There’s no worse feeling than realizing your iPhone or iPad has been lost or stolen. Adrian Hon of The Telegraph even went so far as to compare the absence of a smartphone to phantom limb syndrome (a condition in which amputees feel strange sensations coming from limbs they no longer have), calling it phantom mobile syndrome.
If you’ve lost your phone, you can use the Find My iPhone app to track down your device and recover it. However, if you’re sure that your phone has been stolen, then your only option may be to remotely erase all the data in order to protect your identity and privacy.
Find My iPhone
It’s important to note that in order to erase your iPhone remotely, you must have first set up the Find My iPhone app on the device before it was lost. The first time you turn on your iPhone you are prompted to set up Find My iPhone, so there’s a good chance you’ve already registered your device with the application. You also want to consider the phone’s coverage because you can only access your phone remotely if it has service. So, when shopping for an iPhone, go to a carrier with a vast coverage area, such as T-Mobile.
To get started, follow these directions from Apple Support:
- Log into Apple’s iCloud with your Apple ID at icloud.com/#find.
- Click on Find My iPhone.
- In the next window, click on All Devices, then choose the device you’d like to erase.
- Once you arrive at the device’s info window, click on Erase iPhone.
- When prompted, enter your Apple ID password.
- Then, you can enter a phone number and message that will be displayed on the screen of your iPhone after it’s erased. This number and message will be displayed so people who might find your phone can call and return it to you. You’ll want your message to read along the lines of “This iPhone has been lost or stolen. Please contact the owner at the provided phone number.” This way, anyone besides the thief who sees the phone will know that it has been stolen.
- Once you enter the number and message, your iPhone is ready to be erased. If the device is online, the remote erase will begin right away and you’ll receive a confirmation email at your Apple ID address. If your device is offline, the remote erase will begin once it’s online again.
If you don’t expect to recover your iPhone any time soon, make sure to contact your wireless service provider to suspend service so you won't be accountable for any phone calls or other charges.
If you do recover your iPhone or get a new one, you can restore the information on the device using iCloud Backup (if your device was properly set up to back up before you erased it). Once you restore your data from iCloud, it will be as if your iPhone was never stolen at all.