Stolen Phone Syndrome
I've traveled a lot in my day - London, Miami, Istanbul, Glasgow, and Sydney, to name a few. But one of my favorite cities in the world is New York City. I have always enjoyed being able to spend time in the city for both personal and business reasons. I certainly know the city well enough to know that I should be more careful.
On my last visit was I was targeted by a gang of rogues, thieves who wanted something valuable (and something I hold quite dear) -- my iPhone 5.
We arrived in NYC from Boston to Penn station and I was plotting our course, carrying my phone in my hand, mapping out our route when I realized - your phone isn't very safe out here, like this, in the open. So, in a flip decision I decided my phone would be better protected deep in my pocket. Think again, sucker!
I took about two steps forward and re-thought that decision almost immediately. But, it was too late. By the time I took my third step over to the side, and reached my hand in my pocket to retrieve my device, it was gone. Poof. Nobody ran into me, in fact, nobody seemed all that close to me even on this very busy avenue. I realized my purse was strapped to the very same side of me as the pocket -- maybe it landed in there!
In a panic, I implored my great friend and colleague, Annemarie D, "Call my phone!" I hugged my purse tight to feel the vibration of my phone - an extension of me, perhaps now lost forever. Nothing. "Call again, Annemarie! Keep calling!"
I retreated with my bags into a safer location and after emptying my purse's contents, realized it was truly gone. We retraced our steps a couple of blocks before I remembered "Find my iPhone" -- so we hustled back to the hotel, now just 4 blocks away.
I ran into the lobby -- "O'Neil checking in. Give me the wifi code NOW! Sorry, sorry, pleeeaaase….. My phone was just stolen…"
"Madam," the (soon to be BFF) desk clerk implored, "You must first check in to get the wifi code."
"You don't understand," I implored, "This phone is my life line!"
The clerk finished in about 30 seconds flat and gave me my wifi code. I was searching and searching… What was that app? I can't find it on iTunes. Why does Google keep taking me to iTunes when… it… is… not… there!
The clerk leans over, "iCloud, m'am. Go to iCloud."
YES! That's it. I sign in and... nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was then I knew some nefarious person had my phone. See, we had just come up from the Boston train and I knew the phone was fully charged because I had been using it as a hotspot all afternoon long. Besides, having misplaced my phone hundreds of times inside my own house, I am a bit paranoid about having the battery FULLY charged so I can ring it with that oh so obnoxious alarm tone I set as my home ringtone. (You know the one.)
So, in despair, we decided the best thing to do was to keep our plans for dinner (only now, including a few stiff drinks to start).
Before leaving the hotel, I thought I'd give one last ditch attempt to locate my phone on iCloud and -- THERE IT IS! Between 45th and 46th, cross street New York Ave -- wait... that's close! We're at 48th and 8th. I'm going over there and getting my phone! (Well, not really… I'm depressed but not suicidal. Besides, Annemarie D said she wouldn't let me). So I type in a message with Annemarie's cell phone number and (stupidly) ping it with the sound.
It's been less than an hour since it was stolen as we rush back to the desk clerk, "Hey! Anton! (my new BFF at the desk), I found my phone! See, look here. What should I do? Its not an emergency, I can't call 9-1-1, but surely I can call someone..."
"Let's try 3-1-1," he says. "But first, do you mind if I zoom out on this map? I don't recognize this location." (Whah? YOU live here dude...) So, we zoom out and where is my phone?
"WTF!" (I paraphrase.) Now, I know there is absolutely nothing I can do to get my phone back. And then, it is grey blip. Not the lovely little 'I found you' green blip I saw 5 minutes ago. But the 'Sorry, I'm off the grid forever now little grey blip.'
Well, we headed off to the wake!
So, how did my phone get stolen on 8th ave in NYC and end up in NJ just one short hour later? There's a racket. A ring of thieves who do this for a living. It's very hard not to feel like a chump about this. What was I thinking? Take a cab next time, that's all I wanted to do in the first place. But, we are walkers. I can walk faster than that cab.
Most of all we should realize, truly realize, that these devices have significant value that will cause crime. Now that I am looking for a new phone, I see that the 'on the grid, no contract' replacement is $650. Wow! Think about that next time you get a new 2-year contract. TTL for insurance. (Verizon, btw, is providing spectacular assistance to me).
So, what happens to people that are far, far more important than me? Don't get me wrong, I'm freaking fantastic, obviously. But, I'm no CIO of a Biotech company. I'm not the lead R&D scientist (or even A scientist) for an innovation company. I'm not the power broker or the market maker, I just help these great people do what they do better, more efficiently and, hopefully, more enjoyably. I don't store important data on my phone. (TTL squared!)
But, what if I were? I would be a target just for who I am. I would be a target for my role. I would be a target for the data i have access to. That's a totally different world to be living in, and we should acknowledge that.
I got off lucky but, consider the implications of industrial espionage - domestic or, even worse, international. Everyone makes a mistake (left CIA laptop on a train, anyone?), it just makes it all the more difficult when you, personally, are the target. Just for who you are.
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