Google found phone. Can My Phone Be Tracked If Location Services Are Off

Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret

Dozens of companies use smartphone locations to help advertisers and even hedge funds. They say it’s anonymous, but the data shows how personal it is.

Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret

Dozens of companies use smartphone locations to help advertisers and even hedge funds. They say it’s anonymous, but the data shows how personal it is. By JENNIFER VALENTINO-DeVRIES, NATASHA SINGER, MICHAEL H. KELLER and AARON KROLIK DEC. 10, 2018

google, found, phone, tracked, location, services

The millions of dots on the map trace highways, side streets and bike trails — each one following the path of an anonymous cellphone user. One path tracks someone from a home outside Newark to a nearby Planned Parenthood, remaining there for more than an hour. Another represents a person who travels with the mayor of New York during the day and returns to Long Island at night. Yet another leaves a house in upstate New York at 7 a.m. and travels to a middle school 14 miles away, staying until late afternoon each school day. Only one person makes that trip: Lisa Magrin, a 46-year-old math teacher. Her smartphone goes with her. An app on the device gathered her location information, which was then sold without her knowledge. It recorded her whereabouts as often as every two seconds, according to a database of more than a million phones in the New York area that was reviewed by The New York Times. While Ms. Magrin’s identity was not disclosed in those records, The Times was able to easily connect her to that dot. The app tracked her as she went to a Weight Watchers meeting and to her dermatologist’s office for a minor procedure. It followed her hiking with her dog and staying at her ex-boyfriend’s home, information she found disturbing. “It’s the thought of people finding out those intimate details that you don’t want people to know,” said Ms. Magrin, who allowed The Times to review her location data. Like many consumers, Ms. Magrin knew that apps could track people’s movements. But as smartphones have become ubiquitous and technology more accurate, an industry of snooping on people’s daily habits has spread and grown more intrusive.


At least 75 companies receive anonymous, precise location data from apps whose users enable location services to get local news and weather or other information, The Times found. Several of those businesses claim to track up to 200 million mobile devices in the United States — about half those in use last year. The database reviewed by The Times — a sample of information gathered in 2017 and held by one company — reveals people’s travels in startling detail, accurate to within a few yards and in some cases updated more than 14,000 times a day. [Learn how to stop apps from tracking your location.] These companies sell, use or analyze the data to cater to advertisers, retail outlets and even hedge funds seeking insights into consumer behavior. It’s a hot market, with sales of location-targeted advertising reaching an estimated 21 billion this year. IBM has gotten into the industry, with its purchase of the Weather Channel’s apps. The social network Foursquare remade itself as a location marketing company. Prominent investors in location start-ups include Goldman Sachs and Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder. Businesses say their interest is in the patterns, not the identities, that the data reveals about consumers. They note that the information apps collect is tied not to someone’s name or phone number but to a unique ID. But those with access to the raw data — including employees or clients — could still identify a person without consent. They could follow someone they knew, by pinpointing a phone that regularly spent time at that person’s home address. Or, working in reverse, they could attach a name to an anonymous dot, by seeing where the device spent nights and using public records to figure out who lived there. Many location companies say that when phone users enable location services, their data is fair game. But, The Times found, the explanations people see when prompted to give permission are often incomplete or misleading. An app may tell users that granting access to their location will help them get traffic information, but not mention that the data will be shared and sold. That disclosure is often buried in a vague privacy policy. “Location information can reveal some of the most intimate details of a person’s life — whether you’ve visited a psychiatrist, whether you went to an A.A. meeting, who you might date,” said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, who has proposed bills to limit the collection and sale of such data, which are largely unregulated in the United States. “It’s not right to have consumers kept in the dark about how their data is sold and shared and then leave them unable to do anything about it,” he added.

