As the nation’s leading authority on Lifeline Assistance, the free government cell phone program, we get a lot of questions. But the question we’re asked most often is, “My cell phone was lost or stolen. How can I get it replaced?” In fact, the question is asked so often that we suspect there may be a major crime ring out there dedicated to stealing free government cell phones (just kidding).
Dozens of companies now compete in the Lifeline program and although their “lost or stolen” policies are generally similar, they’re different enough that we thought we could provide a definite public service by compiling the following comprehensive list all those policies together in one place.
There are five free government cell phone companies that are near national in scope plus dozens of others that compete regionally or in a handful of scattered states across the country. Let’s review the five “national” companies first:
Safelink Wireless Replacement Policy
Safelink Wireless is the largest, oldest and best known of the companies that offer free government cell phones. They have millions of customers in 38 states plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico. It’s lost or stolen policy says:
Lost or Stolen Phone Policy: For any lost or stolen SAFELINK WIRELESS phone, you may request and receive only one replacement phone per customer. The replacement phone will be a refurbished phone. All reported lost and stolen phones will be permanently deactivated. The replacement phone will include only 10 minutes of lost airtime. Any additional airtime that you may have had on your lost phone will not be replaced. In the event you lose your replacement phone or it is stolen, you will need to purchase an additional phone. If a phone is lost or stolen while in transit to the customer before the customer receives the phone, the lost phone and airtime may be replaced as a onetime courtesy in TracFone’s sole discretion.
Assurance Wireless Replacement Policy
Assurance Wireless is a division of Virgin Mobile. It has grown rapidly and now serves 40 states and the District of Columbia. Its lost or stolen policy states:
What should I do if I lose my Assurance Wireless phone?
Don’t panic. Take another look around and try to find your phone.
If you still can’t locate your phone, let us know right away and we’ll suspend service. That way, once your service is suspended, no one can use your remaining balance. We can help you get a replacement phone (most likely at no charge). We usually can have it to you in just a few days. .
Call us at 1-888-321-5880 to suspend your account.
What should I do if my Assurance Wireless phone breaks within the first year?
Your Assurance Wireless phone comes with a one-year warranty from the original equipment manufacturer. If you experience an equipment malfunction, call us at 1-888-321-5880 and we will arrange for a replacement mobile phone.
Reachout Wireless Replacement Policy
ReachOut currently offers LifeLine service in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Here’s the text of the company’s lost or stolen policy:
Unfortunately, ReachOut Wireless™ like every wireless provider, cannot be responsible for lost or stolen handsets or handsets that are damaged after they are delivered to the subscriber. However, ReachOut Wireless™ now offers phones at a discounted price that includes taxes and shipping for one low price. The make and model of the initial mobile phone you received is random according to ReachOut Wireless™ inventory. You are unable to choose which model of phone you initially receive under the ReachOut Wireless™ program.
However ReachOut Wireless™ now offers you the ability purchase a Samsung, Motorola, LG, Kyocera, Audiovox or Nokia replacement handset. The phone you purchase will be factory tested. You may purchase the same or comparable model that you received from ReachOut Wireless™ the first time. Remember, the phone will be shipped through your USPS Postman, as your original phone arrived. Your phone number will remain the same AND all minutes accumulated on your phone will be transferred over to your new phone. With your replacement phone purchase, you will also receive BONUS minutes depending upon the make & model of the phone you purchase.
Budget Mobile Replacement Policy
Budget currently offers free government cell phone plans in 30 states and have already announced expansion plans into 17 more states and Puerto Rico. Here is the company’s lost or stolen policy:
We can suspend your account so no one can use the phone. If you happen to find your phone, please contact our Customer Service department, so we can restore your services. Unfortunately, if you are unable to find your phone, you will need to purchase a replacement phone.
To purchase a replacement phone, you may stop by your local Budget Mobile store, or you may mail a money order in the amount of $20.00 to: Budget Prepay Inc, 1325 Barksdale Blvd, Suite 200, Bossier City, LA 71112. Please be sure to include your account number or mobile number on the money order.
Life Wireless Replacement Policy
Life Wireless does business in 25 states plus Puerto Rico. It’s lost of stolen policy says:
Lost or Stolen Phones: If your Device is lost or stolen you must contact us immediately to report the Device lost or stolen. If your Device is lost or stolen, you will be responsible for all charges incurred on your phone number until you report the theft or loss. You can report your Device as lost or stolen and suspend your service without a charge by contacting us. You may request a replacement through customer service by paying a $20 replacement fee. Replacements will be shipped within 24 business hours on receipt of payment. After you report the theft or loss to us you remain responsible for complying with your other obligations under this Agreement including, but not limited to, payment of any monthly service fees. We and you have a duty to act in good faith and in a reasonable and responsible manner, including in connection with the loss or theft of your Device.
In addition to the Big Five free government cell phone companies, dozens of smaller, regional companies compete in the Lifeline Assistance business. The companies vary from state to state, so let’s review some of the larger ones:
Assist Wireless Replacement Policy
Assist Wireless offers Lifeline Assistance plans in Arkansas, Maryland and Oklahoma with planned expansion in California, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas. The company’s lost or stolen policy is as follows:
There is a $25 fee to replace your damaged or lost Lifeline cell phone. You may replace your lost or damaged phone by mailing payment to the address listed below or by completing the online form located on this page using your credit card/debit card. Your handset will be mailed to you at the address you provide in the order. If you choose to mail a check or money order please send payment to the address below:
Attention: Phone Replacement
2402 Gravel Drive
Fort Worth, TX 76118
** When mailing in a replacement request please include your name, address, mobile number,
contact number, and a $25 check or money order.**
Cintex Wireless Replacement Policy
This regional Lifeline provider offers cell phone plans in Arkansas, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island and West Virginia. The company’s website is silent on the subject of any lost or stolen policy, but according to an independent online source this is the policy:
If your phone is lost or stolen, your monthly minutes are not protected or reimbursable until you notify the company of your missing phone. You must call 877-304-9183 or visit Cintex Wireless website, (www.cintexwireless.com) Once the company is notified you can buy a new phone and all remaining time and your old phone number will be transferred to you new phone. If minutes were used during the time your phone was lost, they will not be refunded.
