By M. Ricigliano
Well, it happened to me. My iPhone 4S was stolen while on a family road trip over the Thanksgiving weekend.
It took only a moment. I was cleaning up after my kids in a sandwich shop and that’s all the time the thief needed to make his move. I know it was a “he” as he was spotted by the crack team of sandwich-makers who snapped into action only after the punk was long gone. They then confessed that they had “seen the whole thing.” ~ Sigh ~
Historically, I’m not prone to losing stuff. I still carry my original, tattered Social Security card issued to me decades ago. and use the same keychain I bought from a record convention in 1979, so this felt like an extreme violation of my personal property. I was especially angry as I had just snapped a bunch of new photos of my kids and family and had not backed up my iPhone since then. Those were gone forever. I knew that much and it bugged me.
Resigned and angry, my wife and I piled everyone into our minivan and head out on the road. She suggested I pull up the “Find My iPhone” app on her iPhone and see if we can track my phone. “We’ll go get the guy and confront him!” she suggested in her typically let’s-get-it-done fashion, and I actually started to reach for her phone when I realized we had a car full of kids in tow, and the last thing they needed to see was their dad scuffling with a desperate criminal in some parking lot in Salinas, CA, so I scrapped that idea.
However, I did use her iPhone to dial 611 and speak with an AT&T Customer Service Agent about what I needed to do to suspend service so the crook couldn’t use my iPhone to make calls. (There is a security password in place, locking my iPhone, so I wasn’t too worried, but you never know.) The AT&T agent asked me to recite “at least one phone number you call often on the stolen iPhone,” and I gave her my wife’s cell number. This did the trick and in 30 seconds my phone number was rendered “suspended.”
De-activating my iPhone
I tend to be a bit distrusting of AT&T (and other large companies with global call-centers), so I asked a lot of questions about how easy it will be to re-activate my number when I purchase a new iPhone in the coming week. I was assured that reactivation would be “easy as pie” and she added a personal note in the form of a smiley “we can’t make money on a de-activated number.” I saw her point, but commented that I had a feeling AT&T had a room somewhere with people sitting around a table trying to figure out exactly how they could make money on a de-activated phone. (She didn’t laugh.)
So there I was, driving down the highway, staring out the window and holding my wife’s iPhone in place of my own. In that moment it dawned on me just how personal our phones and mobile devices can become. After a few years with my iPhone, it was chock full of the names and addresses of my closest friends and loved ones, a large collection of my favorite music and photos, a few cool apps and the familiar bumps and well-worn grooves in the case itself, accrued over the years and comforting to me in my pocket or in a dark movie theater. I’ve even emptied out much of the bulk in my wallet by snapping photos of my gym pass, library card, Peets Coffee card etc, and stored them on my phone for easy access via my iPhone photos app.
Holding my wife’s iPhone felt alien to me. Like a stranger, mocking me. Reminding me that very little of its contents would benefit me. Under my breath, I cursed the thief one more time.
Thanks to the assistance of my employer, Trend Micro, I’ve since upgraded to an iPhone 5. This was inevitable, I suppose, but would rather have upgraded under less turbulent conditions. Because I carry an iPhone, I always had the potential to remotely lock or even locate the exact location of my iPhone via another Apple device (like an iPad or another iPhone) by using the activated Apple’s “Find My iPhone” feature, now offered on all Apple devices.
For those who carry an Android, a similar solution would be to utilize the Lost Devise Protection Feature found in Trend Micro™ Mobile Security Personal Edition for Android.
It’s sometimes best to just let things go – especially when there’s the potential for a hostile confrontation. But it’s always good to know that today’s mobile devices and the data they contain are protected in ways that our wallets never were.
I work for Trend Micro and the opinions expressed here are my own.
For more tips and advice regarding Internet, mobile security and more, just “Like” Trend Micro Fearless Web Internet Security on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/fearlessweb.