Recently, I lost my iPhone. I had it with me going through security at DCA and after boarding the plane, I discovered it was gone.

Initially, it was an emotional shock — the kind that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. My life was inside that iPhone, including contacts, passwords, saved emails, pdf files and more. After I got to the Apple Store and Verizon, the loss took on a whopping financial shock. All ended well. Eventually, Verizon figured out a way around the financial shock and I now have a shiny new iPhone 4S, but there were plenty of lessons learned prior to getting my new phone in my hands.

1. The “Find My iPhone” with remote lock and remote wipe won’t work if someone finds your iPhone and turns it off.
Upon landing at my destination, Phoenix, I picked up a rental car and headed directly to the nearest Apple Store. There, I asked for help activating the Find My iPhone system. I activated it when I first bought the phone.

Unfortunately, after logging into the “Find My iPhone” website, I learned that my phone had been shut off. It was untrackable and CI could not wipe the phone remotely either. The service does not work if your lost iPhone is turned off.

2. Protect your phone with a passcode.
My iPhone was protected with a passcode that shut off my phone every time it was closed. For that I was thankful. Anyone who picked up the phone could not use it without the code. Make sure that your passcode is functioning. If you abhor the idea of punching in your code every time you need to use the phone, Apple allows the passcode to come into effect is a delayed mode — a few minutes or longer after the phone has been closed.

3. Add erase data after 10 failed passcode attempts
An additional security system built into the iPhone is the Failed Passcode system. If anyone tries to guess your passcode by tapping in various codes, the system will lock the phone after 10 failed attempts.

4. Buy a prepaid phone to allow cell phone communications
Once I got on the ground in Phoenix, I needed a way to communicate with friends and colleagues to let them know that my iPhone was gone and may be compromised. I found that through Verizon and other prepaid plans I could purchase a phone for only $20 that included five days of talk time.

I stopped in Target and bought the phone there, activated it and made the first series of calls. At least I had a way to contact and be contacted. I never realized that getting a cell phone was so inexpensive and easy. Prepaid cell phones are perfect for an emergency or even when foreign friends loom on the horizon and you need the ability to keep in touch with them inexpensively while they visit.

5. Change your passwords
Next, I drove to the hotel where I was staying. I immediately hooked my laptop up to the WiFi connection and, methodically, changed my passwords to email programs, to access my servers, to bank accounts and anything else I have password protected.

6. If an iPhone is lost prior to the end of its contract period, replacing an iPhone is very expensive.
Choices here are bad and bad. Most household goods insurance won’t cover a lost iPhone. The insurance available from cell phone companies is way too expensive and should your phone be lost late in the contract period, the monthly insurance charges will have already paid for most of a new phone.

If your contract period is not completed a new iPhone will cost around $650. That was an extreme sticker shock. I went onto Craigslist.com and ebay.com to look for used iPhones and discovered that they all seemed to cost as much or more than buying one new from Verizon or Apple.

Eventually, after using my temporary phone for a couple of days and thinking through the situation, I checked with Verizon and told them that I had another phone on a family plan with a friend. I believed that phone was well outside of the contract period. Verizon checked and suggested that I send that phone number to my contract and purchase my new iPhone 4S for only $199 by upgrading that phone.

That was my final solution to my problem. After a few phone calls, an exchange of passwords and a couple of signatures, I had my new phone in my hands for just over $199.

Since my phone was backed up to the “Cloud” I could transfer all of my iPhone information to the new iPhone. Of course, the process took hours, but was transferred overnight.

What started out to be a complete disaster turned out to be inconvenient, though not too much so.

      • I found a temporary alternative to my lost cell phone.

 

      • No data was lost

 

      • No passwords were compromised

 

    • I discovered an affordable way to avoid the $650 hit for a new iPhone sold out of contract.

Make sure your iPhone is secure. Do it right now. And follow these steps above if faced with a lost iPhone.