Mobile Surveillance Devices

After Elise Lee, a nurse in Manhattan, saw that her device had been tracked to the main operating room at the hospital where she works, she expressed concern about her privacy and that of her patients. “It’s very scary,” said Ms. Lee, who allowed The Times to examine her location history in the data set it reviewed. “It feels like someone is following me, personally.” The mobile location industry began as a way to customize apps and target ads for nearby businesses, but it has morphed into a data collection and analysis machine. Retailers look to tracking companies to tell them about their own customers and their competitors’. For a web seminar last year, Elina Greenstein, an executive at the location company GroundTruth, mapped out the path of a hypothetical consumer from home to work to show potential clients how tracking could reveal a person’s preferences. For example, someone may search online for healthy recipes, but GroundTruth can see that the person often eats at fast-food restaurants. “We look to understand who a person is, based on where they’ve been and where they’re going, in order to influence what they’re going to do next,” Ms. Greenstein said. Financial firms can use the information to make investment decisions before a company reports earnings — seeing, for example, if more people are working on a factory floor, or going to a retailer’s stores.

planned parenthood

Health care facilities are among the more enticing but troubling areas for tracking, as Ms. Lee’s reaction demonstrated. Tell All Digital, a Long Island advertising firm that is a client of a location company, says it runs ad campaigns for personal injury lawyers targeting people anonymously in emergency rooms. “The book ‘1984,’ we’re kind of living it in a lot of ways,” said Bill Kakis, a managing partner at Tell All. Jails, schools, a military base and a nuclear power plant — even crime scenes — appeared in the data set The Times reviewed. One person, perhaps a detective, arrived at the site of a late-night homicide in Manhattan, then spent time at a nearby hospital, returning repeatedly to the local police station. Two location firms, Fysical and SafeGraph, mapped people attending the 2017 presidential inauguration. On Fysical’s map, a bright red box near the Capitol steps indicated the general location of President Trump and those around him, cellphones pinging away. Fysical’s chief executive said in an email that the data it used was anonymous. SafeGraph did not respond to requests for comment.


than 1,000 popular apps contain location-sharing code from such companies, according to 2018 data from MightySignal, a mobile analysis firm. Google’s Android system was found to have about 1,200 apps with such code, compared with about 200 on Apple’s iOS. The most prolific company was Reveal Mobile, based in North Carolina, which had location-gathering code in more than 500 apps, including many that provide local news. A Reveal spokesman said that the popularity of its code showed that it helped app developers make ad money and consumers get free services. To evaluate location-sharing practices, The Times tested 20 apps, most of which had been flagged by researchers and industry insiders as potentially sharing the data. Together, 17 of the apps sent exact latitude and longitude to about 70 businesses. Precise location data from one app, WeatherBug on iOS, was received by 40 companies. When contacted by The Times, some of the companies that received that data described it as “unsolicited” or “inappropriate.” WeatherBug, owned by GroundTruth, asks users’ permission to collect their location and tells them the information will be used to personalize ads. GroundTruth said that it typically sent the data to ad companies it worked with, but that if they didn’t want the information they could ask to stop receiving it.


The Times also identified more than 25 other companies that have said in marketing materials or interviews that they sell location data or services, including targeted advertising. [Read more about how The Times analyzed location tracking companies.] The spread of this information raises questions about how securely it is handled and whether it is vulnerable to hacking, said Serge Egelman, a computer security and privacy researcher affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley. “There are really no consequences” for companies that don’t protect the data, he said, “other than bad press that gets forgotten about.”

A Question of Awareness

Companies that use location data say that people agree to share their information in exchange for customized services, rewards and discounts. Ms. Magrin, the teacher, noted that she liked that tracking technology let her record her jogging routes. Brian Wong, chief executive of Kiip, a mobile ad firm that has also sold anonymous data from some of the apps it works with, says users give apps permission to use and share their data. “You are receiving these services for free because advertisers are helping monetize and pay for it,” he said, adding, “You would have to be pretty oblivious if you are not aware that this is going on.” But Ms. Lee, the nurse, had a different view. “I guess that’s what they have to tell themselves,” she said of the companies. “But come on.” Ms. Lee had given apps on her iPhone access to her location only for certain purposes — helping her find parking spaces, sending her weather alerts — and only if they did not indicate that the information would be used for anything else, she said. Ms. Magrin had allowed about a dozen apps on her Android phone access to her whereabouts for services like traffic notifications. But it is easy to share information without realizing it. Of the 17 apps that The Times saw sending precise location data, just three on iOS and one on Android told users in a prompt during the permission process that the information could be used for advertising. Only one app, GasBuddy, which identifies nearby gas stations, indicated that data could also be shared to “analyze industry trends.” typical was theScore, a sports app: When prompting users to grant access to their location, it said the data would help “recommend local teams and players that are relevant to you.” The app passed precise coordinates to 16 advertising and location companies. A spokesman for theScore said that the language in the prompt was intended only as a “quick introduction to certain key product features” and that the full uses of the data were described in the app’s privacy policy. The Weather Channel app, owned by an IBM subsidiary, told users that sharing their locations would let them get personalized local weather reports. IBM said the subsidiary, the Weather Company, discussed other uses in its privacy policy and in a separate “privacy settings” section of the app. Information on advertising was included there, but a part of the app called “location settings” made no mention of it.

The app did not explicitly disclose that the company had also analyzed the data for hedge funds — a pilot program that was promoted on the company’s website. An IBM spokesman said the pilot had ended. (IBM updated the app’s privacy policy on Dec. 5, after queries from The Times, to say that it might share aggregated location data for commercial purposes such as analyzing foot traffic.) Even industry insiders acknowledge that many people either don’t read those policies or may not fully understand their opaque language. Policies for apps that funnel location information to help investment firms, for instance, have said the data is used for market analysis, or simply shared for business purposes. “Most people don’t know what’s going on,” said Emmett Kilduff, the chief executive of Eagle Alpha, which sells data to financial firms and hedge funds. Mr. Kilduff said responsibility for complying with data-gathering regulations fell to the companies that collected it from people. Many location companies say they voluntarily take steps to protect users’ privacy, but policies vary widely. For example, Sense360, which focuses on the restaurant industry, says it scrambles data within a 1,000-foot square around the device’s approximate home location. Another company, Factual, says that it collects data from consumers at home, but that its database doesn’t contain their addresses.


Some companies say they delete the location data after using it to serve ads, some use it for ads and pass it along to data aggregation companies, and others keep the information for years. Several people in the location business said that it would be relatively simple to figure out individual identities in this kind of data, but that they didn’t do it. Others suggested it would require so much effort that hackers wouldn’t bother. It “would take an enormous amount of resources,” said Bill Daddi, a spokesman for Cuebiq, which analyzes anonymous location data to help retailers and others, and raised more than 27 million this year from investors including Goldman Sachs and Nasdaq Ventures. Nevertheless, Cuebiq encrypts its information, logs employee queries and sells aggregated analysis, he said. There is no federal law limiting the collection or use of such data. Still, apps that ask for access to users’ locations, prompting them for permission while leaving out important details about how the data will be used, may run afoul of federal rules on deceptive business practices, said Maneesha Mithal, a privacy official at the Federal Trade Commission. “You can’t cure a misleading just-in-time disclosure with information in a privacy policy,” Ms. Mithal said.

