What to do if your phone is stolen in South Africa

For most of us, our smartphones are both the window and key to our digital lives – holding not only some of our most treasured memories or media, but also our passwords and access to sensitive online information such as our bank accounts. To lose our smartphone – or have it stolen – is to be ripped apart from both the web and our loved ones, and for many of us is a disturbing and stressful experience.

If your phone has been stolen – or better, if you’re actively arranging a process to follow in the event yours might be – there’s little comfort in the fact that in South Africa, it’s often unlikely that we’ll ever have our stolen property returned to us. However, that being said, the information within our smartphones is always more valuable than the smartphone itself – and that’s not even bringing into question if our lives happen to be in danger during a robbery or common theft.

Here are three simple steps you can follow if your phone has been stolen in South Africa:

Back up your information as often as possible

This information might best be applicable if you still have access to your phone – but regardless, one of the best ways to keep your information secure is to routinely back up the contents of your phone to a reliable service. For iDevice owners, that’s iCloud – and for Android users, there’s Google Play as well as (usually) a manufacturer service such as a Samsung or Huawei account.

Backing up your information can help you easily switch over to a new phone, and can assist in keeping your private information secure in the event you’re left bereft of your device. Using services such as Google Photos, Google Drive, or any other cloud service of your fancy can keep your most important details available online where they can be retrieved at any time.

If you can, set your phone to erase or lock remotely

If your phone has been stolen and you don’t require emergency medical assistance and are in a safe location, you’ll want to immediately set your smartphone to either lock or erase remotely.

Given that you are unlikely to get your device back, it’s important to take steps to keep your sensitive personal information secure and out of the hands of criminals who may attempt to leverage your own details or accounts against you for fraud or other purposes.

If you have an iPhone, using Apple’s Find My service will allow you to log in and securely lock or erase your smartphone (which will take place the next time it is connected to the internet). Similarly, if you own an Android device, you can use Google’s Find My Device service to perform the same functions.

Though both of these services are useful in providing a last known location for your device, it’s important never to attempt to retrieve it yourself. Rather stay calm, safe, and focus on securing your online identity.

Keep your IMEI number handy

Regardless of whether it’s part of the process to claim from your insurer or not, it’s your responsibility to report theft to the South African Police Services (SAPS) as well. Though you may not be able to retrieve your smartphone, you owe it to fellow South Africans to report where crime took place, and to ensure that additional police resources can be deployed to such areas to prevent something similar happen to someone else.

When you report your smartphone as stolen, SAPS will need an ITC number (this is a cancellation reference number obtained from your network provider if your phone is under contract) and your IMEI (serial) number.

Given that most of us don’t have our IMEI number on our person (and if it is, it’s on our phone) it’s important to keep this number in a secure place that you can reach in the event you don’t have your phone. Whether that means listing it on an online account you can access from another phone or PC or simply writing it down, keeping your IMEI number on your person can help you report a theft that much more quickly and can prevent your phone being sold in (legal) markets.

If you don’t know your phone’s IMEI number, it can either be found on the packaging your device came in, or by visiting Settings – About Phone on your iOS or Android device.

Join the conversation

Have you ever had your phone stolen? Do you have any helpful tips to share? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll update the article above!