So you don’t think you need a security code on your phone?

I’m an IT guy by profession, so computer and device security has always been important to me. I have passwords on everything I use, lock codes, swipe patterns, if it’s an option I use it. Normally I don’t give it a second thought, however a recent experience made me very thankful that I have these things in place.

This story begins a few months ago. I was heading home from work, riding the NYC subway from downtown to Penn station. It was rush hour, so the train was packed and many of my fellow commuters were getting off at the same stop. I should also mention that I had my headphones on, blocking out much of the noise. As we got off the train and headed down the stairs I pushed against the railing, but thought nothing of it. When I got to the bottom of the stairs a woman tapped me on the shoulder and said “You dropped your phone at the top of the stairs”, and kept on moving. I put my hand on my hip, and sure enough the holster is empty, phone gone.  I must have knocked it off against the railing and didn’t hear it fall. Only a few seconds had passed, so I’m thinking that either it’ll be at the top of the steps, or at worse get kicked down the flight. I started heading back up, something akin to a salmon swimming upstream, and once at the top I looked around. No phone to be seen. I turned around and went back down, searching the steps along the way. Nothing. I also need to mention here that I carry two phones, one is personal, the other business. I called the missing phone (business line) from my personal. It rang enough times to go to voice mail. I called a few more times over the next 15 minutes or so but no answer. On my last attempt it goes straight to voice mail. Someone had turned the phone off. Like I said before, I have a lock code enabled, so I’m not too worried about anyone breaking into the device immediately, and I also use Find My iPhone, which allows it to be tracked and remotely locked. When I got home I logged in to try and locate it, but it was still off and not responding. I then activated Lost mode and put a message on it to call the number if found, knowing that I could check the voice mail regularly. A couple of days went by with no message, so I figured it was lost. At work we use Active Sync in Microsoft Office 365 to connect our devices. This also has remote wipe features (Find my iPhone does as well), so I initiated the wipe, received the confirmation message, and initiated the process of getting a replacement phone. Data secure, phone bricked. About a week later I received a new phone with the same number. I Restored my data from iTunes backup and all was right with the world.

Jump ahead about 2 months… I’m sitting at my desk one morning and my phone rings. Looking at the caller ID it displays a number that I don’t recognize and it reads as from Jamaica, West Indies. I’m thinking OK, this is a sales call. If they want to call me from all the way over there I’ll answer this just to hear the pitch. I answer the call:

“Hello, this is Rich”
A female voice with a strong island accent responds on the other end, “Hello?”
Me: “Yes, this is Rich”
Her: “Hello Rich, my name is <forgotten>, you don’t know me but…”

Pause here for a moment, I’m not thinking sales pitch now, I’m thinking attempted fraud call. Something like my long lost uncle has passed away and left me millions, but they’ll need my account info to secure the transaction. Now I want to play along just to waste their call time.

“…I have a phone here that says to call this number if it’s found. Can you please help me, I can’t use it”

My lost iPhone is on vacation in Jamaica without me.

Me:”Where did you get that phone?”
Her:”I bought it while I was in New York to use down here. Can you help me unlock it?”
Me:”Miss, I lost that phone a couple of months ago and whoever picked it up didn’t have the decency to call that number to return it. You have a stolen device there. Sorry but I can’t help you.”
Her:”What can I do, I don’t have another phone now.”
Me:”I’m sorry but I can’t help you. And just out of curiosity, how much did you pay for that phone?”
Her:”Two Hundred dollars.”
Me:”That’s a 4s, you could have bought it new for ninety-nine. Sorry, have a good day.”

Enable security on your mobile devices, back them up regularly, and put something in place to protect your data in case the worst happens. You never know where your device could end up.