I've virtually tracked down my missing/stolen iPod Touch, and have discovered all sorts of personal information about the person who is now using it. How can I reclaim it?
October 28, 2010 2:45 PM   Subscribe

I've virtually tracked down my missing/stolen iPod Touch, and have discovered all sorts of personal information about the person who is now using it. How can I reclaim it? [Details inside-- this one's a detective story]

Apologies for the length, but I promise it's an unusual/fascinating one:

Two months ago, I left my iPod touch in the seat pocket of an airplane landing at Washington-Dulles. The next day I discovered I had lost it, and called the airline (United) to report the loss. They hadn't found it, and that was that.

Then, two months later, and seemingly unrelated, I began seeing some very odd behavior in my Gmail account. Three months of emails had inexplicably been archived, and when I dug deeper into my "All Mails" I discovered a large set of emails that were not from me-- they were various notes, song lyrics, phone numbers, and other tidbits of information. I immediately changed my password due to security concerns, but I was curious as to where these items (many of which had the gmail 'Notes' label) were coming from, as they simply seemed too "real" to be random spam.

As you have likely figured out, I eventually pieced together that these items were all from the person who had found my iPod and started using it as her own without removing any of my gmail account information that was on the iPod. For this reason, whenever she wrote something in the iPod's "Notes" app, it was automatically synced to my Gmail via IMAP and given a "Notes " label.

From browsing these notes, I was able to find out a substantial amount of information about this person. While I do not know her name or contact info, I know many other things: the high school she goes to (she's a freshman), the DC suburb she lives in, what her class schedule is this semester, the names of her teachers, the names and phone numbers of some of her friends, the extracurricular groups she is involved in (including her Army Cadet group's mission statement), I know the songs she is most into right now, and I even know angsty diary entries about the boy she currently likes.

It's crazy having this much detail about the life of a complete stranger. It would all be just a curious aside were it not for the fact that she has my iPod, and while I've moved on and the money isn't a huge issue, I would like to get it back on a matter of principle.

So I tried communicating with her. I temporarily changed my gmail password back to the original password (to re-enable syncing), and wrote a "Note" that synced to the iPod, politely explaining the situation, giving my contact info, and offering a $100 reward. I know that she read it and ignored it, because I later saw the "Deleted Messages" label on the note, showing that she deleted it on the iPod (everything still exists server-side in gmail). Soon after, she opened the mail app on the ipod and sent an email to a friend of hers (from my email account, although probably not intentionally so) talking in length about her weekend and her romantic misfires.

So, my question to all of you is what (if anything) I should do. I'm financially comfortable enough that I can live without the iPod, but the principle of the matter--that I can see exactly how they are using my item--makes me want to get it back. There are a number of potential approaches:
  • Do nothing-- be the adult and call it a loss
  • Continue trying to reason with her (offer higher reward?)
  • Contact one of her friends (perhaps the person she emailed from my email account)
  • Contact the local police department (side question: is this considered stolen goods, or does the law take a "finders-keepers" view?)
  • Contact a school administrator
  • Contact her ISP, verizon (I have her IP number)
  • Create a tumblr full of her musings, serving no purpose other than a voyeuristic treatise on the angst and bad grammar of 15 year-olds
Any thoughts? Looking for advice as far as the law is concerned (whose property is the ipod at this point?), effectiveness (what do you think would work?), and ethics (is contacting her friends considered crossing the line? do I come across as some sort of creepy stalker?).

posted by stilly to Computers & Internet (75 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
She's a freshman in high school?

Call her parents.
posted by muddgirl at 2:50 PM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

Sorry, I thought I read that you DID know her name and contact info.
posted by muddgirl at 2:50 PM on October 28, 2010

Post to /b? Anon would love something like this--but you said you wanted to be an adult...darn. At this point, I think you just have to change your passwords so some stranger can longer access your personal info and call it a loss.
posted by reformedjerk at 2:50 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you should either call the police and see if they can help get it back, try again with the person directly or give up. Contacting friends and the tumblr seem creepy - the person is a minor after all.
posted by oneear at 2:56 PM on October 28, 2010

Given the amount of time that passed between the theft and the activity on the gmail account (2 months, right?), perhaps the iTouch was sold to her and she was unaware that it was stolen? I know this doesn't answer the question on what you should do, but it is possible that she is not the thief and is just ignoring your messages out of fear.

