Friday, April 09, 2010

Five Steps to Follow if Your Smartphone Goes Missing

This is a guest post by Greg Bartlett. Contact me if you'd like to submit a guest post.

It’s happened to the best of us. A guy can step off the metro, run in and out of his favorite coffee joint, get home, look in his bag, and suddenly experience that sinking, gut-twisting feeling when he realizes that his $250 bundle of contact info, apps, and virtual joy isn’t where it’s supposed to be. At this point it’s good to take a long, deep breath, then follow this simple road back to normalcy.
  • Step 1: Don’t panic. The first rule of intergalactic hitchhiking is also the first rule of smartphone recovery. Losing one’s phone doesn’t mean the permanent disfavor of the universe; perhaps taking a break will do some good. Or not.
  • Step 2: Call the smartphone. The most obvious step is often the most overlooked. If someone answers, graciousness and offer to make it worth their while to return it helps. If no one answers, persistence is also good, but perhaps the phone was stolen.
  • Step 3: Shut down the smartphone. If the phone has certainly fallen into enemy hands, it’s best to call up the provider and have them suspend the account. The primary motive for cell phone theft is to steal service—free calls to whomever the thief wants, free of charge. The phone itself is rarely worth hawking. With an 80% black market markdown and the need to replace the SIM card, even the newest, slickest smartphones aren’t worth the effort. The little value in smartphone theft exists only until my IMEI IMEI or account activity is suspended. One tries to get that done before the impersonator orders fifty pizzas on the victim’s dime.
  • Step 4: Activate the GPS tracking system. If the phone has GPS tracking capability, one can go ahead and fire up the app or service and see if its location pops up. Many providers are also able to triangulate the position of stolen smartphones for their customers, so long as they’re in use. Regardless of method, however, the results are often pretty striking. Stories of people recovering their phones—and other property—by using simple GPS tracking gps tracking technology are a dime a dozen, so it’s best to take advantage. If the owner does manage to pin down a location of the smartphone and it’s substantially removed from the point of theft, then it’s best to turn over the information along with a stolen property report to the police and let them recover it. Fancy GPS tracking a superhero vigilante does not make.
  • Step 5: Relax. If the owner doesn’t recover his or her phone, then congrats. He or she now has a guilt-free excuse to grab a shiny new replacement.
Greg Bartlett runs He specializes in writing about health and technology, including GPS and insurance, and has earned two master’s degrees.

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