Is there any hope of recovering my stolen iPhone?
June 30, 2010 7:04 AM   Subscribe

Stolen iPhone - what, if anything, can I do with the information that I have?

So my iPhone was stolen while I was walking my dog at a local park. Total bummer. The thief used the phone 5 times to other cell phones before I had it deactivated. I have the cell numbers and locations, but no other information. Sadly (stupidly) I didn't have any tracking programs installed.

I don't know what my next step ought to be. Go to the police? Will they care/help with petty theft? What about AT&T? I thought maybe I could call the numbers that the thief called, but the thought of that confrontation is pretty terrifying to me, and I'm doubtful his/her friends would give him/her up anyway. Is that the way to go?

I reactivated the phone and locked it down with parental locks so that it can only contact/be contacted by my second (work) cell phone. I've made calls/texts to the phone but they all go unanswered. this a lost cause? Is there something else you clever folks can think of?

Thanks Mefites.
posted by rinosaur to Law & Government (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Did you purchase an insurance/replacement plan? If so, you'll need to make a police report to claim it was stolen. Either way, you should report it to the police and give them the information you have regarding the numbers called. Depending on how busy your local department is, you might get lucky if they follow up on those leads.
posted by amyms at 7:15 AM on June 30, 2010

Go to the police? Will they care/help with petty theft?

Ostensibly, this is exactly what the police are for. Fill out a police report, it can't hurt.
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:20 AM on June 30, 2010

You should report it to the police. You never know what they might be interested in. One of the phone numbers that you have might be a number they are watching for some reason.

You will also need a police report to file any insurance claims.

Also, if I were you, I would do a search on those phone numbers. Try to identify the people. You never know where that will lead too.
posted by Flood at 7:26 AM on June 30, 2010

Things like this (small crimes where there's little hope of recovering your stuff; see also: stolen bicycles) are worth reporting to the police - even if they won't be able to recover your phone, you will at least be adding to the "phone thefts this year" stat and so might help convince the police that this is a crime they need to invest more time in dealing with.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:30 AM on June 30, 2010

Best answer: Oddly enough, my friend managed to get back her phone just yesterday, stolen at a bar on Friday, by spamming the crap out of the one number the thief called with her phone. She used google SMS so the thief didn't have any of our numbers. She and a few friends would just repeatedly text the guy lines from the Magna Carta and Star Wars at 4 AM until whoever the guy called got so angry that the thief relented and dropped the phone off at the bar. It was impressive.

She did file a police report, but in Boston I think the cops just didn't have the resources to do anything about it.
posted by kpht at 7:55 AM on June 30, 2010 [8 favorites]

My iPhone was stolen last year, but I didn't report it because I erroneously believed there was nothing to be done. I was wrong. There is hope!

My friend's iPhone was stolen recently, and since it was a mugging he of course reported it. AT&T knew who'd ended up with the phone because someone else started a new contract with it. But they refused to give the info to police! Police have subpoenaed AT&T to get the info. Of course the new contract holder likely bought it off the street or on Craigslist or what have you, but the pics are, amazingly (this is Baltimore), determined to talk to them anyway until the mugger/this is found.

Report it right now.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 7:59 AM on June 30, 2010

gah. "pics" = police.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 8:00 AM on June 30, 2010

Best answer: Call AT&T, tell them it was stolen, get your phone serial number. Call the police, file a report (including the serial number info you got from AT&T), get the police case number, call AT&T again and give them the case # as well and any relevant contact info for the local police. Hopefully some idiot will sell the phone and try to register it for new service, in which case AT&T should have the relevant info they need to get you your phone back. Similarly if the phone gets sold to a pawn shop or whatever, it's important to have that paper trail.
posted by reptile at 8:52 AM on June 30, 2010

Response by poster: Bummer, Google SMS was retired. Any other reliable internet-based SMS senders out there?
posted by rinosaur at 9:07 AM on June 30, 2010