Following the Money

Apps form the backbone of this new location data economy. The app developers can make money by directly selling their data, or by sharing it for location-based ads, which command a premium. Location data companies pay half a cent to two cents per user per month, according to offer letters to app makers reviewed by The Times. Targeted advertising is by far the most common use of the information. Google and. which dominate the mobile ad market, also lead in location-based advertising. Both companies collect the data from their own apps. They say they don’t sell it but keep it for themselves to personalize their services, sell targeted ads across the internet and track whether the ads lead to sales at brick-and-mortar stores. Google, which also receives precise location information from apps that use its ad services, said it modified that data to make it less exact. Smaller companies compete for the rest of the market, including by selling data and analysis to financial institutions. This segment of the industry is small but growing, expected to reach about 250 million a year by 2020, according to the market research firm Opimas. Apple and Google have a financial interest in keeping developers happy, but both have taken steps to limit location data collection. In the most recent version of Android, apps that are not in use can collect locations “a few times an hour,” instead of continuously. Apple has been stricter, for example requiring apps to justify collecting location details in pop-up messages. But Apple’s instructions for writing these pop-ups do not mention advertising or data sale, only features like getting “estimated travel times.” A spokesman said the company mandates that developers use the data only to provide a service directly relevant to the app, or to serve advertising that met Apple’s guidelines. Apple recently shelved plans that industry insiders say would have significantly curtailed location collection. Last year, the company said an upcoming version of iOS would show a blue bar onscreen whenever an app not in use was gaining access to location data. The discussion served as a “warning shot” to people in the location industry, David Shim, chief executive of the location company Placed, said at an industry event last year. After examining maps showing the locations extracted by their apps, Ms. Lee, the nurse, and Ms. Magrin, the teacher, immediately limited what data those apps could get. Ms. Lee said she told the other operating-room nurses to do the same. “I went through all their phones and just told them: ‘You have to turn this off. You have to delete this,’” Ms. Lee said. “Nobody knew.”

Can My Phone Be Tracked If Location Services Are Off?

Your smartphone comes with built-in location services. which are useful if you lose it or if you use an app that needs to know your location. But what if you don’t want your phone to be tracked? Can the phone be located if you turn off location services ? The answer is yes, it’s possible to track mobile phones even if location services are turned off.

Turning off the location service on your phone can help conceal your location. This is important if you don’t want third parties knowing where you are or being able to track your movement. However, a smartphone can still be tracked through other techniques that reveal its general location.

This article explains how your phone can be tracked and what you can do to enhance your mobile security.

How can a phone be tracked?

Whether you have an iOS or Android phone. there are ways it can be tracked even if location services are turned off. You may have used some of these yourself to find a lost or stolen phone. For example, the Find My iPhone app uses Bluetooth to help you find an iPhone even if it’s offline.

If you have an Android phone and the Find My Device app, you can log in to your Google account and use Google Maps to check your phone’s location history.

Here are four ways that your phone could be tracked:

Cell towers

The United States has more than 307,000 cell towers. When you use your phone, signals travel back and forth to the nearest cell tower. Cell carriers can calculate the general area of your phone by measuring the time it takes for a signal to travel back and forth.

Carriers use cell tower triangulation for a more accurate reading, which combines location data from three cell towers. This technology was developed to help 911 operators locate callers. It pinpoints the phone’s location within a 300-meter area.

Public Wi-Fi

A smartphone that has Wi-Fi enabled communicates with nearby Wi-Fi networks even if it’s not connected to one. Your device automatically scans Wi-Fi access points nearby and notes the signal strength.

When using public Wi-Fi. the provider commonly asks you to agree to location tracking. That Wi-Fi provider will then record your location whenever you’re in range of one of its hot spots.

To use public Wi-Fi while protecting your privacy, it’s a good idea to connect with a VPN like McAfee’s Safe Connect VPN. This software protects your data using bank-grade encryption to keep your online activity private. The VPN also keeps your IP address and physical location private.

Cell site simulators

Cell site simulators — otherwise known as stingrays— mimic cellphone towers. They trick your phone into pinging it, transmitting its location, and identifying information. Stingrays cause cellphones to connect to them rather than to legitimate cell towers by transmitting a stronger signal than that from the cell towers.

Law enforcement officers often use stingrays to locate and track the movement of potential suspects. While attempting to connect to a specific individual, stingrays connect data from all phones in the vicinity of the device.

Malware or spyware

A device that is infected with malware or spyware can track your location even if your location settings are turned off. Malware can also record your online activities, allow cybercriminals to steal personal information, or slow down your operating system.

