7 Tips for What to Do If Your Phone Is Stolen Abroad

Theft is always a hassle, but it can be a nightmare when you’re far from home. Take these steps to cut your losses and get back to enjoying your trip.

Photo by: Lauren Oster

Lauren Oster

Despite “kill switch” technology designed to deter sticky fingers, smartphone snatching is, alas, still a thing: deterrents or no, those little digital buddies are easy to grab, a snap to transport and potentially extremely valuable (if a lucky thief manages to extract your data or dupe someone else into purchasing your device).

Losing a phone can ruin a trip, but it doesn’t have to be an unmitigated disaster. If you’re one of the unlucky travelers who falls victim to theft, follow this checklist and put your misfortune behind you.

1: Track and Wipe (But Don’t Chase) Your Phone

Use Find My iPhone (for Mac users) or Find My Device (for Android users) to rule out the possibility that you’ve misplaced or forgotten your phone (hey, a little optimism never hurts). If your phone isn’t at that cute sidewalk café you just left, follow the program’s prompts to wipe it remotely and prevent access to your information.

In a 2014 survey, 68% of American phone theft victims said that they were willing to put themselves “in some amount of danger” to retrieve their stolen device. It should go without saying that attempting to recover your phone from a thief is a terrible idea, but we’ll repeat it for emphasis: attempting to recover your phone from a thief is a terrible idea. Your safety should always be your first priority.

2: Contact Your Wireless Carrier

Suspend your service immediately to protect yourself from unauthorized charges with one of the following links:

Your carrier will be able to lock the SIM card associated with your phone and issue you a new one when you’re back home.

3: Change Your Passwords

Security experts recommend taking the extra step of blocking access to cloud-based data by changing the associated password as soon as you can. Once that’s done, consider changing your passwords for banking, email and social media accounts.

4: File a Report With Local Authorities

In all likelihood, your phone is gone for good. That said, a paper trail could be helpful if you file an insurance claim, or if your sensitive information was breached.

5: Contact Your Insurance Company

If your phone is insured through your service provider, give them the information they need (which might include the aforementioned police report) to process your claim as soon as you can. If you have homeowner’s insurance, it’s worthwhile to check that policy as well.

6: Be Patient

You’re going to need a new phone eventually, of course, but you should resist the temptation to invest in a costly replacement mid-trip. That new device might not be compatible with your service contract once you return to the States — iPhones sold overseas, for example, differ slightly from those sold in the USA — and it will be difficult (if not impossible) to untangle a foreign contract and return the phone if you find that it doesn’t work back home.

7: Get Wise

Ideally, you won’t have the opportunity to benefit from downloading security apps or syncing your data with another device, but planning ahead for a worst-case scenario can pay off. If you’ve lost a phone and are starting over with a new one — or if you’re keen to be sure that you keep what you’ve got — back that data up. (You can find iPhone instructions here, and Android instructions here.) Here’s hoping those measures never come in handy.

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