I dunno. Perhaps you just write off the loss and change all of your into so that it cannot be traced back to you.
posted by sundrop at 2:57 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I agree the adult thing to do is to change all your passwords and let it go.

That said, that's not what I would do. I would send her another note telling her (not asking her) what's going to happen. Say you know who she is and where she goes to school, and that all you want is your ipod back. So if she's willing to meet you in front of the school to claim her reward, you'll be happy to let that be the end of it. I'd also say that if she doesn't want to claim the reward, you'll contact the school administration.

Now, if she doesn't bite, I'd just let it go. I don't think it's worth actually getting her in trouble for basically finding an unclaimed ipod. But I think it's worth trying to scare her into giving it back.
posted by auto-correct at 2:58 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think contacting the school administrator would be a good way to try.

Not only (if they are interested and convinced you are on the up-and-up) might you get it back, you would also be providing a number of (as of now unwelcome) lessons for this young woman. Such as, everything typed into the Internet lasts forever and is easy to find. Plus, something you possess that is not yours may well not STAY yours.

In any event, good luck.
posted by Danf at 2:58 PM on October 28, 2010 [6 favorites]

I'd go to the police. Let them make the call as to whether or not this is still your property.
posted by Wordwoman at 3:00 PM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

I think a good rule in this is to contact adults only. Adults should be able to handle a call from a stranger. An adult would probably flip out if a stranger started contacting their child.

I think the best route would be to contact her school. Call their office and explain the situation. From the class schedule they should be able to identify the student. Make it clear you're not interested in learning the identity of this student, or punishing her. You just want the ipod back. Fedex makes a great ipod/cellphone package.
posted by fontophilic at 3:01 PM on October 28, 2010 [21 favorites]

I'm not sure that the adult thing here is to do nothing, as the right thing for her to have done would have been to turn it in. I'm never a fan of enabling entitlement behavior. If you were intent on doing this in the most redemptive way possible while still pursuing recovery, my vote would be to contact the school administrator and provide some of the personal information (classes, friends, activities), and see if they can triangulate who it is. Let them know that you are not interested in pressing charges, you simply want the phone back. However, if the school is unwilling to help, you might say that you would then have to call the police, who would likely contact the school. That might encourage interest on their end to help you.

Give it up. I don't see it as "stolen." You left the thing on a plane and the person who came along behind you pocketed it. That's technically theft, but she didn't victimize you to get it.

Yes, it most certainly is, by any standard of the law. The right thing to do is to turn it in, especially when there are enough details present on a phone for the finder to return it to the owner, if she was so inclined. She was intentionally not inclined.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:06 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Uh, what? I would not attempt to get a student to meet me in front of her school. That screams bad guy.

I would, however, warn her that you know who she is because she has been using your gmail account as her own personal diary and email account. That's not legal, is it? Tell her that, unless she gets the iPod back to you somehow, you'll be contacting her school (and her parents) about the situation. That might scare her enough to get the job done. If you have a PO Box, give her that address and tell her to mail it back to you.
posted by two lights above the sea at 3:07 PM on October 28, 2010

Say you know who she is and where she goes to school, and that all you want is your ipod back. So if she's willing to meet you in front of the school to claim her reward, you'll be happy to let that be the end of it.

Dude, this kid is a high school freshman. Any kind of contact like this from an adult stranger ends up with that adult stranger in a government database for creepers.
posted by elizardbits at 3:09 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

I would write her and tell her to get it back to you or you will be in touch with her school. Give a deadline.

If you don't get it back, write the school and send copies to guidance counselor so that if she knows she will need recommendations etc for college or jobs she is putting herself at risk.

If she does not return it, send the notes and move on.
posted by Postroad at 3:10 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

She was intentionally not inclined.

