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What to Do After You've Lost Your Cell Phone

Losing a cell phone can be devastating, especially if you haven't taken steps to prepare for the loss like backing up the data in your phone. But the after effects can be even worse. Much like losing a credit card, losing a phone can result in unauthorized charges and even identity theft.

Here are some simple steps to take if you lose your phone:

Call your phone from another phone. If you're lucky, someone will answer and you will be able to arrange to pick up your phone. If there is no answer, perform a "remote wipe" to remove all data from the phone to protect your information from unauthorized access. You will only be able to do this if your phone or provider offers this service, or if you previously installed software.

Corporate cell phone users using Microsoft's Activesync enabled smart phones have "remote wipe." This feature is activated by the email administrator and ensures that the contents of the phone are erased.

Don't wait to report the loss to your carrier. Go online and deactivate your account or do it by phone. Within moments, your phone will be deactivated, so no calls can be made or received from the phone, and from that point, any unauthorized charges made on the device will not be charged to your account.

You may also want to file a police report if the phone was stolen or a file a claim through your homeowner's insurance if the device is covered under your policy.

Joel Nunuz, the founder of ImHonest, an online identification and recovery service for cell phones and other devices, told TechNewsDaily people might also want to consider putting up a quick ad on Craig's List. Look under "Community" for "Lost and Found." Include a description of the phone and the location where you may have lost it. If your phone is found once it has been deactivated, you have a chance of the phone being returned with this strategy.

If your phone is returned, you will be able to reactivate the number in the same way you deactivated it.

If a day or two has passed, consider a replacement.  If your phone will not be replaced under an insurance policy, visit your carrier in person to purchase a new phone. Even if you're not eligible for an upgrade, which means you would be able to purchase a new phone at a significant discount after 18 months, you may still receive the "one year" price. A major wireless carrier employee―who asked to remain anonymous―said he always gives the lower price if asked. It's up to the carrier policy and the individual salesperson, but it's worth a try.

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.