button or Devices list button to display more information and options.


Choose one or more of the following actions, which take place immediately if your device is online. Otherwise, the action(s) occurs as soon as the device comes online:

  • Play Sound: Click the button to play a sound on your device. The sound plays at full volume even if your device is muted.

  • Lost Mode: When you click this button, you’re asked to create a four-digit passcode. Type the digits two times, as asked, and then enter a phone number where you can be reached, which will be displayed on the screen. Click Next and then type in a message that will appear on the screen of your lost iPhone. Click Done.

    The phone number and message appear on your iPhone’s screen and the passcode must be entered to unlock the device. You receive an e-mail confirming that your lost device has been locked and another e-mail with the device’s location.

  • Erase: If repeated attempts to reach out and touch someone who may be in possession of your iPhone go unanswered, this may be your last gasp option, especially if you have sensitive personal information on your iPhone and you have no luck retrieving it. Click Erase, and then enter your Apple ID password. Confirm by clicking Erase.