You have absolutely no way of knowing this: she may have been sold stolen goods. That means she probably doesn't deserve any major grief or reprisals (she may be completely clueless as to it's origin) but it sure as hell doesn't make the iPod any less the OP's.

Something that is stolen will always be stolen until it is returned. I'd contact the police or the school if the police don't want to bother. Make sure you have plenty of proof that the iPod is yours, though (serial number?).
posted by Brockles at 3:12 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure that the adult thing here is to do nothing, as the right thing for her to have done would have been to turn it in.

As sundrop notes above, it is not certain that the girl who has it now is the person who found it in the airplane seat pocket, especially given the two months' inactivity on the device. I'm not necessarily saying you shouldn't try to get it back, but do take into account the possibility that the girl was given/sold the iPod by a third party, and has a good-faith belief that it is legally hers, and proceed accordingly.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:14 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is a 14- or 15-year-old-girl who found an iPod on a plane. Do nothing-- be the adult and call it a loss.
posted by naju at 3:15 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

14-15 years is old enough to figure out that someone else's details are on an iPhone. But even if she's completely technologically clueless, she doesn't get to keep stolen property.

Definitely make sure that you can prove original ownership, then contact the school. Notify them that one of their students is using a stolen phone - your contact information hasn't been erased, and you've been receiving updates on her activity. Mention that you only want the phone back, that you don't care who the student is, and give them any relevant information they'd need to narrow it down to the culprit. If they start turning you away, tell them that you're willing to get the police involved to get back stolen property and their cooperation right now would make it easier on everyone. All you want is your phone.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 3:21 PM on October 28, 2010 [17 favorites]

I'd absolutely not go the passive-aggressive route or anything that could be construed that way, but I know that I would have a very hard time to let it go. (Btw., even if the thing was sold to her by a third party, she could have dealt with your first message, no?)
However, "reasoning" isn't really what you want here (also, offering a higher reward isn't 'reasoning', it's making it seem like she has some leverage, which is silly in this context).

I'd write again, in the reading-for-dummies kind of way where the most important message is in the first two sentences:
"I know that you read my previous message, and deleted it. You'd better read this one very carefully."
Now you can explain that you stand with your offer, but that you will contact her school administrator next thing if stuff doesn't move soon (you still can decide later that you're not going to do that).

Just don't use any of her private information, that's not at all okay. She's clearly clueless about a bunch of things, but that has no effect on her right to privacy, and nothing to do with you getting your iPod back.
posted by Namlit at 3:25 PM on October 28, 2010

Another vote here for contacting her school admin. The school employees I know would be horrified that a student was given the chance to return lost/stolen property and didn't do so. I think it would be a valuable lesson for her to be called to the office to explain how she came to be in possession of the ipod, and why she ignored your plea to return it.

(What 15 year old wouldn't leap at the chance for $100 reward? One with a guilty conscience who doesn't want to get caught, I suspect.)
posted by malibustacey9999 at 3:27 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I would love to throw this over to b/ but that's just wrong. also not right seems to be the screwing up the (immediate) life of a kid who made a bad decision. I would use the information I have to contact her parents or school and try to get this resolved without police getting involved. only if that fails would I go that route.

I don't think you should let this slide. get your ipod back and make this a shot across the bow for her but nothing more and you handled this like a mature adult with sound judgment as far as I am concerned.
posted by krautland at 3:29 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

It may not have been her, but someone most definitely and knowingly stole your iPod instead of doing the right thing and turning it in.

I'm not a fan of letting anyone get away with blatant theft like this. If I felt like making the effort, then I would contact the police and let them track down the culprit. They can do that two ways: talking to the school and the girl, and through the airline to see who were in your seat after you. If these converge, then great, someone will be learning a lesson about integrity.
posted by spr at 3:32 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

While it seems she is clueless about the device (using your gmail) I would drop it. If someone had every email I had sent for the last few years I would not want to piss them off. In fact I would change every password I ever had and then write the whole thing off and hope they never email everyone I know just because they can. You lost it, they suck at life, you still loose.

