Thinking of stealing a smartphone? Aim for an older one.
Our phones and tablets are both highly valuable and highly portable, making them ideal targets for theft. But a simple pocket swipe on the bus isn't quite enough these days.
HOW TO PREPARE
I won't go through the general "how not to get your stuff stolen" advice - although from personal experience I can recommend not leaving your iPod playing music at a party if you leave the room - but there are some key steps you can take when setting up your phone.
Every smartphone manufacturer offers an extremely useful "find my phone" service now, but they won't help you if they aren't turned on.
If you have an iPhone, it will have asked you if you wanted to keep "Find Your iPhone" turned on when you set it up. You probably said yes, but go to Settings> iCloud to check. If you have an Android their "find" service is also likely to be activated already, but Google "Android Device Manager" and log in with your Google account to make sure - you should be able to see your phone.
Blackberry users should look up "Blackberry protect", which is easy to set up, and Windows Phone users have "Find Phone" on by default.
The other key thing you need to do is leave your data on.
Without a data connection, your stolen phone is truly lost.
Another good tip: take a photo of your phone's IMEI or serial number, and keep it somewhere safe.
WHAT TO DO IMMEDIATELY
The moment you don't know where your phone is, find a friend who has a smartphone or any internet connected device. Don't bother installing any of the official apps, just open the manufacturer's tracking site on a browser.
A laptop will be fastest.
For an iPhone, iPad, or MacBook - log in to icloud.com with your apple details, where you can track the location of your device and make it beep really really loud, even if it's on silent. Android users can do the same from the Android Device Manager website (Google it), Blackberry users from the Blackberry Protect website, and Windows Phone users from windowsphone.com.
These services also offer a "Lost Mode", where the phone locks the moment it turns on, asks for a Pin, and notifies you by email. Someone is going to want to turn this phone on at some point, even if they are savvy enough to turn it off the moment they get it.
A thief smart enough might factory reset your phone and get away from all this, but the faster you act the better chance you have of stopping them.
Oh, and call the cops. Give them that IMEI number.
WHAT TO DO IF THIS DOESN'T WORK
If it looks like your phone is lost for good, these services will also let you remotely wipe your phone, clearing it of any personal data you have on there - which could be a lot, given smart phones generally have email access.
If you want to go one step further, Apple and Android allow you to "activation lock" your device, which essentially bricks it, making it entirely useless, and therefore unsellable. 2 Degrees, Telecom, and Vodafone also offer this service (with that IMEI number!), although your phone may still useful overseas.
The key thing with these activation locks is that everyone needs to know about them.
The more immediately a phone is locked the less rewarding stealing them becomes.
Henry Cooke believes the internet is mankind's crowning achievement. Read more from him on his blog at rectangles.cc