Tips for finding a lost cellphone. Step 1: Don’t panic

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Losing your cellphone is like losing your dog. First you panic. Then you spend a lot of time calling it. Then you feel really alone.

I lost my BlackBerry in March. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it was. I was sitting in a pizza joint, eating a salad, looking at the phone to check for new messages. A little while later, I was back at my office and my BlackBerry was nowhere to be found.


I freaked out. This particular BlackBerry had been with me since 2006. In phone years, that’s a long time. I had bonded with it as an everyday companion. The modern-day equivalent of a Swiss Army knife, the device went everywhere with me and supplied just about anything I needed, including phone numbers, addresses, maps, driving directions and the Internet.

Admittedly, I’m not much of a tech geek — my information wasn’t backed up on Outlook. I really didn’t want to shell out another $200 for a new smartphone. And frankly, I can’t stand not being in constant communication. What if I miss an e-mail? What if that long-lost love leaves a message and I miss it?

The rest of my day became all about retracing, remembering and recovering.

I looked under my keyboard, behind my monitor and next to the land-line phone. Searched the floor, my seat, my desk drawers. I dumped out my purse. Rifled through piles of papers, as if the phone was just playing a trick on me and hiding.

When I realized the BlackBerry wasn’t going to turn up there, I decided to be a rational adult and go back to all the places I had just been. I speed-walked the same halls I had just passed through. Used the same elevator to go down to the first floor, even crossed the same crosswalk. I scanned the ground during the one-block walk back to the pizza place.

The shop’s manager was kind enough to let me use his own cellphone to call my number. I called. But I heard no ringing. After searching the booth and sticking my hand in between gross, crumb-filled seats, I gave in. The walk back to the office was a sad one.

These devices hold our whole lives. Every old phone number we never memorized, every old photo we looked at daily, every voice mail we wanted to keep. And once the device is lost, so too is our information (unless, of course, we back it up).

This story does not have a happy ending. I did not find my dear old BlackBerry.

But here’s the silver lining: I now own a new iPhone 3G.

Has this ever happened to you? How did you get your phone — and your life — back? Share your story in the comments below. And read after the jump for five simple steps to cellphone recovery.

-- Lori Kozlowski

Kozlowski is a Times staff writer.

Don’t Panic button photo by JL2003 via Flickr

Here’s what to do if you lose your cellphone:

1. Don’t panic. Or at least try not to. Admit you have a problem on your hands, and decide to take action.

2. Look around. Search in the immediate area around you. Look under, behind and below. Don’t forget to check the little places like your pockets. Or underneath the front seat of your car.

3. Call yourself. From a land line or someone else’s cellphone, try to call your own number. If you hear it ring or vibrate, you are home free. Let it keep ringing, and follow the noise to find your device. If you hear no ringing or buzzing, move to Step 4.

4. Retrace your steps. Go back to the last three or four places you remember having your phone. You might try asking kind strangers in the area if they’ve seen a lost phone.

5. Start over. If that doesn’t work, you can choose to wait a few hours to see if your phone turns up. Just know that in the hours that you wait, someone could already be using your phone to make calls. After a few hours (or a few days, if you can go that long without a phone), be sure to notify your wireless provider that your phone has been lost or stolen. The company will shut off your device so that no one can make calls or send messages from it.

Here are numbers of common providers:

AT&T: (800) 331-0500

Verizon Wireless: (800) 922-0204

Sprint Nextel (888) 211-4727

T-Mobile: (877) 453-1304