I stand by you in your quest to right the world of its wrong doing 15 year olds, however the chance of this having little effect or (if you call the police) too much effect, is too great. Let it go, hope Karma catches up and buy yourself the newer version. Better that then trying to explain why you have been electronically stalking a 15 year old girl to the police.
posted by Felex at 3:39 PM on October 28, 2010

While I wish you the best of luck in getting this back (and I've been racking my mind for ideas as to how you do that). What is going to stop her from saying that you are a liar and that it is her iTouch?

I mean, if you called the school and said this girl stole my property (which she did) how would you prove that? I just don't want you to assume that just because you know it's yours, everyone else will side with you.

And for all those people that are saying, blah blah she is a minor... yes she is, but does that mean minors can be crooks and thieves? Come on. This may be an iPod, but what if they stole your backpack with all your stuff in it? Would you be saying move on then?
posted by darkgroove at 3:40 PM on October 28, 2010

Call (don't email) the school. Ask to speak with the principal. Explain your situation in the amount of detail you explained here. Emphasize that you do not wish to press charges criminally, but you want the school to take action by asking her parents to get in touch with you. Verify that you can physically describe the iPod including the songs that were on it etc. I'm pretty sure the school will take action.

I dont' think there's anything babyish about acting on this.
posted by serazin at 3:41 PM on October 28, 2010 [8 favorites]

Look up her friends on Facebook and see if you can figure out her identity by correlating wall posts and topics. Once you've got her identity, call her parents. It's not appropriate for any strange adult to try to negotiate directly with a child, even if that child is in the possession of stolen property.

If her parents aren't on your side, forget about it. It's probably more trouble than it's worth to pursue a legal remedy.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:43 PM on October 28, 2010

(Btw., even if the thing was sold to her by a third party, she could have dealt with your first message, no?)

How would she know that the message was sent by the iPod's legitimate owner, and not by someone who had hacked into the account? Again, not saying you shouldn't try to get it back (it is, after all, rightfully yours in any case), but I am in favor of giving the girl the benefit of the doubt as far as any wrongdoing on her part.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:46 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Call the school - no parents (although it sounds from your description you would have to call the school to get the item back since they will have to figure out her identity, first.) The school is more likely to care and do the right thing here. The parents might obfuscate or try to shield their daughter. Parents are too much potential drama, call the school.

If she can use the iPod, she could have contacted you. She's at fault here.

Make the school handle it. Plus, if they are the ones who fedex it to you, both you and the girl are shielded from one another, as it should be.
posted by jbenben at 3:47 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't think there's any reason to believe that the school will intervene in a dispute that's taken place outside of school grounds.
posted by naju at 3:50 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

I am not sure it works this way everywhere, but it my school there was an embedded cop - "a high school resource officer" who was usually there to handle various police issues that popped up in the school. It seemed like a boring job, but the officer there was generally more sensitive to idiot behavior from teens than an average police officer - a guy like this might be willing to pull her into an office and have a chat to see if she gives up the phone.

I'd contact the police or school and see if they have a person like that and deal with the school officer.

I think contacting the girl directly is a terrible idea.
posted by Deep Dish at 3:54 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't think there's any reason to believe that the school will intervene in a dispute that's taken place outside of school grounds.

Their student is bringing stolen property on to school grounds - of course they care.

If it turns out the school declines to get involved, contact the police. You've notified the girl she's got stolen property. It's time for her to return it. End of story.
posted by jbenben at 3:55 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm more interested in attitudes of victimization than "fault."

But I also wonder if you consider yourself a thief when you find $5 on the sidewalk.

I think it feels like I'm picking a fight with you, but I'm not. I apologize if it came across that way. I understand the spirit of what you are saying.

Like muddgirl said, there is a qualitative different between an expensive item with contact info and a $5 bill. Also, there are laws in most places that require things over a certain dollar amount to be turned in, so that it has a better chance of getting returned to the owner. When they aren't turned in, it's considered theft.

A good case study is the Apple ipod prototype that was found in a bar (if I recall correctly), and a website bought it, took it apart, and published pictures as if they owned it, even though they had a legal obligation to turn it in to the police or give it directly to the owner, since they knew who it belonged to. The legal fallout from that seemed to be pretty serious.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:55 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

How would she know that the message was sent by the iPod's legitimate owner, and not by someone who had hacked into the account?

