Clark Howard: Apps help protect a missing iPhone

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

ClarkHowardIf your phone or laptop goes missing, there are a variety of free apps that will help you locate it.

Recently, I found somebody’s iPhone in the parking lot of a doctor’s office. It had no identifying info about the owner on the outside, of course. So I started playing detective, which was very easy because the iPhone was not password protected.

I scrolled through the contacts and called around until I found somebody who could help me get the iPhone to the woman who was the owner. But it occurred to me, boy, that woman could have been in trouble if I were a criminal who found the smartphone, because I had access to all her information.

Since telling this story on the air, I heard from a lot of people about all the different apps that are available to help protect you if you lose your smartphone, laptop or tablet.

Then, lo and behold, technology writer David Pogue detailed his saga of losing his iPhone and using an app to help recover it in his New York Times column.

Pogue used the built-in Find My iPhone service for Apple iOS. There’s also a similar free service called Where’s My Droid available through Google Play for Android. Plan B is another free one for Android, and the only one to my knowledge that can be remotely installed on a smartphone after you’ve lost it.

Years ago, one of my in-laws had a laptop stolen at baggage claim. This was back in the day when laptops were a fortune; hers was an employer-provided one valued at $5,000. But the employer wasn’t concerned at all about the monetary loss. All they cared about was the corporate info on that laptop.

In my case, nothing on my laptop is worth stealing. Plus, I tend to travel with a cheap one so nobody would want it anyway.

-by Clark Howard, Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs

Find more answers to your consumer questions at Listen to his radio show live 1-3 p.m. Monday through Friday on WSB 750 AM and 95.5 FM.

7 comments Add your comment

sheldon schlegman

September 6th, 2012
6:49 am

Clark: How do I protect my laptop?

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September 6th, 2012
9:14 am

I am concerned that the applications mentioned in the article may make changes, access private information, send costly text message, etc. without my knowledge and consent. Please provide a discussion about the effects of having these applications on your cell phone. Thanks, Tom


September 6th, 2012
10:17 am

Your comment about the value of the device is very pertinent today. For companies that may have intellectual property and/or client personal information the value of the data is much more than that of the device particularly if the data is feared to be exposed. Encryption is mandated in most industries, but is certainly not a panacea due to technological, performance, “bypassability” (although remote, it is possible for the “smart” employee or thief), etc. New technologies, such as the Watchdog from ITADSecurity, serve as the equivalent of “smoke detectors” throughout the corporate infrastructure. When a device is “misbehaving” the early warning (absent the good deed/similar you performed) could be the difference between managing a difficult situation and not knowing until the “house is burning…”


September 6th, 2012
10:38 am


You should know this. With the iOS 5, there is an inbuilt functionality of finding an iPhone. All you have to do is go into the settings and turn it on.

Once it is on, you can go to icloudDOTcom and login using your iTunes account information. You can track where you phone is in real time. You can lock it if it is not passcode protected. You can also wipe the device if necessary and send a message to the device remotely.

Hope this helps any iPhone users out there.


September 6th, 2012
1:21 pm

I recently had my iphone stolen. I used the built in “find my i-phone app”, and I was able to track it real time to a particular house. However, when they turn the phone off, you can no longer track it. I gave that information to the police over 3 weeks ago, and I still have not gotten it back. I, then locked my iphone, and remotely wiped it. When I checked my detailed call logs, whoever stole my phone is still using it. I eventually had to pay retail price for a new one.

Gordon Burns

September 6th, 2012
6:16 pm

Here’s a good idea for protecting your valuables and keeping track of your iPhone, your iPad, your laptop and even your camera, keys, luggage and passport. Two years ago, I found and obtained tracker tags for a free global lost and found service. I put them on all of my valuables.
It paid off in Rome. I left my passport at a restaurant at lunch. That afternoon, I received a text message from Okoban saying that my passport had been found. I did not even know it was missing.
I called the number in the text message and sure enough the café where we had stopped had the passport waiting for me. I was so grateful that I had an Okoban tag from on my passport and that the café was kind enough to take the time to report the found passport tracker number online.
I can’t imagine what would have happened if I didn’t have the Okoban tracker tag. The passport could have been mailed back to the US Department of State or to my home, and then where would I be? Traveling through Europe with no passport or going through the hassle of getting a new one.