Having your phone lost or stolen can leave you feeling distressed and helpless. Although the chances of recovering a stolen phone can be slim, there are measures you can take before and after the event to prepare and protect your data from such situations.
How to report a stolen phone
The first step to take when your phone is stolen or lost is to report it to the police and your mobile network. It’s best to do this within 24 hours.
Read on to find out who to get in touch with.
Report a stolen phone to the police
If your phone is stolen, you should report it to the police straight away. You can call the non-emergency number on 101, or visit your local police station in person.
If possible, give them the phone’s IMEI number. They can use it to register your device on their stolen phone database, and major retailers will be alerted to its stolen status if someone tries to sell it to them.
The police should give you a crime reference number, which you can use if you want to claim on insurance (see below).
Report a stolen phone to your network
If your phone is lost or stolen, you should contact your mobile network as soon as possible. They can block your SIM to prevent other people making calls on your account, as well as block your phone’s IMEI so no one can use it.
All networks recommend getting in touch within 24 hours of losing your phone or getting it stolen. This ensures you’ll only be responsible for paying a maximum of £100 for any excess unauthorised usage, and your network will cover the rest.
If you wait more than 24 hours to contact your network, you may be liable to pay the full amount for any additional charges.
O2 lost or stolen phone
O2 has a helpline that’s open 24 hours, seven days a week, where you can report a stolen or lost phone.
If you’re an O2 Pay Monthly customer, call 0344 809 0202, or +44 7860 980 202 if you're abroad.
If you’re an O2 Pay As You Go customer, call 0344 809 0222 or +44 7860 980 202 if you're abroad.
EE lost or stolen phone
EE has 24/7 helpline for reporting lost or stolen phones. Call 150 from an EE phone, 07953 966 250 from any other phone, or +44 7953 966 250 from abroad.
Three lost or stolen phone
Three customers can call 333 from any Three phone, 0333 338 1001 from any other phone, or +44 7782 333 333 from abroad.
There’s also a Live Chat service, available 8am-8pm Monday to Friday, and 9am-6pm on weekends.
Vodafone lost or stolen phone
With Vodafone, you can use the Lost & Stolen hub on its website for help. You can fill out the online form to report your device as lost or stolen, and Vodafone will block your plan to prevent others from using your data, calls and texts.
Virgin Mobile lost or stolen phone
Virgin Mobile has three ways to report a lost or stolen device.
There’s a helpline: call 0345 6000 789, or +44 7458 333 789 if you’re abroad. Opening hours are 8am-9pm Monday to Friday, 8am-8pm Saturday, and 8am-6pm Sunday. You can also send a free text to 07533 016 422 – hours are the same as the helpline.
Otherwise, you can visit Virgin Media’s website and fill out an online form – they can block your SIM and device within an hour of receiving the form.
Sky Mobile lost or stolen phone
Call Sky Mobile on 03300 412 523, or +44 131 278 3778 if you’re abroad.
giffgaff lost or stolen phone
giffgaff doesn’t have a helpline – instead, you can report your phone as lost or stolen by filling out an online form on its website (you’ll need to log in to your giffgaff account).
iD Mobile lost or stolen phone
iD Mobile offers several ways to contact them about a lost or stolen phone.
You can log in to your online iD account and block your SIM yourself.
Its Live Chat team are available 9am-8pm on weekdays, and 9am-6pm on weekends and bank holidays. If Live Chat isn’t available at the time, you can call the automated helpline on 0333 003 7777.
VOXI Mobile lost or stolen phone
VOXI offers an online chat, where you can report a phone or SIM that’s gone missing.
SMARTY Mobile lost or stolen phone
Visit SMARTY’s website to order a free replacement SIM – your old SIM will be suspended as soon as you’ve placed your order.
Asda Mobile lost or stolen phone
You can log in to your Asda Mobile online account to suspend your SIM.
Alternatively, call its customer service team on 0808 006 2732, or +44 795 396 2732 if you’re abroad.
Tesco Mobile lost or stolen phone
Call Tesco Mobile’s Customer Care team on 0345 301 4455, or on 00 44345 301 4455 if you’re abroad.
If you don’t have access to another phone, you’re encouraged to contact them online via webchat, the Tesco Mobile app, or their social media channels on Facebook or Twitter.