This. If I had a dollar for every time I got an e-mail from ME trying to sell me an impotence drug made by my corporate masters, I could by everyone who has commended here an Ipod Touch.

Knowing nothing about an Ipod, is it possible for you to delete things off of it from the web side of things? If you're going to keep your com chanel open I'd pull anything that seems like personal info off of the Gmail server.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:55 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Look, you're dealing with a high school kid here. She probably doesn't understand the legal concept of "failure to return lost property" (most adults don't), and is probably telling herself, "finders keepers". Get in touch with her school administrator. Don't engage in any jerky behavior intended to embarrass her.
posted by mkultra at 3:56 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Change the password back to the one used by Notes, continue collecting data, and then use that data to send her parents a very friendly, factual letter explaining the chain of events and stating you want your iPod back.

Failing that, I don't actually think the school will help you so you will need to contact the police, which is also a fine solution.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:57 PM on October 28, 2010

Just let it go.
posted by milarepa at 4:01 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

You don't know that she was the one who took the phone. Someone else could have found it and sold it to her. For all she knows, she bought someone's used phone.
posted by moonroof at 4:03 PM on October 28, 2010

Another vote here for contacting her school admin.

But do it initially via email, giving them the option of getting in touch with you. Also, keep the details very basic and dry.

- you left your ipod on a plane
- you gave it up for lost
- two months later you noticed action at your gmail account that you traced to your lost ipod
- tracking some of that gmail info has lead you to this particular school
- more info available on request

Good luck. I always love a mystery.
posted by philip-random at 4:12 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm with the "call the school, talk to the principal" crowd. The girl may not be the one who found your iTouch on the plane, but even if she isn't, it's good to learn that you don't buy cheap secondhand electronics because they're hot. She may also remember who she bought it from.

If I found an iTouch in the seat pocket in front of me on the plane, I'd give it to the flight attendant for lost and found. Finders ain't keepers. You should get your gear back.
posted by Sublimity at 4:18 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

You've got diary entries she's written, including her (likely embarrassing) mooning over some guy? You've got email addresses of her friends.

"Either send the iPod to this PO Box or everything you've synced up to it gets emailed to all of those addresses."

Not very adult I know. Potentially effective though.
posted by JaredSeth at 4:21 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I only suggest this because I tend to think most teenagers would rather be arrested than embarrassed.
posted by JaredSeth at 4:22 PM on October 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

I say call the cops. If she didn't steal it, then she can flip on the person who sold her your iPod.

I don't understand people who are telling you to let it go. What kind of message does that send to her? It's not OK to keep something that you know is stolen.
posted by reenum at 4:38 PM on October 28, 2010 [7 favorites]

I wouldn't start with the personal information threats (or actions). She knows some of your contact information, and presumably knows what /b/ is or has a friend who does.
posted by ctmf at 4:43 PM on October 28, 2010

I keep hearing "call the school" but nobody has mentioned to call her Army Cadet group. Would that be a better way to have an authority figure contact her?
posted by CathyG at 4:56 PM on October 28, 2010 [11 favorites]

A high school student who doesn't grasp the concept of personal property? Don't be silly. If my kid showed up with an iPod out of nowhere, I'd be all over her like white on rice. Call the school, track down her parents and get your property back. You're not doing her any favors by letting this go.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:01 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow. I just discussed this with some teachers who are at a conference I am attending. The verdict is unanimous. Receiving stolen property is a crime. While the possibility exists that she was unaware of this item's provenance (it's slim) she does know, now. Do not enable this. Get the school involved so that this peron can learn that there are consequences to being an amoral, self-entitled dip.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:11 PM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm for contacting adults, especially school officials, and definitely not her. Doing anything with the personal information you have on her besides contacting an adult would scream creeper, and though you might not legally be at fault, it might make future actions more difficult and you'll have a harder time explaining your own actions (uh, hello, do you want to be the guy who tells a 14-year-old girl, "I know who you are and where you live"?). However, you don't need to give her a second chance-- she already ignored your request. Contact officials of some sort.
posted by lacedcoffee at 5:28 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Nonono. Do not send any threatening messages to her about you potential dissemination of the sensitive material. That rules out you ever being able to contact the police about it,

