Keeping practically your entire life—email accounts, payment methods, digital IDs, etc.—stored in your iPhone is the pinnacle of convenience. But it can also make it more stressful if said iPhone (or another Apple device) gets lost or stolen.
If Apple’s Find My app is enabled on the device, you should start your search by heading to iCloud.com/Find and entering your Apple ID, or opening the Find My app on another of your Apple devices. If the lost device is online, you should be able to see its location on the map. An offline device won’t show up on the map, but tapping it will open a menu with an option to “Mark As Lost.”
Activate that, and you’ll be able to set up a message that’ll appear on the screen of your lost device. You could, for example, list a phone number and/or email address where you can be reached if someone finds your device. As MacRumors points out, you could even mention a reward for its safe return. After you’ve activated Lost Mode, select “Notify When Found.” If at any point your device comes back online and can transmit its location via Find My, you’ll be emailed.
Lost Mode also disables access to some of the personal data that you’d probably be worried about a stranger accessing, like Apple Pay (including Express Transit) and any student IDs in your Apple Wallet. Incoming phone and FaceTime calls can still be answered, but messages and other notifications won’t appear as alerts.
If you’ve completely given up hope of recovering your iPhone, you can also choose to “Erase This Device” through Find My. That’ll completely wipe all data from it—a last resort that can’t be reversed. Anyone with AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss protection can bypass this option and file a claim here to get a replacement phone.
If you didn’t enable Find My on your device before it went missing, you won’t be able to erase your phone or mark it as lost. But there are still several steps you can take to protect your information. First, change your Apple ID password and all other passwords for accounts on your device—social media apps, bank apps, email, and so on. Then, give your wireless provider a call and ask them to disable your account. You should also sign into your Apple account and delete the phone from your list of trusted devices. Reporting the loss to law enforcement is also a good idea.