What to do when you lose your phone

They say that two things are certain in life: death and taxes. I say three things are certain in life. More so if, for some reason or the other, you find yourself on the streets of Nairobi.

Besides dying when your time comes and paying the Kenya Revenue Authority its dues, you are certain to lose your phone in Nairobi. I have so far lost 5 phones over the last 5 years. That’s an average of at least one phone every year. I know many people with a worse record. No, I don’t work in a bar and I haven’t set foot in one since the Premier League season ended in May. I am probably more sober all-year-round than your parish priest.

When that dreaded day eventually comes, be sure to at least do the following things:

1. Activate any anti-theft features you may have set up on your device

A Samsung smartphone? A Tecno device? These and many others come with built-in anti-theft features that, if activated, may come in handy.

For every Android device user, there is Google’s own solution as well, Find My Device, formerly Android Device Manager¬†(myaccount.google.com/find-your-phone¬†or google.com/android/find).

As much as these won’t result in the recovery of your phone 99% of the time, they are worth activating and trying out when you eventually lose your phone.

If you have a remote lock feature set up, activate it! The most important thing is to secure the data on your phone. While chances are that the phone will certainly be shut down moments after it gets lost/stolen and its battery (if removable) and SIM card removed, there’s always the 1% chance that in the event of a genuine loss, it may land in the hands of an amateur or someone who doesn’t intend to steal/keep your device. These ones may take longer to shut it down and even when they do, may actually restart it at some point. If data is on, the remote lock feature will simply do the needful. The remote wipe feature, if activated, will kick in and factory reset the device as soon as it receives the signal.

While most anti-theft solutions let you trace the device in real-time on a map, I wouldn’t recommend doing that unless, of course, you work in law enforcement. You trace it in real-time then what? It’s way too dangerous to go after the device yourself. The way the crooked system works around here is that you will need law enforcement officers by your side if you are to retrieve it. Lol. Good luck with that. When you lose a phone in Nairobi is when you realize that giving up is an option.

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2. Change your Google Account password

If the phone you have lost is an Android smartphone then the first thing you should do once you’re settled is to move with speed and change your Google Account password. The Google Account in question here is the one that is directly associated with all the data on the phone you just lost. Android devices require a Google Account so that things like contacts can be synced and applications installed from the Google Play Store. If whoever ends up with your device retains access to this account, it can disastrous.

3. Go a step further, do more than just securing your Google Account, secure every other account

Securing the Google Account linked to your Android device aside, if the device’s lock screen didn’t have a PIN, pattern, fingerprint or any other security feature that will deter strangers from accessing the device then the next step is to change passwords to any sensitive applications on the device and revoking login instances.

Go to Facebook, Twitter, your work email etc and change your passwords, just in case.

In the case of apps like Telegram, log in using another device like a pal’s smartphone or a desktop computer and revoke any logged in instances on the device in question. If, like me, you store lots of stuff on OneDrive or any other cloud storage for that matter, change the login credentials there as well.

4. Renew your mobile SIM

Most two-factor authentication services use SMS. As such, as long as the SIM on your stolen device remains active, you are at risk of not just identity theft but even huge losses financial and reputation-wise.

In instances where the person in whose hands your lost or stolen device lands has access to it fully, they can easily set up your WhatsApp account and do whatever they wish to do, activate your mobile banking apps/services and do as much damage as they can, use your mobile money services (M-PESA et al) etc.

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Imagine someone using your phone to request an M-Shwari or other mobile-based loan and actually getting approved for it and going ahead to withdraw the money?

You can actually call Safaricom’s (or other mobile operator) customer service team, let them know that you are no longer in possession of your device and its SIM card, identify yourself and answer any questions they may have and they will temporarily block the SIM until you are in a position to renew it.

5. Report to the police

This may seem in vain knowing the situation in our country but it is always worth a try and actually recommended. You never know what might happen next. Yes, the Kenya Police won’t do a thing to recover your device (not because they can’t but because the crooked system is that way) but just like any other loss or theft, it should be reported. For the record.

This ensures that should the phone show up weeks, months or years later when it has been used in a criminal activity like say a murder, you can easily absolve yourself of any involvement. Should the device or the SIM be used for criminal or other fraudulent activity (those Kamiti extortion rings), you have something to back you up. You just never know.

There’s also the rare (0.00000000000001%) likelihood that somehow, you will be reunited with your lost phone thanks to law enforcement’s help (Lol. I want whatever you’re smoking if you believe this).


Photo: Cheetah Mobile

Have something that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze [at] androidkenya.com