How to protect your iPhone from thieves

The iPhone has become a popular target for thieves, so we’ve put together a guide to help you locate a lost device and ensure your data is kept away from prying eyes

Our iPhones have become indispensable, but they also inspire jealousy; and they're a popular target with thieves. In January, the Metropolitan Police revealed that an average of 157 mobile phones are stolen in the capital each day, and over 50 percent of these are iPhones.

The Met advises not flashing your iPhone in public, particularly at the entrances to train and tube stations (popular haunts for muggers). When not in use, keep it hidden from sight, preferably zipped away in a pocket within your bag rather than peeking out of a side pocket. Leaving it on the table while you chat to friends is a bad move, too. An opportunist could easily distract you by asking the time and swipe your unguarded phone.

The chances are your phone is insured and can be replaced, but what about everything you keep on it? iPad & iPhone User has put together a guide to preventing strangers looking through your phone, plus how to recover its contents from afar.

Set a tracker on their tail

The Find My Phone feature on your iPhone uses Location Services to track its whereabouts - free from itun.es/i6Jr8J9. As long as Location Services is active, it can help pinpoint a missing or stolen handset, and show its current whereabouts on a map. Find My iPhone (and similar services from iHound and Lookout) use Wi-Fi and mobile phone signals to triangulate the iPhone's location to within a few - or a few hundred - feet. These services can also provide an audible alert, potentially scaring off a thief or telling other people in the vicinity that something's up.

If you've jailbroken your iPhone, you could install iGotYa (£1.49, bit.ly/13WyaUw). This takes a photo of whoever picks up your phone, then emails it to you. Further options let you tweet the thief's photo, complete with the location, along with a message suggesting it may not be their phone.

Find my iPhone uses Location Services to pin-point a stolen or lost handset's location

Stall a snooper

PIN protection is a must. Better yet, use a passcode. Go to Settings > General > Passcode Lock. If you use your iPhone for mobile banking, it's especially important you protect access to the device. The password for your online account must be strong (mixed characters, symbols and numerals) and only used for that account. Many of us use the same password at multiple sites.

Back up your iPhone regularly. Don't just sync your music, apps and photos using iTunes or iCloud. Instead, choose the Full Backup option in iTunes. Once you've done this, subsequent iPhone synchronisation can be done over Wi-Fi. If your iPhone is stolen, you'll have a ready-made backup you can load on to the replacement device.

We also recommend taking a screengrab of your iPhone backup screen - it shows both your phone number and its unique IMEI number, which you'll need when reporting the theft or making an insurance claim.

Your iPhone's General settings include an option to erase the phone's contents if someone enters an incorrect password or PIN 10 times in succession. This is only recommended if you are assiduous about keeping your iPhone backed up elsewhere. Using a remote lock option offers more control. Mobile security apps such as Norton and Lookout both offer this facility, which you initiate by logging in to your account online.

It's a good idea to take an image of your iPhone's backup screen, as you'll need the information displayed here for insurance purposes

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Tags consumer electronicsLookoutiPhonehardware systemssmartphonestabletsiPad

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Rosemary Hattersley

Macworld U.K.

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