Help! My child's phone has been stolen

Boys on mobile phones

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It can be really upsetting for your child if their phone has been stolen. Many children can be left feeling scared and unsafe. Gemma Slinn, of Victim Support’s youth programme You & Co, gives parents some practical tips on what to do if your child’s phone is stolen, how to help them cope and how to prevent it from happening again.

Things to do immediately your child’s mobile phone is stolen.

1.    Call your network provider and report the phone stolen

They can block your child’s phone so nobody else can use it, preventing an expensive phone bill. If you don’t already know your phone’s identification number (IMEI), ask your network provider as you will need to give this information to the police. They should also be able to send you a new SIM card, although there may be an administration fee.

2.    Report to the police

You can do this by going into your nearest police station or calling 101. You will need to give them the phone’s IMEI number in case the phone is recovered or handed in. The police will then give you your crime reference number, which you will need if you want to claim on your insurance.

3.    Call your insurance provider

If you call your insurance provider they will let you know the details of your cover, so you can find out how to get a replacement. Remember to check your home insurance policy as your phone may be covered by this. (Many home insurance policies don’t cover mobile phones and separate policies for mobiles may be necessary. It’s best to check now rather than waiting until a phone is stolen, only to discover you’re not covered.)

You will need the crime reference number given to you by the police to make a claim on your insurance. Many insurance providers need this information within 24 hours of the phone being stolen.

4.    Ask your child how they are feeling

Talk about what has happened and how it has made them feel. Help your child to understand this isn’t their fault and nobody has the right to take their things without their permission. Find more information on the You & Co website.

5.    Find out more

Do they know the person who took the phone or not? Was the theft a random incident, or is it part of ongoing bullying? Did the theft happen at school, or at the youth club? You might need to speak to teachers at school or group leaders to help keep your child safe.

6.    Safety plan with your child

You could also look at developing a safety plan with your child that would help you both to think through how to keep your child safer in the future. You can also find more information on how to keep safe on the Police.UK website.

7.    Find your child’s coping strategies

Your child might find it difficult to cope and may be feeling hurt, upset, angry or stressed. Everyone has different ways to help them cope so try exploring these with your child. This could include exercising or playing sport, attending a club, watching a favourite film, taking a warm bath, taking time to talk, reading a book or even something as simple as taking deep breaths. You can find out more information on the You & Co website.

Top tips to pass on to your child to prevent their phone being stolen

1.    Don’t leave your phone out of sight or unattended – it only takes a second for a thief to strike.
2.    When you are out and about, keep your phone in a closed bag or zipped pocket so it is not visible to others. Keep bags with you at all times.
3.    If you need to use your phone when out and about, try and find a well-lit, public area. Be careful using your phone in a crowd as it is easy to get your phone knocked from your hand.
4.    When using your phone, try and stay alert and aware of your surroundings – if you are listening to music or chatting to friends you might not be able to hear somebody approaching.
5.    Don’t offer to tell the time or offer directions if you feel unsafe, sometimes items can be stolen when we are distracted.

You can also protect your child’s phone by:

1.    Setting a pin on the phone’s handset and on the SIM card. This will make it harder for others to use the phone, even if they remove the SIM card.
2.    Capping the phone’s usage. This will set a limit so the phone can only be used up until a certain amount of money has been spent. You can also bar certain calls e.g. calling premium or international numbers. 
3.    Know the phone’s make, model and IMEI number. Dial *#06# into your phone or call your network provider to find out your phone’s identity number (IMEI) if you don’t know this already.
4.    Think about what kind of details your child keeps on their phone. Encourage them to delete messages or emails with personal details in there, such as bank account details. And to back up any photos or videos etc they want to keep so that if the phone is stolen, they still have a copy of them.
5.    Sign up to an app that can help trace your child’s phone if it goes missing, for example Find my iPhone is free to download and lets you use another device to find and protect your data. You can also register your phone on Immobilise, so if it is lost or stolen but then gets found, police can use Immobilise to return it to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get a new phone?

Your network provider won’t usually replace your phone free of charge, so if you are on a contract, you will have to pay your line rental until your contract ends. You can either buy a new phone, wait until your contract ends then get a new contract including a mobile phone, or claim for a new phone on your insurance if you are covered.

I have received a bill for calls I didn’t make, what can I do?

If someone else uses your stolen phone and runs up an expensive bill, you will usually have to pay for this unless you gave reported the phone missing. Some networks may have a cap on the amount they charge you, as long as you report it within 24 hours. If you have a pay as you go contract, you may not get a refund for any credit used before you report the phone stolen. If you receive a large bill, talk to your network provider as they may reduce this out of good will. You can dispute the bill if they charge you for calls made after the phone has been reported stolen. Check your insurance policy to see if it covers the cost of any unauthorised calls.

Who else can help?

You&Co – you can talk to one of our support workers on a one-to-one basis, and we can offer you help and support. We can give you advice on how crime can affect you and how to cope with it, what to do and what to expect if you decide to report a crime to police, and how to move on from being a victim of crime. You can find out about the support available nearest to you on our website.

Crimestoppers – If you want to provide information about a crime without talking to the police, you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Police – call 101 or go to your nearest police station to report the phone stolen once the incident is over. Remember, you should call 999 if the situation is an emergency, such as the theft is in progress, someone suspected of the crime is nearby, when there is danger to life or when violence is being used or threatened.

The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or CEOP.

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