To help protect your mobile device. consider getting a comprehensive security tool like McAfee Security for Mobile. It works for both Android and iOS devices and comes with an antivirus app that scans for threats and malware and blocks them in real-time.

Can you tell if your phone is being tracked?

While many reasons for tracking a phone’s location information are benign — such as seeing where a loved one might be — scammers and hackers may track phones in an attempt to steal personal data.

Luckily, some telltale signs can help you spot whether your phone is being tracked.

Battery drain

When your phone has spyware. the program continuously runs in the background and drains your battery. A battery that is losing power faster than normal is either due to an old battery or spyware.

Check your battery health to see if it is still strong. If you use an iPhone. follow these steps to check battery health. You’ll see a maximum capacity score that shows your battery power compared to when it was new. An older phone with a battery capacity of 75% could explain why your battery loses power throughout the day. If your battery capacity is 95% or 100% and it drains quickly, however, a virus could be to blame.

It’s a slightly different process to check the battery health on an Android device. Depending on the phone brand, you may need to download an app.


Using apps with high processing demands can cause your mobile device to heat up. A spyware app that tracks your device’s location will use GPS, which causes the phone to work harder and overheat. If you’re using your smartphone normally and it overheats, it could be a sign of malware.

Extra apps

If there are unfamiliar apps on your phone, someone may have tampered with it. The mystery app could be spyware.

Unprompted activity

If your phone launches activities that you didn’t initiate, an app might be running in the background. In some cases, malware needs to reboot your phone to install updates or change the phone’s settings.

A phone that automatically restarts lights up for no reason or makes noises during calls or texts could be infected with malware.

Phone tracking FAQs

Here are answers to some common questions about phone tracking.

Can a phone be tracked if it’s turned off?

A phone that is turned off is difficult to track because it stops sending signals to cell towers. However, the service provider or internet provider can show the last location once it’s switched back on.

google, found, phone, tracked, location, services

Can a phone be tracked with no cell service/connection?

Even without cell service, Android devices and iPhones can be tracked. Your phone’s mapping apps can track your phone’s location without an internet connection.

The GPS works in two ways: It uses Assisted GPS or A-GPS when you have a data connection. This uses the locations of cellphone towers and known Wi-Fi networks to figure out where you are. It also uses data from GPS satellites for more precise information. The A-GPS needs data service to work, but the GPS radio can receive satellite information without data service.

Can a phone be tracked when it’s in airplane mode?

Yes, your phone can be tracked when it’s in airplane mode. While it does turn off Wi-Fi and cellular services, airplane mode doesn’t turn off GPS (a different technology that sends and receives signals from GPS satellites). You’ll have to disable GPS on your device and turn on airplane mode to prevent your phone from being tracked.

Protect your mobile security with McAfee

Understanding how your phone can be tracked can help you protect your privacy. For greater peace of mind, though, it can help to have a mobile security tool like McAfee Security for Mobile to keep your Android or Apple device free from spyware.

Our all-inclusive mobile security tool safeguards your digital life by offering safe browsing, a secure VPN, and antivirus software. It actively protects you from malicious apps, like spyware. and unwanted visitors.

With a dedicated mobile security app, you can use your phone the way you want without worrying about cybercriminals tracking your information.

How to Use Find My Device Google

Do you want to track your stolen or lost Android phone? This tutorial will show you steps to find my phone Google. You can use find my device Google to locate my device on Android. It also helps you keep your data safe if the device is lost. Make sure turn on location to use find my Google device. Three ways to find my Google phone in Android phones and tablets using find my device app using Google account, Android device manager, and find my mobile to track lost Samsung phone. You can remotely track my device, lock, or erase all data (Google account, photos, videos) will remove lock screen security on your Android phone.

How to Use Google Find My Device Android

You can find Android lost phone using below given security settings.

1 st Method: Find My Device App

Step 1: Swipe down the notification panel twice from the top of the screen.

