Keep an Eye on Your Phone When You Go Out – Someone Else Already Is…
photo: Thomas Hawk – cc
You just had it. You LITERALLY just had it. You pat yourself down and look at your friends to see if they’re messing with you, but there’s no tell-tale smirk on any of their inebriated faces. You ask a few of them if they’ve seen it, but it doesn’t matter. Your stomach has already begun to churn as you slowly accept that you know damn well what just happened. Your phone is no longer yours.
This is not uncommon. Unfortunately, a stolen phone will always have at least some value, regardless of functionality, and a seasoned thief will likely have a way to thwart even the best precautions available. Making it not quite worth the effort, however, can mean the difference between keeping your phone and getting struck by a smooth criminal. Here are some tips.
Rule 1. Give your phone a passcode.
If you really needed a blog to tell you this, shame on you. This is critical. And please don’t make it “1111,” “1986,” or anything stupidly easy to guess. You’ll get quick at unlocking even the trickier ones, I promise.
A halfway decent thief will still know how to get around it, but usually they’re required to wipe the phone completely to do so. If you’re going to have your phone stolen, you might as well cut your losses and not give up your personal information as well.
Rule 2. Enable ‘Find My Phone.’
Possibly the most important app you can have on your phone second only to Yo. While a variant is offered for both Android and Windows users, iPhones have free access to the app through a user’s iCloud account.
If you’re not already familiar with the app, you can enable it on Apple devices by following the steps on Apple’s site.
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Find My Phone doesn’t just grant you the ability to track your device through GPS location, it also allows you to remotely trigger a surprisingly annoying ring that can be heard from the bottom of a McDonald’s ball pit or the pocket of an unscrupulous, bar-hopping a-hole.
Sean MacEntee – cc
The app also gives you the option to enable lost mode which disables all functionality while displaying a message on the screen. This could be used for giving an alternate number you can be reached at, or for displaying a reward to the finder of your phone. It’s a bummer, but sometimes the only way to get your device back from a thief is to pay them for it.
Lastly, lost mode gives you the option to essentially nuke (completely wipe) your device as a sort of last resort. You can opt to remove all possible instances of incriminating texts, lewd photos of others, lewd photos of yourself, and of course credit card information.
While Find My Phone is a great tool, remember that it’s not a guarantee you’ll see your phone again. While I personally have no idea how to go about it, the technology to circumvent a user’s iCloud account certainly exists.
Rule 3. Enable ‘Find my Phone.’
I’m serious. Do it.
Rule 4. Don’t leave it sitting on the bar. Ever.
I love dive bars. I really do. But they’re exactly that, divey. I know most girls don’t always have pockets, and maybe some of us want our friends to see when we get texts from “someone I’m talking to – you don’t know them,” but this is just asking for a jacking. I’ve had bartenders at more than a few spots in San Francisco warn me even before sitting down not to leave my phone on the bar due to a spike in phone-swiping. A seasoned thief in a more crowded bar can seamlessly snatch your phone pretty much as soon as you look away. It happens all the time.
Rule 5. Be smart about how you get it back.
The unfortunate truth is that it’s often very difficult to get carriers or the police involved even when you KNOW who stole your phone. This has encouraged many people to go full Batman on the perps in question, often with very grim results. People have been shot and killed for food they were carrying – they’ve most certainly been killed for a phone. The Verge’s Sam Sheffer recounted a particularly hairy experience he had at a New York bar after discovering his iPhone 6 plus had been picked from his pocket. He even admits what he did was stupid, and it was, but sometimes there’s just no good option when confronting a thief. The thing you have to remember is that a thief doesn’t know what you’re going to do – they just know that they stand to face jail time if you’re one to involve the authorities. If they have a warrant out for their arrest, or previous convictions, you might be a little disheartened to discover how many folks would prefer you not be living than get put away for 10 years.
photo: transformer 18 – cc
The best advice I can give is to judge each situation on a case by case basis. If that inebriated dude-bro thinks it would be funny to walk home with an extra iPhone in his pocket then sure, bring a buddy, cause a scene, give him the business. But if you’re alone tailing a twitchy 6’4″ meth head down a dark alley, remember that you’re not Batman. No techno-gadget is worth your life… unless it’s that Apple Watch edition. So shiny.
Rule 6. Back up your photos and personal files. Now.
When all is said and done, the non-replaceable photos and uncopied files are the only things that are going to matter. Period. That $800 phone in your pocket is going to be worth less than $100 in 5 years. You’ll be able to laugh about it eventually. Those pictures you no longer have, however, will haunt you well into old age. It will never be funny that you lost them.
If you disregard all the other rules, remember this one. Back up your files to your computer IN ADDITION to an external hard drive, AND upload as much as you can to a cloud storage account. Putting everything you love on a single fragile device could easily leave you with only the memory of better days. All those moments lost… like, tears… in rain. Well, you get the point.