Smart phone thefts are way up. Based on a just-released survey, Consumer Reports estimates the number of stolen phones nearly doubled in the past year to 3.1 million. And more than a million smart phones were lost and never recovered.

Consumer Reports has important advice on how to protect your phone against theft and loss. First, its essential to secure your phone with a passcode. But the Consumer Reports survey found more than half of smart phone owners fail to take that basic precaution. Four digits are better than nothing. The strongest passcodes have at least eight digits in them and have a mix of letters, numbers and symbols.

And what about getting your phone back? Consumer Reports says you’ll have better luck if you think ahead. The simplest step: tape your email address to the back of the phone.

Another precaution: write down your phone’s unique ID, which police may need if the phone is lost or stolen. You can find the ID by dialing *#06#. 

And Consumer Reports recommends setting up a “find my phone” account, though the survey found less than a quarter of smart phone owners use one.

Android phones have that feature built in. Go to Google settings and click the Android Device Manager. In Settings, be sure to activate “access location.” On iPhones, install “Find My iPhone” from the app store. Make sure you’re signed in to iCloud with your Apple ID.  

If your phone goes missing, sign into the account from a computer or tablet. Look for the phone on the map. If it’s far away, or you can’t see it, push the erase button.

If your phone is lost or stolen, Consumer Reports says change the password on all your important accounts and file a report with the police. You may need the police report to dispute unauthorized charges on your credit cards. And let your bank and credit card companies know that your phone is missing, too. 

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