These days, iPhones are expensive pieces of hardware, and as such they are highly desired targets for thieves. So it can be heartbreaking to discover that someone has swiped your phone while you were not looking.

It doesn’t hurt any less to discover you have simply lost the phone through carelessness on your part. Whether by theft or absent-mindedness, a smartphone holds so much information about you that losing it can be an unmitigated disaster.

So what can you do if it happens to you?

Call It

Before hitting the panic button, I like to try the simple solutions first. In this scenario, the simple solution would be to call the phone. You wouldn’t believe how many times I was convinced the phone was long gone only to discover I was sitting on it.

The only time this is not going to work is if you have the phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode. If you like using “Do Not Disturb” mode, then put your home landline number or your spouse’s mobile number in as a “Favorite” in your iOS Contacts Book.

Then in the “Do Not Disturb Settings”, allow anyone in “Favorites” to be able to ring through regardless.

Use “Find My iPhone”

If ringing the phone hasn’t made it turn up, then you have to assume it is gone. So now it’s time to take a few more active measures.

For this, you need to turn to “Find My iPhone”, a built-in iOS tracking system for finding the exact real-time location of your iDevice(s). It is enabled by default by Apple when you use the device for the first time so do yourself a favour and don’t switch it off. You can’t switch it on later when the device is gone.

Usually I don’t like having Location Services switched on so I normally have my iPhone in a Faraday bag when I am not using it. But “Find My iPhone” is why I never switch Location Services completely off. Unless you have the money to buy replacement phones every time your phone goes missing, you can’t afford to switch it off.

Assuming you had Find My iPhone switched off for some reason, switching it back on is very simple. Head to Settings > iCloud > Find My iPhone.

Turn on both options: Find My iPhone and Send Last Location.

“Send Last Location“ is a good feature because it makes sure you can see the phone’s last known location on the map if the battery has died.

Tracking Your Phone

With Find My iPhone on, you can start tracking your phone to see where it has gone to. You can either use another iDevice (such as a friend’s iPhone or iPad) or by going to iCloud.com and logging in with your Apple account details. If you want to use another iDevice, look for the app called “Find iPhone”.

When you open it up, after a few spins of the compass, you will see a map of your area (make sure you have allowed the app to know your location). iCloud will then attempt to locate all of your registered iDevices. Zoom in on the map with your fingers to get a more accurate street location.

The map is telling me that the phone is somewhere in my home. So the next thing to do is click Actions at the bottom of the map.

This will then give you three options – Play Sound, Lost Mode, and Erase iPhone.

Play Sound

Since the phone is clearly in my house, the best option is to select Play Sound. Even with the sound turned off, this will still work. It overrides the phone volume and delivers an ear-splitting sonar-sounding pulse. My dog jumped ten feet in the air when he heard it.

On the other hand, if you see from the map that your phone is on the other side of town, another town, or the other side of the world, then it’s time for Plan B.

Lost Mode

Lost Mode enables you to lock down your device, mark it as “Lost”, and send a message remotely to the iPhone screen to the person holding it. This can be anything from a threatening message to an enticing message offering a reward for the phone’s safe return.

Trying to get the phone back on your own by going to its location on the map is generally a very bad idea as you may encounter violence. The golden rule is to go to the police instead.

Erase iPhone

If you are convinced the phone is never coming back, or you think the thief has access to information inside the phone then it’s time to erase its contents.

Be aware though that this is a very drastic non-reversible step. But if you know the phone is gone for good, then definitely do this.

4 Preemptive Measures For The Future

If you are forced to get a new iPhone due to theft or loss, there are four preemptive measures you can take in case your new phone gets lost or stolen in the future.

Put On a Passcode

Imagine that your phone didn’t have a passcode and a thief started looking through your stuff. Just think for a moment what they would have access to.

Your emails, your contacts, your Facebook conversations (perhaps revealing private information), Apple or Google Maps which has your address programmed in (leading the thief to come and try their luck again), photos, videos….the list goes on.

So do yourself a huge favor and set up a passcode.

Consider Disabling Lock Screen Notifications

If someone gets a hold of your phone, even though the phone is locked, notifications are still coming up on the screen. SMS messages and email previews are two which instantly spring to mind.

Do you want the thief being able to read those? Of course not. Switch the previews off in the settings then.

Turn On “Erase Data After 10 Failed Passcode Attempts”

This is a very handy feature to have on. By giving the person only 10 attempts to get the passcode right before the information explodes, it stops brute force attacks, and gives you peace of mind that your information is more or less secure.

You will find this option under “Touch ID and Passcode” in the settings.

Make Sure You Back Up To iCloud or iTunes Every Day

This has to be done religiously. If your iPhone does pull the pin and nuke all of your stuff, you will lose it all forever if it isn’t backed up on iCloud. It doesn’t take long if you do it on iTunes, and you can leave it running in the background, while you look for cat pictures and YouTube videos of laughing babies.