Help! They Abducted My… iPhone

Dear Reader,

Here’s what happened. I was walking home one evening from campus, when I decided to check out the small convenience store right by my place. It looks cheap, sketchy, and lacking in options, but I was running low on eggs, so I decided to visit it for the first time ever.

I walk into the store and see two men behind the counter; they were speaking in rapid Spanish. I scan the two small aisles and was impressed that the little store packs a decent selection (clutch). I pick up a carton of eggs and go to check out. I see a sign on the counter that says credit cards can only be used for purchases greater than $5. Therefore, I set down my stuff and fish out a $5 bill from my wallet to cover the eggs. I walk outside the store, readjust my items, and press the play button on my headphones to continue the audiobook I was listening to. In that short time, a man in a sweatshirt dashes in and then quickly out of the store and a car speeds away. My Bluetooth headphones disconnect from my phone — [insert expletive here].

I hurry back into the store and frantically search for my phone by the checkout counter, then around the two small aisles, and where the eggs are — no phone. I try to explain that I lost my phone to the shop owner, but he says little, so I explain the situation in rusty Spanish. He allows me to type my number into his phone and then calls it. No response, but he leaves a voicemail in Spanish, asking for anyone who finds the phone to return it to the store (which is hilarious to me on many levels). He also very kindly helps me look for my phone and then leads me outside to search the sidewalk (what a guy!). The phone is nowhere in sight, so I float the idea that the phone may have been taken by the man who literally ran out of the store. The check-out guy shrugs and says he doesn’t know about that.

The store has a few cameras, and the shop owners agree to look at the camera footage. Apparently, it’s difficult to rewind to a specific point, so I’m standing there waiting for about ten minutes, thinking about my next moves. …can one call 911 about a stolen iPhone? If I had my phone with me, I would look this up. The shop people showed me the security footage and unfortunately because of the camera angles, nothing was really visible. However, the men told me to come back the next morning for more info (or they said something like that because I was only comprehending 40% of what they were saying in Spanish).

I literally ran home, because there was no time to lose! I plugged in my laptop, logged into iCloud and searched “find my iPhone.” After everything booted up, my phone was traced to a location about a half mile from my own. Had it moved?? I frantically called up a bunch of stolen-iphone queries on Google and decided… I’m going to be that person who calls the police.

Because I did not have a phone, I logged into the Skype browser and dialed 911 (those calls are free!!!).  The 911 operator asked for my address, a call-back number (which I did not have — the Skype numbers are for outgoing calls only), and then, my first and last name. I asked if I could report a stolen iPhone and without judgement, the woman eagerly replied in the affirmative and transferred my call to the Boston police.

Less than a minute later, I am on the line with the Boston police, and I give the officer the info about my stolen phone. He says, in different words, that there isn’t really anything that can be done, but he can file a report. I would either need to go down to the station or they could send the next available officer to my address — I opt for the latter.

I immediately change out of my sweaty workout clothes and put on a business casual dress (because Imma need the Boston Police to take me hella seriously) and then I return to my frantic Google searches. I decide that I should erase my iPhone just in case. I log back into iCloud (which times out very quickly by the way) and go to the Find My device feature (that’s where the “erase device” command is). When I select my iPhone, I see that the location of my phone has changed — it’s on the highway, heading north! My heart sinks because this means without a doubt that someone else is in possession of my phone.

I try and try (and tried some more) to erase my phone remotely but I couldn’t because I needed two-factor authentication (i.e. a text from my missing phone!) to confirm this action. Although workarounds are listed on iCloud, none worked for me (also, I should say that my iMessage on my computer became disconnected at some point, maybe this happens when the phone is out of range?? Idk).

Pro tip — Skype has a free trial for telephone calls (at the time of this writing). I signed up for a free trial and used the feature to call Apple tech support. They informed me that they could not wipe my phone remotely, only I could do that. Except, well, I couldn’t do that — ugh. I was feeling very frustrated by the news.

At some point during this call to Apple tech support, multiple things happened: One, I emailed a friend about my situation, two, I received an email that an explosive device went off near my place of employment and there was an active investigation, and three, my iPhone was listed at a new address on the Find My device website.

