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Quickview: Rescue Your Lost Mobile Gear

Put a phone number on your login or lock screen to help people reach you when they find your lost device.

Bill Winterberg, 10/25/2012

Your road warrior gear likely includes one or more mobile devices. To protect any sensitive data loaded on your devices, you've probably already activated the login passwords or passcodes required to access each device.

But if you accidentally leave your mobile device somewhere, perhaps in the back seat of a taxi or at the airport security line, do you have a way others can easily contact you and return your property when it's recovered?

Granted, there are full-featured security programs that can report your device's GPS position, take periodic photos with its camera, and play audible alerts to attract attention, but there's one simple thing you can do to increase your odds of recovering a lost mobile device: Put a phone number on your device's login or lock screen.

The message I use for my devices is, "I'm lost! Please call <mobile number> to find my owner."

Here's how to do this on a variety of popular operating systems.

Windows 7
If you use a laptop with Windows 7, open Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Local Security Policy. Then select Security Options and scroll down to the entry labeled "Interactive logon: Message text for users attempting to log on." You may need Administrator privileges to access this information. Here you can type in a message with your mobile phone number that will be displayed along with the login window.

Mac OS X
If you own a Mac laptop running Mac OS X Lion or Mountain Lion software, open System Preferences > Security & Privacy. In the Security & Privacy window, click the General tab and then click the box next to the line that says, "Show a message when the screen is locked." You may need to click the lock at the bottom of the window in order the change this setting. Click the "Set Lock Message" button and type in your message to be displayed on the lock screen.

iOS
For your iPhone or iPad, you can use a unique photo or image for your lock screen. You can use an image editing program to create an image that is 640×960 pixels and type in your contact information, or you can simply take a picture of a piece of paper using your device's camera. With that photo loaded on your iOS device's photo app, tap the export or "send to" icon in the top-right corner, tap "Use as wallpaper," then "Set Lock Screen."

Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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