What to do when your phone is stolen

A young person is on their phone standing outside

Your phone has been stolen, what should you do first?

If your phone’s been lost or stolen, you have our full blessing to jump up and down yelling with rage. Feel better? Good, now here’s what you have to do, including if you have to report a stolen phone to the police.

Protecting your phone

With any luck, you’re reading this with your phone tucked safely in your pocket or bag, or even on your phone. If so, it’s worth setting your mobile up to make sure it’s less of a headache if your phone is lost in the future. 

At the very least you can protect yourself from paying the thief’s massive phone bill if they do get their grubby mitts on it by doing the following:

  • Write down the IMEI number: An IMEI number is a unique 15-digit code that precisely identifies the device with the SIM card input. You can obtain this number by typing *#06# (star hash 06 hash) into your mobile phone and it will display a 15 digit number.
  • Register your phone with Immobilise: It’s free and only takes a few minutes to register all your valuables. If anything goes missing you can let police and insurers know right away. It also makes it much easier to trace you if your phone is recovered.
  • Store your data: Many of the latest phones can transfer and sync contact data (phone numbers, emails) to your computer through USB cable, Bluetooth, or external memory cards. So it’s worth updating every so often. For those who don’t have this option, you can store data on a secure site or on your computer or in the cloud for a monthly or one-off fee – with a service like Google Drive or iCloud, for example. 
  • Prime the phone lock: Most mobile phones feature password protection, so make full use of it. That way, if your phone is nicked, the thief will be faced with working through dozens of combinations, and may not be able to crack it at all.
  • Download a GPS tracker app: If you have a smartphone, it’s worth installing a tracker security app like Lookout, Find My (iOS) or Find My Device (Android). It keeps all your details safe, and can also use the GPS on your phone to track it if it’s stolen.

If your phone does get stolen

OK, we understand it more than just a phone; it can also be the centre of your social universe, including sensitive information like emails and messages. So here’s what to do if your phone is stolen:

  • Call your phone service provider: Report the theft as soon as you can. Your provider will have a set procedure to suspend the service and can take you through the details. You can usually find the right number on their website.
  • Give them your phone’s IMEI number: Bet you’re glad you made a note of it now, huh? A couple of keystrokes at their end and the thief might as well have nicked a brick.
  • Inform Immobilise: If you registered beforehand, let them know what’s happened and your missing phone will be put on a database that’s scrolled regularly by police and the second-hand trade. This makes it much more likely that your phone will be returned.
  • Report your stolen phone to police: Involving the police may not guarantee the return of your phone, but if you have a billing contract with your phone provider (as opposed to using phone cards) you may need to show them a copy of the report before they’ll issue you with a new phone. 
  • Track your phone using a ‘Find my’ or other security app: Don’t try and hunt down the stolen device yourself – your safety is more important than retrieving your phone. But let police know you’ve got the GPS tracker software and they’re likely to use it to apprehend the culprit themselves.
  • If you were traumatised by the event: Victim Support offers free and confidential advice to anyone affected by crime. Call 0845 30 30 900.

How to report a stolen phone to the police

If you’ve had your phone stolen and you’re not sure how to report it to the police, unless you’ve just been mugged it’s best to call the non-emergency number 101, or drop into your local station. 999 is for emergencies only so if you’re not in any danger don’t call the police there.

Next Steps

By The Mix Staff

Updated on 21-Apr-2023