There was nothing I could do about the explosion (obviously) and there were scarce details at this point. I zoomed in on the Find My device location and saw that my phone was sitting in a house in Malden (just north of Boston). Because I’m impulsive I called back the Boston Police. I explained the situation and they transferred me to the Malden police. The kind and authoritative-sounding officer explained to me that if I came to the Malden police station, then they could escort me to the address and be present as I requested the phone back…. I must say, this was super tempting. However, the officer went on to explain that he has been in one of these escort situations before and learned from his experience that these Find My device location reports can be hundreds of feet off. I asked him what he would recommend in his professional opinion, and he said that the address I was showing him was a high-density neighborhood with triplex housing, so going to the location would probably end in a wild goose chase. I thanked him and hung up.

Meanwhile, I received an email back from my friend — he called my phone and got someone on the line. What??? Because I had called my number twice with the shop owner’s phone, I didn’t bother to try it a third time. My friend wrote to me that some guy, let’s call him Randolph, found the phone on the floor of the shop and was willing to return it to me. My friend emailed me Randolph’s phone number and offered to help me resecure my phone (dear friend, you came through in the most awesome way — you’re my hero 🙂 ).

I called back Randolph through Skype and we agreed on when/ where I could retrieve the phone. Also, it turns out that Randolph was in Everett and not Malden, which meant that the Find My device app was not at all precise location wise!

The aforementioned explosive device went off and one person sustained a minor injury. To make everything about me, this information meant that the next-available-officer that was coming to my address to file a report was not about to come anytime soon.

Some things were bugging me at the time about the whole ordeal. Because I’m typing this to you at like 11pm before the whole scenario is wrapped up— my below thoughts are (for better or worse) not affected by hindsight. Here they go in no particular order:

  1. Why does Apple have a lost/ stolen phone option to erase all one’s data function and then necessitate two-factor authentication to activate it!? I mean, there was no other option — phone number or no dice! There was no “send code to email” option or “use code from list” option.
  2. Shouldn’t there be a big sign somewhere that says on the Find My device application that locations are general approximations? I almost rolled up to the wrong house in the wrong-friggin’ city for crying out loud.
  3. Randolph claimed that he took the iPhone from the store because he didn’t trust the “Spanish” shop owners. To be clear the shop owners were most likely not from Spain and Randolph also spewed off some other nonsense that made me internally question his character. Regardless, I’m thankful that Randolph got on the phone to coordinate with me, but I also wonder — and now I’m briefly going to take his claims at face value — why I had not found my phone on the floor of the store? I certainly did not hear my phone clunk onto the floor. I looked up and down and around the store and so did the shopkeepers. I just cannot understand how we could not find the phone, but Randolph (who is claiming that he is just some unsuspecting customer minding his own business) just so happened to stumble upon it. Suspicion piqued.
  4. Was the man in the sweatshirt that I who dashed in and out of the convenient store Randolph? It looked sketchy (or “sus”as Gen Z would say). On the one hand, the disappearance of my phone and this man could be totally unrelated. On the other hand, it could have been Randolph absconding with my phone… but then he decided to return it later? Gahh — I’m so confused (and tired, I did mention that I’m writing this in the middle of the night before the whole situation has been resolved right?).
  5. I’ve only been to the convenience store by my place that one time… but now I feel like I can never return… ever.

At the end of the day, I did get my phone back (thank god I do not have to change my number!!), and I gave Randolph a cash tip (on the phone Randolph told me that he believes in karma — I can take a hint).

Things could have been a lot worse for me (violent robbery, identity theft, etc.). A crime may not have even been committed here (but due to my lingering questions, I cannot entirely rule out conspiracy… I’m low-key a fan of conspiracy theories). Although those hours were stressful, I didn’t really lose anything (well, except my sense of security, I suppose).

Also, an update on the explosion — apparently, a staff member opened a package addressed to him/her/them — the explosive detonated and the staff member sustained minor injuries and was checked out at the hospital. How horrible!

In the end, I hope you keep loved ones close, your valuables within arm’s reach, and your enemies behind bars.



P.S. Despite everything that I wrote above… hours later in the light of a new day, I’m now 100% convinced that my phone was STOLEN (and then returned to me). I will share my conspiracy theories with you in the next post 😀

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