Website: Cintex Wireless – Apply
PO Box 10707
Gaithersburg, MD 20898
i-Wireless Replacement Policy
i-Wireless is a division of Cincinnati Bell and serves residents of Ohio only. i-Wireless does business under the Access Wireless name, so don’t be confused. They are one and the same. Here’s the company’s lost or stolen policy:
What should I do if I lose my Access Wireless phone?
If your mobile phone is lost or stolen, you are responsible for charges incurred until you notify us of the loss of your mobile phone by visiting our website at www.accesswireless.com or by calling Access Wireless at 1-866-594-3644. Upon receiving notice that your mobile phone is lost or stolen, Access Wireless will suspend your account. If you do not either activate a new Access Wireless phone or notify us that you have found your old mobile phone within 60 days of the suspension of your account, your account will be deactivated, you will lose your Access Wireless phone number and Access Wireless will assess you a termination charge equal to the balance in your account, which is not refundable even if you reactivate your account. Customers may purchase a new i-wireless phone at the regular retail price at a participating Kroger store or online at www.iwirelesshome.com, or you may choose to receive a refurbished replacement phone for a fee of $30, plus applicable tax.
StandUp Wireless Replacement Policy
StandUp Wireless is a free cell phone provider in the states of Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Lost or Stolen Phone Policy: For any lost or stolen STAND UP WIRELESS phone, customer should contact STAND UP WIRELESS at 1-800-544-4441 immediately to suspend account. Customer is responsible for all usage, authorized or unauthorized that occurred between the time phone was lost and when it was reported to STAND UP WIRELESS. The customer is responsible for all costs associated with replacement of the phone.
Terracom Wireless Replacement Policy
This is a regional provider that serves the states of Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia or Wisconsin.
Here is how the company’s lost or stolen policy is spelled out on its website:
Lost or Stolen Equipment:
If you lose your handset or have your handset stolen, you are responsible for all charges incurred until TerraCom Wireless is notified of the lost or stolen wireless phone. To report a lost or stolen wireless phone, please contact TerraCom Wireless at the TerraCom America Service Number located above. Upon receiving notice of the lost or stolen phone, TerraCom Wireless will suspend the account immediately. If you do not either activate a new TerraCom Wireless phone or notify us that you have found your wireless phone within 30 days of the suspension of the account, the account will be deactivated and you will lose the TerraCom Wireless phone number.
Yourtel Wireless Replacement Policy
This regional provider, a sister company of Terracom Wireless, offers free government cell phone plans in Kansas, Illinois. Missouri, Maine, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Washington, Rhode Island and Washington. Its lost of stolen policy states:
Unfortunately, YourTel Wireless cannot be responsible for lost or stolen handsets or handsets that are damaged after they are delivered to the subscriber. However, YourTel Wireless now offers phones at a discounted price that includes taxes and shipping for one low price. You may upgrade your phone at any time as long as you have active service with YourTel Wireless.
YourTel Wireless offers you the ability to purchase a Samsung, Motorola, LG, Kyocera, Audiovox or Nokia as a replacement or upgrade handset. The phone you purchase will be factory tested. If you are replacing a lost phone, you may purchase the same or comparable model that you received from the first time. Remember, the phone will be shipped through your USPS Postman, as your original phone arrived. Your phone number will remain the same AND all minutes accumulated on your phone will be transferred over to your new phone.
ATTENTION: Before making your selection, be advised that you are only allowed 1 transaction for any amount, per 24 hour period.
Wireless for Hope Replacement Policy
Wireless is a small, regional player that operates in Arkansas and Louisiana. They also do business as Easy Wireless. The company’s lost or stolen policy is spelled out on the Easy website:
What should I do if I lose my Easy Wireless phone?
Don’t panic. Take another look around and try to find your phone.
If you still can’t locate your phone, let us know right away and we’ll suspend service. That way, once your service is suspended, no one can use your remaining balance. We can help you get a replacement phone. We usually can have it to you in just a few days, and we’ll transfer any remaining balance in your account to your replacement phone.
Call us at 611, or 1-877-476-3451 to speak with a customer service representative and request a new phone.
Tag Mobile Replacement Policy
One of the major regional competitors — Tag Mobile — offers no website information on its lost or stolen policy. Considering the number of cell phone owners who evidently lose their phones or have them stolen, this seems to be a major oversight — one we hope Tag will correct soon.
Other Companies’ Replacement Policies
In addition, some free government cell phone companies — primarily the smallest of the competitors — also neglect to include their lost or stolen policies on their websites. Despite our best efforts, we’ve been unable to determine what those policies may be. Those companies include Alaska Communications (Alaska only), Care Wireless (Illinois), True Wireless (Arkansas, Maryland, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Texas).
Help Finding your Phone
We know how frustrating it is and how much time can be wasted when your cell phone is lost or stolen. We want to help you find it without having to go through all the rigamarole required to get a new one. Androids and iPhones will let you track the phone’s location if it goes missing, but for most of the Lifeline phones from the above carriers, there is no such feature. The only options available are low tech: look between the sofa cushions, under the bed, and in your cost pockets; and revisit places you were last at.
However, if for some reason you have an iPhone or Android, the following videos will help you to use technology to quickly locate exactly where you phone is.
How to locate your Android phone:
How to locate your iPhone: