What to Do Before You Lose Your Cell Phone

Losing a phone can cost more than the price of a replacement. It can mean the loss of valuable data including contacts, photos, video, music and a personal stash of apps that may have taken months accumulate, and lead to identity theft and all its financial implications. Following some simple steps can minimize the fallout.

TechNewsDaily spoke with Joel Nunuz, the founder of ImHonest, an online identification and recovery service for cell phones and other devices. Nunez cites compelling numbers that show how careless people are with phones. For instance, Disneyland collects about 300 cell phones a week, along with various personal digital assistants and iPods, and cab drivers collected more than 8,700 mobile devices left behind in taxis in the Washington-Baltimore area over a six month period.

Registered users of ImHonest receive stickers with a unique identifying number to affix to their phones and other devices. If a phone is found, the ImHonest sticker instructs the individual to bring it to a UPS store where it will be shipped back to the owner. ImHonest alerts the owner that the phone is on its way.

"The whole idea is promoting something that everybody has to some degree―honesty," said Nunez, "We tap into one of the most important things―your conscience."

Here are some simple ways to prepare for the possible loss of your cell phone:

Consider insurance through the cell phone carrier when you purchase your phone. For under $10 a month, most carriers will replace a lost phone with a comparable model after paying the deductible, or allow you to purchase a replacement at the one year contract price.

Carriers and manufacturers differ in their replacement policies. "A friend of mine left his iPhone in his pocket and actually threw it in the washer, complete water damage! iPhone doesn't even have any insurance," said Nunez and suggested iPhone users check with their homeowners policy for coverage.

Verizon Wireless recently changed its replacement policy, and now offers its customers the ability to buy a refurbished phone to replace a lost phone with or without insurance. Before this policy took effect, uninsured customers paid the full price of a replacement phone if they were not eligible for an upgrade.

Make a note of the serial number and keep it in a safe place. This number will be helpful to both the police if you file a report and your insurance company if the device is covered under a homeowner's policy.

Back up your phone on a regular basis. Motorola offers a free backup service for many of its phones, while iPhones and BlackBerrys can be connected to a computer through their own sync software.

Third party mobile data backup software is another option. Syncables 360 for BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phones is a simple solution that automatically synchronizes a cell phone to a computer as soon as the phone is within range, no intervention required by the user once the software has been installed.

Consider anti-theft software and apps that can be used from a computer once the phone has been lost. SMobile Anti-Theft allows the user to backup data, lock the phone to prevent access by an unauthorized user, wipe all data from the phone, and even track the location of the phone on a Google map. All of these emergency measures can be activated from any Internet connection by logging into your SMobile user account. Service cost is $20 per year.

Leslie Meredith
Leslie Meredith is a contributor to Live Science. She has a bachelor's degree from UCLA in psychology and has directed tourism and ski publications for the Salt Lake Visitor & Convention Bureau and managed promotions and events for Sunset Magazine.