Report a stolen phone to your bank
If you’re worried about your online banking details being compromised, get in touch with your bank straight away. They can suspend your mobile banking app, keep an eye out for any unusual activity and put your cards on hold, if necessary.
You can then download and re-activate the app when you get a new phone.
Sometimes, you’ll need your mobile phone to use your online banking account on a web browser, as your bank may send you a text message for verification purposes. Read our section below on two-factor authentication to see what you can do.
Report a stolen phone to your insurance company
You might have specialist phone insurance from your mobile network, or a home insurance policy that covers mobile phones. In either case, you should be able to claim for a new one.
Get in touch with your insurance provider to find out about your cover, and whether they can send you a replacement phone. Like with your mobile network, you should contact them as soon as possible – usually within 24 or 48 hours, depending on your policy.
If your phone was stolen, you should also provide them with the crime reference number from the police.
How to remotely access, block and wipe a stolen phone
As soon as you realise your phone is lost or stolen, you should remotely wipe your phone. This ensures that no one can use your phone and access your personal information.
Bear in mind, though, that erasing your phone means you can no longer track it or back up its contents. But wiping your phone is the safest and most sure-fire way to protect your data. If you’re sure you won’t get your phone back and you’re concerned about your data falling into the wrong hands, it’s best to erase your phone as soon as possible.
Block an iPhone
With iPhones, you can use the Find My iPhone app on another Apple device, or sign into iCloud on a web browser.
You can then mark your iPhone as lost – this locks your device remotely with a passcode and disables Apple Pay. If your phone is lost, you also have the option to display a custom message with contact details.
If your iPhone is stolen and you’re worried about your personal data, you can remotely erase your device with Find My iPhone.
If Find My iPhone hasn’t been enabled on your iPhone, the best thing to do is to change your Apple ID password, as well as passwords for any other accounts.
You should also remove your missing device from your list of trusted devices.
Block an Android
With Android handsets, such as Samsung or Google phones, you can use Find My Mobile or Find My Device to remotely access your phone.
As with iPhones, you’ll be able to remotely find, lock or erase your Android device. You can also remotely back up your device, as long as it’s switched on and still connected to the internet.
Change your passwords
You likely use mobile banking, email and social media on your phone. To that end, it’s important to change passwords to all your accounts, particularly if you can’t remotely wipe your phone.
How to access accounts protected by two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication, also called 2FA, is an extra later of security for online accounts. Instead of just a username and password, it requires two separate and distinct forms of identification.
Usually, your mobile phone will be used in 2FA verification, as it’ll receive a text message with a verification code or a phone call. It’s a secure way of protecting your online accounts. But if your phone gets lost or stolen, you may be worried about what to do next.
Transfer your old number to a new phone
Luckily, you can transfer your old phone number to a new phone. Just get in touch with your mobile network as soon as possible – they’ll be able to block your SIM and send you a replacement one with your old number.
That way, your missing phone won’t be able to receive any 2FA calls or texts. See above for contact details of each network.
Keep backup codes where possible
Some services may give you backup codes in case you lose access to your phone.
These are a bunch of one-time codes you can use to verify your identity and sign in to your account, if you’re unable to do so via your phone (2FA messaging or authenticator apps, for instance).
It’s a good idea to generate backup codes to important accounts, such as your Apple ID or Google Account, even when you still have your phone. You can print them out and store them somewhere secure.
How to restore a cloud backup to a new phone
As mentioned above, you can potentially back up your phone’s contents remotely before erasing it.
Don’t worry if that’s not possible, however – chances are, you can recover most of your data from a recent backup.
How to back up your phone
You may be wondering what backing up your phone means, or unsure whether your phone has been backed up. It’s a quick and easy process – in fact, it often occurs automatically and in the background.
You can set your phone to automatically back up content, data and settings – just go to the “Settings” in your device to toggle this, or you can back up manually (if so, it’s a good idea to do this regularly). Your data, such as contacts, messages, photos and app data, will be saved to cloud storage.
You can also back up your phone’s contents to your Mac or PC.
