Imagine this: you’re vacationing in Italy, traveling through several cities along the Amalfi coast. After lunching in Capri you board the ferry, but half way through the ride you realize your cellphone is missing. You assume it’s been stolen. Worst part is, it’s not password protected so the thief has access to all your current personal information – email, banking, text messages, contacts, Facebook, photos, etc.
That’s exactly what happened to my Dad this week.
Good news: it was lost – not stolen, found by an honest American who called me, I was able to email my Dad the guy’s info (Dad brought a laptop), and his phone was returned safely.
Bad news: my Dad’s phone was not password secured — that’s how the guy called me. Essentially his entire life was open for the taking.
Smart phones are a blessing and a curse. We keep so much of our personal information on them, but they leave us vulnerable if placed in the wrong hands. Some people argue that if you password protect your phone an honest stranger can’t help return it. I’m sure there are apps for this and iPhone has the tracker thingy… but I have an easy idiot-proof way to make sure you protect your information AND get your phone back (assuming it’s found by someone nice).
Step 1: Password protect your phone! For an iPhone you enter a 4 digit PIN code. Is it sort of annoying to punch the code every time you access your phone? Yes. But it’s MORE of a hassle to remotely wipe your phone, change several passwords, cancel credit cards, change your phone number and potentially lose photos if the phone is stolen.
Step 2: Does this look familiar? A huge mistake is putting your children or family photo on the lock screen. If it is stolen, now the bad guys know what your kids look like, perhaps what neighborhood you live in, or maybe the playground you frequent. Moms, you have plenty of other places to plaster those adorable faces… you don’t need them on your phone’s lock screen!
Step 3: Legibly write out pertinent information that someone looking to return your phone would need.
* This phone belongs to… (first and last name, so when they call your contact they know whose phone they found)
* If found please contact… (someone who knows how to get in touch with you, without calling your cell)
* Or email me at … (insert email)
Step 4: Take a picture of that note with your phone.
Step 5: On iPhone go into Settings > Wallpaper and click “Choose a New Wallpaper.”
Step 6: Choose the picture you took of your information and click “Set.” Then, choose “Set for Lock Screen.”
Step 7: Check to make sure your phone is now password protected AND has the information photo displayed while locked.
These are the steps for an iPhone specifically, but I’m sure other smart phones have the same type of settings. This technique works great for tablets also. Pen on paper is clearly the easiest way to do this, but you can get fancy too. I use an app called Enlight to do ALL my iPhone photo editing, so I made my lock screen infographic on there.
Keep the information current and change it if your contact person is different while traveling.
This trick won’t stop someone from stealing and illegally re-selling your device or a professional hacker from your obtaining your information, but it will secure your digital data and give an honest individual the chance to return it.
Whatever you do, please lock your device. Don’t be one to think you’ll never lose or forget it someplace. Pretty sure my Dad thought that, but I’m happy to report that he’s taken his beloved daughter’s advice and now sports an information lock screen too. Yay, Dad!
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