I think you have total grounds to place a phone call to a school administrator or cadet leader...after all that information was deposited aandyour gmail account and you did nitrogen internet stalk herto get it. Id think an administrator would be concerned not only that a student is running around with stolen property but that their personal information was being emailed to a stranger. Send her a message saying you want the safe return of your property and that you are going to contact her administrator to facilitate this. Urge her to do the same. When you do contact her school, insist on dealing with them only...you need never know her identity. They will feel far more comfortable is they know you are not using them to fish for information about one of their students.
posted by custard heart at 5:59 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow, this sounds just like a story I just read about in a recent Malcolm Gladwell NewYorker piece (all the way at the end) about a lost cellphone in the NYC taxicab. They were able to get it back, but it took some pressure on the police to get anywhere (based on (IMO inappropriately excessive online and IRL behaviors), because they were initially uninterested in the case, labeling it as "lost" rather than "stolen" property.

I'm not suggesting online stalking and humiliation part, of course, but just pointing out that there has been a precedent. Contacting the school might be the way to go.
posted by tentacle at 5:59 PM on October 28, 2010

Wowow writing this on android phone and should have previewed. My autocorrect likes to make interesting choices. Sorry for unintelligibility!
posted by custard heart at 6:00 PM on October 28, 2010

CathyG is spot on and beat me to it. The school won't care, the kids parents clearly don't care their kid is a thief (at least abetting), but I bet money that the Army Cadet leader cares about that sort of breach of ethics.

Organize your evidence, present it, do include the fact you tried to offer $100 and was ignored.
posted by kjs3 at 6:10 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Another vote for let it go. Too much time has passed. She may have purchased it in good-faith. Who knows.
posted by 6:1 at 6:16 PM on October 28, 2010

I don't understand all these people who are telling you to contact the school. If a kid does something wrong on school grounds, it's the schools responsibility to put a stop to it and if appropriate discipline the behavior. However, the school is not raising this child. Her parents are. The school seems to me to be an inappropriate middleman in a conflict about a minor who is dong something illegal --- it seems to me the adults who are responsible here are either her parents (because she's a minor) or the cops (because receiving stolen property is illegal). Either use your google-fu to contact the parents or call the cops. Explain like you explained here --- your ipod was lost, you noticed strange messages in your email, you realized that the kid had the phone, you tried contacting her, but since that failed you're contacting them. Make sure you can prove it's your phone, of course --- serial number would be key (did you have AppleCare? Ever take it into a genius bar?) and if possible a copy of the report you made to united. If this seems like way more trouble than it's worth than drop it, but don't drag the school in to enforce ethics.
posted by Diablevert at 6:25 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't understand people who are telling you to let it go. What kind of message does that send to her? It's not OK to keep something that you know is stolen.

There's no responsibility here to "send a message". It actually IS okay to keep something you find, sometimes.

If the poster was a teenager, there would be a similar group of people saying that they should let it go because the poster "obviously can't handle the responsibility of having an expensive toy."

People are not rational, people do not and cannot follow all of the rules all of the time. Turning in an expensive find is harder than turning in a five dollar bill.

And taking it home to your teenaged daughter probably seems like a nice thing to do.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:36 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wonder if you'd mind letting us know what you decide and how it works out? I like closure.
posted by dopeydad at 7:16 PM on October 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

There's no responsibility here to "send a message". It actually IS okay to keep something you find, sometimes. ... Turning in an expensive find is harder than turning in a five dollar bill.

WHAT? Um, no, it's not. Anyone who would argue that it is okay to keep someone else's property should assess how they would feel if they lost something valuable, subsequently found it, only to be told to go pound sand when respectfully requesting its return.

