Tips on what to do if you misplace your mobile device

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As one mother from Virginia Beach personally discovered: misplacing your phone can leave your personal information in the hands of strangers.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Take it from Virginia Beach mom Mallory Matthias: It can happen anytime and anywhere.

“I’m crazy that I let my guard down,” Matthias told 13News Now.

Last winter Matthias ice skated with his two young children and fiancé Mark outside the MacArthur Center. She said she noticed a man staring at her as she put her phone in her shoes, but she didn’t think about it at the time.

“Once I realized she was taken, I kind of lost hope,” she said.

She returned from skating laps around the rink, to find the shoe holding her phone had been stolen. She and a nearby worker immediately tried to track the phone, which they were able to do for a limited time afterwards, before eventually losing track.

Matthias never found the person she believes took her phone or the credit cards attached to the back. But what this person took was more than just an electronic device. The phone contained most of the photos of her youngest son Noah, who was born during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Most of the photos of Noah, since he was born during the pandemic, were on my phone. I lost almost every photo I had of him,” she said.

“Every day we have someone walk in with their lost or stolen phone,” said Charmaine Johnson, AT&T retail sales manager for the Mid-Atlantic region.

Whether it’s lost or stolen, what are you supposed to do next? Johnson offered some of the following advice:

Re-tracing, tracking and time

Even if it seems obvious, it’s always important to retrace your steps to make sure you haven’t dropped your phone or forgotten about it. Setting up a GPS tracking feature from another device can mean the difference between finding it or not, so it’s important to set up some sort of tracking feature right away when you first set up the phone.

However, after 24 hours, Johnson said it might be time to deem the phone misplaced because you don’t want to leave open the possibility of someone else finding it.

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While this may seem long, if you believe your phone was stolen and not just lost, it may be worth filing a police report in case law enforcement is able to find it.

Wipe it

If you’ve made the decision to buy a new phone, it’s best to contact your phone company right away to see if they can remotely wipe your phone from the network.

“Let’s lock the phone to remove the personal information. Let’s contact customer service to suspend the phone. Ensures the SIM card can’t be used, pretty much a clipboard,” Johnson said.

As every phone has a serial number, clearing the phone of its information will prevent that serial number from accessing the network. It wouldn’t change your number to any other.

What to report and change

Today’s phones do more than just make calls. They contain personal information about our bank, personal and other social media accounts.

Considering most people have some form of electronic payment set up on their phone, Johnson said it might be prudent to report the credit card as lost or stolen to your bank even if you still have the physical copies of the cards. This would ensure that no one can access your banking information digitally.

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Likewise, you’ll want to change the passwords to your personal and social media accounts, to make sure no one has access to your personal information.

Because according to Matthias: you can never be too careful in this situation.

“You don’t realize how much information you have on your phone. Your doorbell camera. An alarm system with the ability to open your front door with your address. Online shopping with Amazon and Target accounts,” she said.

Bottom line: best to avoid all of this if you can.

Johnson said that according to AT&T policy, if your phone is lost or stolen: you will still have to pay the balance on that original phone, plus the cost of anything your new phone might cost you (insurance included) .

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