Restore data on your iPhone
With Apple, you can restore your device from a backup in iCloud or on your computer:
- If you’re restoring to a new iPhone, you’ll just need to follow the onscreen set-up steps, sign in to iCloud and choose the latest backup
- If you’re restoring a backup saved on a Mac or PC, connect your iPhone to it with a cable, and use Finder or iTunes to sync your device with your computer
Restore data on your Android phone
Similarly, you can restore an Android device from a cloud backup or your computer:
- If you’re restoring to a new Android, head to “Settings”, where you’ll see you have the options to back up and restore data from your old phone to a new one
- With Samsung phones, you can use Smart Switch to back up an old phone and transfer to a new one via your computer
- With Google phones, you can simply add your Google Account to your new phone – what was previously backed up for that Google Account will appear on the new device
How to check if a phone is stolen
Got your eye on a second-hand phone, but not sure if it’s stolen?
If you’re looking on a second-hand selling site, such as eBay or Facebook Marketplace, ask the seller for the phone’s IMEI number. You can then run it by a free online IMEI checker – if it’s been reported as stolen, this will show up.
To that end, it’s safer to buy a pre-owned phone from an established retailer. Any phones they sell will have undergone thorough IMEI and blacklist checks beforehand, so you can rest assured that you’re not handling a stolen phone.
Tips to protect your phone and your data
Some of the best steps to protect your phone happen before your phone goes missing. By being prepared, you can minimise any damage or data loss caused by a phone theft.
- Protect your phone with a passcode – setting a passcode on your device is an easy and effective first step to prevent others from accessing your phone’s contents. You can also enable Face ID or Touch ID, too
- Enable Find My Mobile options – to remotely track, lock or erase a phone, you’ll need to have enabled your device’s ‘Find My Phone’ feature first. You can do this in your phone’s settings, and then sign into your account on another device (either via web browser or downloading an app, such as Google Find My Device)
- Back up your data – get into the habit of regularly saving files and information, such as photos or contacts, to the cloud and/or a physical hard drive. That way, you won’t lose anything important, and you can easily restore it to a new phone. You can set your phone to automatically sync to the cloud
- Don’t keep sensitive information in your Notes app – while it’s convenient to keep track of all your accounts and passwords in the Notes app of your phone, it’s not secure. Instead, consider using password manager software. It’s also worth remembering your log-in details to your Apple or Android account, as you’ll need it to use any Find My Mobile or cloud software
- Make a note of your phone’s IMEI number – standing for “International Mobile Equipment Identity”, each device’s IMEI is a unique 15-digit serial number that can be used to identify it. In case your phone is lost or stolen, the IMEI can be used to block your device and prevent it from being used or sold to a retailer. You can find your phone’s IMEI in the Settings, or by typing *#06# into its keypad
- Get mobile phone insurance – this covers the cost of replacing your phone if it’s stolen or damaged. Compare mobile phone insurance with MoneySuperMarket
Can I track a stolen phone?
Pretty much all recent Apple and Android devices come with a ‘Find My Phone’ feature. If it’s been enabled on your phone beforehand, you’ll be able to track its location up until it’s turned off.
This may come in handy with a lost phone. However, it’s unlikely it can be used in the case of a stolen phone. This is because tracking apps can only provide an approximate location within a few hundred metres, rather than an exact address.
As a result, this is usually not enough information for the police to search a property, particularly if your phone has been taken to a block of flats or terraced houses. Nevertheless, it’s still worth providing any tracking information to the police.
Can I keep my number if I lose my phone?
Yes – you’ll be relieved to hear that you can indeed keep your old number if your phone is lost or stolen.
Get in touch with your mobile network (see above) and they can send you a new SIM with your existing number.
I’ve lost my contract phone and I don’t have insurance – what can I do?
Unfortunately, without insurance, networks won’t replace your phone – and you’ll typically have pay off the rest of your contract, either through your monthly tariff as normal or paying the remainder as one lump sum.
Your network can send you a replacement SIM to continue using your plan in a different phone. If you’re waiting to pay off your contract, you could use an old phone, or buy a new or refurbished SIM-free device outright.
How do I find the IMEI number of a lost phone?
If your phone is on a contract, you can get its IMEI by contacting your mobile network.
If you bought your phone outright, you may be able to find the IMEI on the original packaging, or by signing in to your Apple, Samsung or Google account.