School's would be involved in such a situation because the property is being used there, and (like it or not) it is, in fact, the school's role to instruct students in acceptable social behavior; something they are involved in, all day, every day.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:24 PM on October 28, 2010 [5 favorites]

Finder's Keepers Laws only apply if it's impossible to find out who the rightful owner is. If you keep something and you know or could reasonably discover who the rightful owner is, it does not just magically become yours. Even if she bought it from someone or a pawn shop or something, it's pretty obviously stolen property. Don't let her keep it. Come on, world (and askme), let's assert what is right, whether it's giving up a seat for a pregnant lady on the bus or getting your own goods back from a kid whose using them as if they're her own. Get your iPod back (contact her school's administration to find out who she is) and, if need be, embarrass the heck out of her so she starts becoming a decent citizen now rather than during her first prison sentence or after she's been deployed.
posted by Ventre Mou at 7:38 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

vitabellosi: If the poster was a teenager, there would be a similar group of people saying that they should let it go because the poster "obviously can't handle the responsibility of having an expensive toy."

Yes, but they'd be wrong, affirming the general law of adults > children.
posted by mkultra at 7:58 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

The cops probably won't care. The OP can't reach her parents. The school is the only point of contact the OP has to get his property back. (And it's still his property, unless I've overlooked the case law precedent set by Finders v. Weepers.)

I went to a pretty fascist high school. This was way before iPods, but still: if the principal got word of something like this, he'd be standing next to your locker after class holding your expulsion papers. There would be a police officer there. The locker would already be open.

Her principal may not be a tinpot dictator. But I'd be shocked if her school's administration would prefer to look the other way on a student receiving stolen property. I mean, damn.
posted by Zozo at 8:41 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

(Oh, and: no vigilante shit. You'll surrender the moral high ground the second you start harassing a 14-year-old girl, budding criminal or not.)
posted by Zozo at 8:42 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another vote for contacting only adults; in this case, you only have the school contact info, so go to them. Keep it simple, factual and end with a question: What do you suggest I do in this situation?
posted by mediareport at 9:29 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

A 14 or 15 year old girl knows perfectly well that itouchs don't fall from the sky. She either found it on the plane and took it (most likely) or she bought it under very sketchy circumstances. She should have turned it into the flight attendant and been on her way, instead she pocketed it. This isn't not analogous to finding $5 on the street, primarily because in this case if she had turned it in there is a high likelihood it would have been returned to its owner. The chances of finding who dropped $5 on the street is virtually nill unless you see it fall out of their pocket. Most people may not even notice, let alone come back and try and find it.

I don't know if her school will do anything, mostly because you don't know her name and they are unlikely to play detective for a week trying to figure it out, but they may do something and I think the worst they can do is say no, sorry, little too busy to be bothered finding your itouch.

I would not contact her friends or her again. It's a little weird contacting teenage girls asking for information about their friend and an itouch they unlikely know is stolen. If I had a teenage daughter and someone did that I would freak out and possibly call the cops.

Anyway she got it, she knows it was stolen. You gave her an easy out and $100 bonus to do the right thing. She didn't take it. She gets whatever is coming to her.
posted by whoaali at 10:37 PM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

When you reported the loss to United, did you include a serial number? Do you have proof of purchase? That's all you need to begin a stolen property case.
posted by arimathea at 11:45 PM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Have you contacted your cellphone provider?
Have you contacted the police?
Are you still paying for this phone?

I wouldve called United and, called my provider and then file a police report.
2 months have gone by, and all of this should have been done... that way you could give all this information to the officer dealing with the case.

So, if it were me, that would/would have been the way I handle/d it.
posted by KogeLiz at 12:20 AM on October 29, 2010

A few good answers here, a lot of crap as well.

OP, it's your property, and you are entitled to try to get it back. If you reported it lost to the police and there is a police report, and you also contact the school including the police report details, then everything should be above board.

You could request someone at the school to talk with her about returning it.

My story:

In 1986 I lost an HP15C calculator on a train in Melbourne (Australia). Two years later, I got a call from a student at a girl's school several suburbs away, stating that she'd found it on a train - a completely different route to the one I normally used, so presumably someone had found it, lost it, then she'd found it.

