brick — verb
1. to block or enclose with a wall of bricks
2. to render an electronic device useless
For most smartphones, there are two possible ways to brick your phone. The first is with an app, which requires a bit of planning as the app has to installed and configured before you need it. The second is via your cell carrier. Within the next few months, most carriers should have the ability to brick your phone. All you have to do is call them and ask.
iPhones were the first to support remote wiping, with the Find my iPhone app. Remember, the app has to be setup before your phone is lost. Instructions on how to setup iCloud and turn on Find my Iphone are here. If you’ve already done that, and have lost your phone, here are instructions on how to wipe your stolen iPhone clean.
Androids can be tracked and wiped with the Android Device Manager site. As with the iPhone, there are a few steps you need to do to set the service up so that you can remotely wipe a stolen phone, but it is extremely easy to do. In addition to this Google service, there are a handful of apps that also provide remote wiping.
As a Last Resort
If none of these approaches work for you, here’s another way to keep the thieves from racking up bills and stealing your personal data. First, call your cell carrier and disable your phone number. Second, log in to the web versions of your most important apps, such as email, banking, and social media, and change your passwords. Most apps (but not all) will ask for a password on your mobile device if there has been a password change.
The Internet is full of stories of people who have successfully tracked down their phones and retreived them from the perpetrators (including this one about my brother), but I think this is risky and probably better left to the police.
Do you have a stolen phone story? Success or failure using any of the apps? Leave a comment below.