Step 2: Tap the Settings gear icon.

Step 3: Tap Security.

Step 4: Tap Find my deviec under a security status.

Make sure the location is turned on. Here you can see Find my device app and find my device web for PC or Laptop.

Step 5: Tap any option you want to use google locate my phone using Gmail account.

Step 6: Tap Sign in to view where is my phone.

Step 7: You can see you’re device name and its current location.

Also see play sound, secure device, and Erase device (Erase all data) settings.

Step 8: Tap Secure device.

Step 9: Now add Recovery message and phone number and tap Secure device.

2 nd Method: Use Google Find My Phone to Find Lost Phone

First of all install, Google find my device app in your Android phone or tablet devices.

Step 1: Open the Google play store and download this Google find my device app.

Step 2: Log in with your Google account

Step 3: Select your device from the list.

It will use to find a lost phone or track my phone Google.

3 rd Method: Find my Google Pixel

You can find lost or track Pixel phone using find my Pixel.

Step 1: Open on your desktop or laptop.

Step 2: Sign in with your Gmail account.

Step 3: Select your phone and see live location if the enabled location in your device.

And that’s it. We hope this makes it clear how to find my phone Google. Do you have any other tips you want to share? Have you been applying them already? Share with us in below comment box.

About Bestusefultips

I’m Arpit Patel, a techno lover from India. Bestusefultips is a technology website focused on the latest Android news, tricks tips related to Android devices, tutorials and videos.

Stolen Phone? Don’t Panic! Follow These 11 Steps Now

Identity theft and fraud protection for your finances, personal info, and devices.

Was Your Phone Stolen? Don’t Panic!

When Gaetano DiNardi lost his phone during a trip to Mexico, he thought the worst-case scenario was that he’d have to buy a new device. Instead, he lost over 10,000 when scammers broke into his online accounts and stole his identity [].

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) []:

1 in 10 American smartphone owners are victims of phone theft — with 68% unable to recover their lost or stolen device.

The cost of your phone getting lost or stolen can amount to more than a replacement device. In some cases, it can cost you your identity.

Every day you add more personal information to your phone — from banking app logins and passwords to sensitive data, information, and photographs. Scammers know that your phone contains everything they need to steal your identity, empty your bank accounts, or worse.

If you think (or know) that your phone has been stolen, don’t wait any longer. Here’s exactly what you need to do now to protect yourself (and possibly even get your phone back).

What Can Happen If Your Phone Is Lost or Stolen?

The moment you can’t find your phone, you should assume the worst.

Phone thieves often go straight for your personal information after stealing your phone. They’ll try to access banking and investment apps, social media and email accounts, photos, and passwords.

They’ll change your passwords and lock you out of your email accounts so that you can’t get back in, while they run their schemes.

But what about phone locks?

Professional thieves know the exact moment to strike — such as when you’re walking down the street checking Google Maps for directions, and your phone is unlocked. Even if you have a phone passcode and enabled biometric security (like fingerprint ID), hackers can still gain access to your device.

With your phone, thieves can:

  • Make unauthorized purchases using your linked credit cards and Apple or Google Pay.
  • Access your passwords and login information for various accounts. (As many as 99% of people reuse passwords across business and personal accounts []. So, if scammers gain access to your phone, they can potentially get into your other accounts.)
  • Hack your email account and lock you out.
  • Access your bank accounts or investing apps and wire out your savings.
  • Mine enough personal data to steal your identity.
  • Hack your Google or Apple ID and bypass two-factor authentication (2FA) on your other apps.
  • Run phishing scams targeting your friends and family.
  • Use sensitive photos to blackmail you (i.e., sextortion).
  • Find out what places you visit and get details about your economic status.
  • Open credit cards and loans in your name.

The list is endless. And we’re not even talking about the fact that you’ll need to spend hundreds or even thousands on buying a new phone.

Take action: If you think someone is misusing your personal information, try Aura’s identity theft protection free for 14 days to secure your identity.