I visited the school, went to reception, asked to see the girl, and she happily handed the calculator over - it had my phone number engraved on the back.

So, sometimes these things do have good endings.
posted by flutable at 12:21 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Note: the item in question is an iPod Touch, an iPod with apps and internet access, not a phone.
posted by blueberry at 2:27 AM on October 29, 2010

You need to:

Stop trying to find out anything more about her. Print out all the notes and email that identify her. Create a bio of her with school/schedule/cadet group (aka her personal info) Include a list of her friends' names/email addresses etc

Once you have your packet, make a couple of copies. It would be helpful if you have any paperwork from the airline reporting the missing iPod, the receipt of purchase, serial number etc. Even your own syched stuff before the loss could help.

Take the copies into your local police station and ask to speak to the community action officer (or school liaison or someone similar, you might consider calling first to get an appointment with the right person).

Lay out the situation for this person and hand over a copy of the information. Tell them you offered her a reward and what her response was then tell the person:

"This girl has given me a lot of info about herself. I don't think she understands how risky her behavior is. She's using stolen property and I'd like for her to learn a lesson about stealing but I'm not the person who needs to teach it to her. I'd like my property back. I think I've given you enough information to track her down easily. I could have done it but it didn't feel right. If I had a kid her age, I wouldn't want some stranger having this kind of info and using it to track her down."

Give the police your contact info and be prepared to walk away without your property. Do nothing further to contact the girl or follow her activities.

If you have a couple of trustworthy friends, you might want to take them with you. While you are trying to do the right thing, you have gotten some rather private info about a minor and you've made contact with her. You've done nothing wrong but don't make it your word vs the police*

*for the record, I trust the police department but they're a group of people who've been trained to think of the worst case scenario. You can't blame them if they think the worst of any scenario you present to them. The worst may include suspecting you of a crime.
posted by jaimystery at 5:33 AM on October 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

These people are also called Student (or School) Resource Officers; the one in my town is a pretty good guy. He teaches the DARE course, which -- sneer as you may -- is now all about making good choices and considering the long-term effects of what you do. This sort of situation would be a tailor-made Teachable Moment for him, totoal catnip. :7)

I would rather have my daughter work through this with him -- and come out with a stronger relationship with this important local figure, who could recommend her for her honesty and willingness to learn -- than not.

I doubt the kid would get hung out to dry by the principal, but I, too, would be leery of going through the administration. Definitely meet with the SRO.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:58 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Good lord don't try to contact her directly or call the police and tell them that you know a lot of information about an underaged girl. That way lies jail time. There are so many ways that this could end badly for you, just write it off. $200 isn't much compared to potentially going to jail for no good reason and being on a sex offender registry the rest of your life. Not worth it.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:56 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you do take action, please keep us updated as this is a somewhat odd situation legally.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:01 AM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm also curious about what happens now.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:43 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm voting for contacting her school first, her parents second, and her Army Cadet group last.

Her school will....should care about her possessing stolen property.

Her parents might, but who knows? Maybe one of her parents found it and gave it to her as a gift. Happy Birthday! Also it's more likely for a parent to get defensive and difficult in the auto-response to protect their child.

Her Army Cadet group last, because the news that she possess but, shall we say, declined to return stolen property would be very, very interesting to people who have the good faith that she also possesses at least some form of Honor. (Navy myself: Honor, Courage, Commitment.)
posted by DisreputableDog at 10:08 AM on October 29, 2010

@vitabellosi: It actually IS okay to keep something you find, sometimes.

Your ethics are deeply broken. Please stay away from my world.
posted by kjs3 at 8:45 PM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

A couple of quick things: the girl may not have either stolen or bought it. She may have been given it, by a friend, family member or parent. It won't do much good to notify the parents if they're the ones who found it on the plane.

She may not have understood the communication you had with her via the Notes app.

Also, you're offering $100 reward, for a device which costs about $200?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 5:11 AM on October 30, 2010

Any follow-up? OP have you decided what to do?
posted by Joh at 9:49 AM on November 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Call the police. That certainly counts as stolen.
posted by talldean at 6:16 PM on November 7, 2010

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