Why I Did Not Freak Out Over My Stolen iPhone

google-1054pmLast Friday night we were heading home from visiting some friends in Lanikai. We decided to pull over and walk down to the beach to look for Mars, which is very “close” to earth this month and shining bright in the sky. We were gone no more than 20 minutes, yet in that time the front window of my car was smashed and my purse was stolen. With my iPhone 3GS inside, wallet and credit cards, and a few coupons and lip balm.

Luckily, Shane had his phone on him, so we could call the police and report the incident. I was not freaking out. To many people, the loss of phone and wallet is truly like losing major parts of oneself! To me, it was an opportunity to let technology work for me, and of course, get a new iPhone 4! I could barely wait to get home and start tracking where my phone was IRL (in real life.)

My Tech and Internet Guardian Angels

Mobile Me Account
I always purchase Mobile Me alongside my iPhone service. It is only $99 a year and it saved me and my privacy.

I had enabled the “Find My Phone” feature that interacts with the GPS on the device. As soon as I got to a computer, (any computer with a web browser would do), I logged in and could see right where my phone was: Kalanianaole Highway near the Circle K/76 Gas Station in Waimanalo. I could then follow it to the back yard of a specific residence. With a Kailua policeman standing over my shoulder, he was calling his counterpart who was knocking on the door of the residence.

mobile me wiping myphone remotelyAt that moment I sent a loud, shrill sound for 2 minutes to my iphone, hoping the officer could hear it, though the phone, as I said, was far in the back yard behind the house. Alas, he could not hear anything, and the person at the door declined any further investigation. So I sent the signal again, only this time it did not go through. So I then issued the command, literally!, to my phone, to “wipe” the entire contents of the phone.

This would preserve all of my personal information and prevent the thief from accessing me. Think for a moment – this is the future we imagined in science fiction, only I am living it now.

My Mobile Me account also lets me sync all of my contacts, calendars, and email via the web, so I could access them from anywhere. This is great if someone steals your computer and your phone! It also restores all of my information to my new phone/computer the instant I plug it in and add my Mobile Me credentials.

American Express Credit Card Registry
I pay $39 a year for this service. In the case of my stolen wallet, all I had to do was call one number at AMEX, and they would cancel all credit cards associated with my social security number (or only a subset if so requested on the phone) “immediately.” The cacth here is that I did have a Visa/debit card from my business checking account in my wallet. They did not find that one, (it “belongs to the business tax id not my personal SSN) and my intuition kicked in after playing on the computer watching my phone roam around Waimanalo. So I called the bank, and sure enough two transactions had just been made at the Circle K/76 Station, one at 11:11 pm and one at 11:16 pm. So now we can connect the “fraudulent use of a credit card” with the time stamp of the phone at the gas station. I am kinda glad now that the card had slipped through the cracks, as it will help the police crack this case more easily! I just know the Kailua cops are going to catch these folks one day soon. No doubt they were frustrated as the other 4 cards they tried to use, failed on them.

My Amex card was delivered by Express Mail and arrived Monday morning (the theft was reported around 10 pm on Friday night.)

iPhone and iTunes: The Secret Sauce
What can I say? These two things are the core of my life, and it is because they work so well that i did not freak out even for a moment over my stolen purse. Once I was able to get a new phone (NOT easy! The island was sold out till I found one at Radio Shack in Kailua – and I did not even know they were sold there!), all I did was plug it into my computer. Instantly, all of my notes, music, text messages, apps, settings, etc. were restored!

Window Replacement
I logged into my Progresive Insurance account to report the incident on Saturday morning. I filled out a simple and smart form. An agent called about 4 hours later and gave me the location of Safelite, where I was able to make an appointment for 3 pm Monday. It took 45 minutes and only cost $168 – about half the retail price courtesy of my Progressive policy. If you read this blog, you know I love being able to do things digitally rather than on the phone.

Drivers License
Tuesday morning at 8 am I was at the WIndward Satellite Office of City Hall for the City and County of Honolulu. This is a gorgeous new-ish facility – especially compared to waiting outside the old one at the police station further down Kamehameha Hwy. Bright, colorful walls with art, and friendly staff. I had my new license in about 5 minutes (and a much better photo if I do say so myself!) Replacement cost: $5.

The bonus here is that since Shane had to drive me, he was able to get his renewed at the same time – and it was due to expire in a few months. It is one of those errands we tend to put off until the last minute, then stress over! Stress: no need.

Oh, and remember I got that new iPhone 4! Thanks to Mike and Pat at the Kailua Radio Shack. When the Apple Stores and the ATT&T stores have no phones, check your local Radio Shack! Five days later, I am back to normal, though I still am looking for a new “wallet” to keep my cards in. Your suggestions welcome!

At this point most writers would lecture you about your back up plans, your due diligence, your responsibility quotient, etc. But I’d rather just inspire you to embrace technology and let it be your slave too!

Aloha,
roxanne-sig

8 Comments on “Why I Did Not Freak Out Over My Stolen iPhone

  1. Good lessons and a fascinating story. Nice try on the part of the Kailua police. It will be interesting to see if judges start issuing search warrants based on iPhone locators. What a great aha moment that would lead to. Well, maybe on TV.

    BTW, that photo is one of THE best dog or beach photos ever.

  2. I am glad you all liked this post; I am committed to doing my part to reduce the shrill and shill factors on the interwebs. :-)

    Another reader emailed me a link to an iPhone/iPad app that lets you install the “Find My Phone” functionality on another mobile device. So, if Shane had had that app on his iPhone, we could have started tracking the thieves as soon as we discovered the smashed window! Check out the Find My Phone app for iPhone and iPad. It still requires that the phone be set up with Mobile Me service. Thanks Peter!

  3. Roxanne,
    Hey would you like a new best Friend?
    What an amazing post, thank you so much.
    My daughter and I went to a historical theater so there was only one choice of films so James Bond was our choice. We walked out of the theater before the end because we were bored since our IPhones can do almost as much magic with the exception of flying.

    I might have missed the cost of replacing your phone in your post. When my IPhone was stolen the replacement cost was significant because I had not been with AT& T for a long period of time so that was a hard pill to swallow.

    I too have recently had a great experience @ Radio Shack. Bought some great earbuds for a great price and excellent Customer Service too.

    Thank you for teaching me some new consumer education. I also want you to know how much I enjoyed your upbeat attitude. When we change the way we think we can change the way we feel.

    Sincerely,
    Lisa

  4. Great article, Rox. I hope the cops do nail those scumbags soon. Seems like they may be able to because of your diligence (this coming from an ex-cop).

    The first and only Android app/service I bought when I got my Droid X was WaveSecure, which has a lot of the features that MobileMe offers iPhone users. Hopefully I’ll never have to use it.

  5. Great post. Sorry it happened but I learned so much. Thank you for sharing such important information. I’ve got the G4, let’s FaceTime one day soon!

  6. Sorry it happened to you, but glad you were well prepared. How do you like the new iPhone 4?