What To Do If Your Phone Is Stolen

The moment you discover that your phone is missing, there are two scenarios to consider:

  • Your phone is lost, and you may be able to recover it.
  • Your phone has been stolen, and hackers are currently breaking into your accounts.

Let’s start with the best-case scenario and review what you should do if your phone is lost.

google, found, phone, tracked, location, services

The Best Case: How To Locate a Lost Phone

The best-case scenario is that your phone is lost and secured with a password or biometrics, and your SIM is protected with a PIN. Luckily, you’re actually two times more likely to lose your phone than to have it stolen [].

Here’s what to do if your phone is lost:

  • Call or text your phone to see if someone answers. In some cases, a good samaritan may have your phone and happily return it as soon as you call or text.
  • Locate your phone using the “Find my device” function. Both Apple and Android phones have features that can help you locate a missing phone. If using a different device (such as an iPad or laptop), use the Find My Device (Android), Find My (iOS), or Samsung Find My Mobile feature to locate your phone.
  • Put your device into “Lock mode.” Using the “Find My” feature, you can also mark your device as “lost.” This will lock your device and set a custom message on the screen displaying your contact details.
  • Report the loss to your cell phone provider. Scammers might try to rack up charges on your phone, or transfer your SIM to a new device, so that they can hack your accounts. Make sure to contact your phone service provider and let them know that your device is missing so they’ll be on the lookout for signs of fraud.
  • Go get your phone. If you see that your phone is in a familiar location, go pick it up. If it’s somewhere you don’t recognize, it may have been stolen. In that case, you should contact law enforcement rather than try to retrieve the phone yourself.

You don’t want to confront thieves if they are on the run. If your phone is just lost, it’s likely in a location where you’ve recently been, and not in motion.

The Worst Case: What To Do If Your Phone Has Been Stolen

If you can’t find your phone using the “Find My” feature, or if you’re sure it was stolen, don’t try to get it back. Instead, follow these steps to secure your personal information and stop scammers from emptying your bank account.

Lock your phone remotely

Ideally, your phone will be secured by a unique passcode (i.e., not your birthday) and biometric security such as fingerprint ID or facial recognition. But even with these security measures in place, scammers can access your device.

Locking your phone will prevent anyone from using it without your account ID and password. This is the first thing you need to do to protect yourself against identity theft and fraud.

How to remotely lock your iPhone:

Apple lets you lock your iPhone remotely so that people cannot access your personal information.

Using a different device (such as an iPad, Mac desktop, or laptop), log into your iCloud account using your Apple ID and then enable the Find My iPhone feature. This will automatically turn on Apple’s Activation Lock feature and stop scammers from accessing your phone.

You can also turn on “Lost Mode” to track your phone’s location and display a custom message on your screen (with your contact details).

Note: You need to have enabled the “Find My” feature before losing your phone in order for this to work.

Watch now: How to use Apple’s “Find My iPhone” feature on iCloud

Note: This action performs a factory reset on your phone and will delete all apps, photos, music, and settings. If your phone is offline, the reset will happen once your phone is connected to a cellular or Wi-Fi connection.

Lock or freeze your credit file

If thieves gained access to your private information before you could lock and erase your phone, they could perform different types of financial fraud. For example, they could:

  • Open new credit accounts in your name.
  • Take out loans in your name.
  • Request a replacement credit card, and change your address so that they (and not you) receive the new card.

Both a credit lock and a credit freeze stop credit bureaus from opening new accounts in your name. If your financial information has been compromised, this is one of the only ways to ensure a criminal can’t rack up debts and leave you with the bill.

Contact your phone insurance provider

A stolen phone can leave you on the hook for hundreds of dollars. If your phone is stolen, call your insurance provider to try and get money back to cover or replace your lost device.

There are typically two ways that people obtain phone insurance:

  • Through a service provider, such as AppleCare or Samsung Care.
  • Through a home insurance policy, like Lemonade.