Hey iPhone thief, Oh, Don't Forget to give me back my damn iPhone before everyone on Metafilter starts texting you lines from Beowulf!
posted by zoomorphic at 9:20 AM on June 30, 2010

Seriously, it's my lunch break, I'd be more than happy to help out. I hope your thief likes the Canterbury Tales prologue.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:22 AM on June 30, 2010

Response by poster: Beautiful! I don't know if it's kosher to post people's phone numbers in the interest of mob justice.... but interested parties can MeMail me for the relevant information... :)
posted by rinosaur at 9:49 AM on June 30, 2010

Brilliant idea, zoomorphic.
If honey, please make a dentist appt! doesn't get on his/her nerves then sending that a 100 times more certainly will.
posted by special-k at 9:50 AM on June 30, 2010

rinosaur: I was mistaken, they signed up for a google voice account which lets you send unlimited SMS messages. I believe they signed up for one just for this occasion, but a lot of us signed up at the outset and it could've just been one of their accounts that was opened awhile ago and never used, and was then used entirely for this purpose. I can't believe the 4chan treatment actually worked, and I was skeptical until the moment she got it back in her possession.

Feel free to memail me if you need anything further, and I can get you in touch with the friends of mine who actually pulled this off (I was a casual observer of their texting foray, although I feel terrible because her phone got stolen while I was nearby, and I even saw the dude out of the corner of my eye but it didn't register as weird).
posted by kpht at 9:51 AM on June 30, 2010

Beautiful! I don't know if it's kosher to post people's phone numbers in the interest of mob justice

No, not kosher. Also, doing so would lead said person right back to this thread.
posted by special-k at 9:51 AM on June 30, 2010

Oh, and don't forget the preface the texts with something like "The person who called you at (date & time) is in posession of my stolen iPhone. Drop it at (place) and these texts will cease. The police won't be involved if it is returned ASAP"
posted by kpht at 9:54 AM on June 30, 2010

I had mine stolen at my workplace in Baltimore. The police were very diligent but never found anything - still, it's worth a try.

BUT be prepared for no help from AT&T, even if you report the serial number. They will not follow up even if someone activates the phone with them. Also, they treated me weirdly like a criminal and refused to sell me a new iPhone even when I offered to pay full price -- as if I was trying to get away with something (this was at a time when you couldn't get an iphone without a contract). I ended up going to the Apple store (again, full price but hey, I was prepared to do that anyway) and talking to a super-nice genius, who sold me one straight away.
posted by media_itoku at 10:26 AM on June 30, 2010

Response by poster: Got a "cease and desist" email from one of the numbers threatening to lodge complaints with several different organizations. Nice to have made contact, not sure how to proceed.
posted by rinosaur at 11:16 AM on June 30, 2010

Oh, I would program a fax machine to call them every hour. You might also be able to get an old voice modem and use that to send an audio file over the line instead of screeches.
posted by rhizome at 11:51 AM on June 30, 2010

I would continue despite the "cease and desist" email. Tell the person you will stop when he/she gives you the contact information of the person who stole your phone.

If you have a lawyer friend, maybe you could ask him/her to contact this person and threaten to subpoena the contact information. Basically, try to annoy this person enough so that he'll give you the information.
posted by parakeetdog at 2:02 PM on June 30, 2010

Response by poster: Update & a question:

Thief sold the phone to a friend, friend called me from an Unknown number to tell me he would sell the phone back to me -- the call went to voicemail so I didn't get to talk to him. I doubt he'll call back. Anyone know of a way to get a trace on the unknown number?

I'm certainly not planning on buying my own stuff back, I am more interested in taking the information to the police.

Thanks, friends.
posted by rinosaur at 5:34 AM on July 6, 2010

Maybe "friend" = thief himself ?
posted by StarmanDXE at 6:48 AM on July 8, 2010

« Older What does the Ninth Amendment mean?   |   What books best describe/approximate what it was... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.