Stolen phone: Should you play smartphone vigilante?

Trying to recover a stolen smartphone comes with risks (Nathan Alliard/Photononstop/Getty Images)
Should you try to retrieve your stolen phone?

wtopstaff | November 15, 2014 3:57 am

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By Gregg Stebben, Men’s Health

WASHINGTON — If someone finds or steals your smartphone or tablet, you can probably locate it by activating a “Find My Phone” feature on any web browser, and that will probably enable you to see the current location of your device on a map. That’s the good news.

The bad? So many mobile devices are lost and stolen that police are unlikely to help you, even though you know exactly where your device is located.

So now what?

The New York Times reports more and more people are taking the law into their hands and going after their phones on their own .But is it smart to play “smartphone vigilante”?

Here are five things to consider:

1. You don’t know whether your phone was lost or stolen

Does it matter? Probably.

If it was lost and someone found it, you may find yourself interacting with a fairly innocent person to get your phone back. But it was stolen, you may find yourself interacting with someone with a history of theft and even other criminal behavior that could include violent crime.

2. Calling your phone may tell your nothing

What’s probably going to be your first reaction once you realize your phone is missing? You’re going to call it.

That could mean:

  • The battery is dead
  • The ringer is off
  • A thief knows better than to answer

But if you’re lucky:

  • You lost your phone
  • A nice person found it
  • When you call, the nice person offers to return it.

3. Going after your phone could be dangerous — is it worth it?

Police say you shouldn’t take the law into your own hands when looking for a missing phone. A few questions to ask yourself:

  • When you look at the location of the phone on a map, what is the neighborhood like?
  • Are you willing to give a reward — or bribe — to the person who has your phone?
  • Are you ready to get into a fight to retrieve your phone?
  • When was the last time you got into a fight and won?
  • Do you have any large friends you can take with you?

4. If you didn’t have your phone password-protected, it’s time to start checking your accounts

Inside your phone is probably access to your bank account, your checking account, your Twitter account and your Facebook account. If you didn’t require a password you should check all your accounts for activity, from banking to social media because it will probably give you some clues about the person who now has your phone.

If the person who now has your phone is using the device to check out your finances or is posting in your name on Facebook, you have a big problem on your hands. On the other hand, if the person with your phone is just looking into your contacts and trying to contact your family and family and facilitate the return of your phone, you probably got lucky this time and you are probably about to get your phone back from a very kind good Samaritan.

5. The right Bluetooth headset could alert you the moment your phone goes missing

I use a wearable Bluetooth headset called the “LG Tone” that goes around my neck. It vibrates on the back of your neck anytime you get a call, a text, or if you get too far away from your phone.

So if you are about to lose your phone, or it’s about to be stolen, you will feel a tingle on the back of your neck to alert you that your phone is about to disappear. And any kind of accessory like this that alerts you that you are about to be separated from your phone could save you from a lot of trouble down the road.

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