Remove the device from your account (after you remotely erase the data)

Once your insurance claim has been approved (and you know there’s no chance of getting your phone back), you should remove the phone from your account. This is the final step in severing your stolen phone from your sensitive personal information.

Here’s how to remove your device from both Google and Apple accounts:

To remove a device from your Google account:

  • Go to your Google account dashboard (
  • Select “Security.”
  • Scroll to the “Your devices” section, and select “Manage all devices.”

To remove a device from your Apple iCloud account:

  • Go to
  • Use your Apple ID to log into your iCloud account.
  • Click “All Devices.”
  • Choose your phone from the list.
  • Click “Remove from Account.”

Consider identity theft protection

Even if your phone has been erased and removed from your account, you can’t be sure that criminals don’t have your personal information.

Your phone could have images stored of your passport or driver’s license — or even documents that contain your Social Security number (SSN), account passwords, and credit card numbers. If criminals have access to any of these, they could steal your identity over and over again.

Aura’s all-in-one digital security solution helps keep your identity and finances safe from scammers.

With Aura, you get:

  • Financial fraud protection. Aura monitors your credit and bank accounts in near-real time and alerts you of fraud 4X faster than the competition.
  • Instant credit lock. Lock and unlock your credit file with one click from your desktop or mobile app.
  • Identity theft protection. Aura can alert you if an online account has been compromised, will monitor your SSN for signs of fraud, and can even reduce the amount of spam calls and emails you receive.
  • Device and Wi-Fi protection for all your devices. Keep your computer, phone, and home network safe from hackers with powerful antivirus software and a military-grade Virtual Private Network (VPN).
  • Family identity theft monitoring that protects up to five people including children and adults.
  • 24/7 U.S.-based fraud resolution specialists. If the worst happens, Aura will be there to walk you through the needed steps to secure your identity and get back on your feet.
  • 1,000,000 in insurance coverage for eligible losses due to identity theft.

How To Secure Your New Phone From Criminals

After dealing with the fallout from a stolen phone, the last thing you want is to put yourself at risk again. Here’s how to secure your new phone against scammers and hackers:

  • Set your phone to “auto lock” immediately, and enable biometric ID or a strong passcode. This can potentially stop scammers from accessing your information if they steal your phone.
  • Write down your phone’s serial number and IMEI number, and store them in a secure place. This information is essential when filing a police report for a stolen phone.
  • Activate the “Find my device” feature right away so that you can locate and erase your phone if it gets lost or stolen.
  • Lock your SIM card with a PIN so that thieves can’t use it with another phone. Contact your carrier and ask them for a SIM lock.
  • Add a trusted backup phone number to your account. Make sure this is a number you’ll have access to if your phone is stolen.
  • Don’t store passwords in Google Chrome or Safari. Instead, use a secure password manager (like the one offered by Aura) to keep your passwords safe on your phone.
  • Use an authenticator app for 2FA instead of SMS. This stops scammers from bypassing your 2FA codes if they steal your phone.
  • Back up your phone regularly so that you always have access to your contacts and information. If you have to erase your phone because it was stolen, you don’t want to lose everything that was on it.
  • Keep your phone in a secure place at all times. Avoid keeping it in a back or in your bag — where a pick or criminal could snag it.

Take action: Aura’s 1,000,000 identity theft insurance covers lost wages, phone bills, and other expenses due to identity theft. Try Aura free for 14 days and see if it’s right for you.

The Bottom Line: Don’t Let a Stolen Phone Lead To a Stolen Identity

Realizing your phone is missing might merely seem frustrating — until you realize what it could lead to. The reality is that a stolen phone can lead to identity theft, fraud, and worse.

If your phone is stolen, you should try to get it back in the safest way possible. However, your first priority should be to secure your identity. Remotely lock and erase your phone, and monitor your bank and online accounts for signs of fraud.

And for the best protection, consider signing up for Aura’s all-in-one digital security and identity theft solution.