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If you are using an iPhone, these directions will NOT WORK. Please go to the Apple Support Page (provided below) for iPhone specific instructions:
While I use the word "phone" in this post, I'm referring to smart devices in general. (e.g. phones, tablets, etc.) This process can be used for most, if not all, Android devices.
Get on Google
On any computer with internet, sign into the Google account connected to your device. Search “find my phone” on the Google search engine and go to the second link, or click on the link provided below:
Select your missing device (it might have you log back in). Google then provides multiple options at your disposal which have been broken down here into 4 Tiers:
Tier 1: the device has been misplaced in your general area.
Tier 2: the device has been lost and is not nearby.
Tier 3: the device has been stolen.
Erasing: You won’t get the phone back.
Note that the tiers are ordered via severity, and even though they work with different scenarios none should be skipped. That is to say if you know for a fact that your phone has been stolen, still go through the steps in tiers 1 and 2 instead of immediately jumping to tier 3.
Step 1: Call
Call your phone using a landline, or someone else’s phone. If your phone is on silent, proceed to step 2.
Step 2: Ring
Click the Ring button:
This will have your phone make a sound even if it’s silenced. It does, however, need to be connected to a network. (Wi-Fi or Data).
After you have tried to ring it if that doesn’t work the next step is to reset your Google password. Look up “reset my google password” and the first link will be to Google Support with simple instructions on how to do so.
If you can’t find your phone after ringing it, begin the Tier 2 steps:
1. Lock it
The second option on the site is to lock it, which has three parts. First, create a password that will be applied to your phone. Next, type a message that will be displayed on your phone. The last step is to enter a phone number. When your phone is locked it will display a black background with your message and a button that will call the number you enter. If you have been contacted by a person claiming to have your phone do NOT attempt to retrieve it yourself as the person could be dangerous. Inform law enforcement about the situation and ask them to retrieve your phone.
2. Locate it
If your phone is connected to a network you can locate it by clicking the Locate button next to the Ring button:
This will bring you to Google Maps and show you the general location of your phone. If you find your phone using Google Maps and it’s in a place you don’t recognize do NOT retrieve it yourself. Again, call the police department and tell them about the situation.
If you have located your phone and you know where it is, the next step is to log out of your Google account on your phone.
The fourth option on the page is to ‘Sign out on your phone’. By doing this, even if someone was able to get into your phone they still wouldn’t have access to any of your Google information.
The next thing to do is contact your carrier. Explain the situation to them and ask to disable your SIM card. This will prevent anyone from receiving/sending calls or texts. Reactivate it once you get your phone back.
Erasing your phone is the last thing you want to do. It’s only to be done if you know for certain that you will not get your phone back. The only way to save your data, like photos or contacts, is to have them backed up on Google. You can check your Google account using a computer to see what is backed up. The option of erasing your phone is the last option on the page and can only happen if the phone is online.