Stole My Son’s Phone? We’ll See About That….

I guess I can add a story to the many out there about someone who tracks down a lost phone using a Find My Phone-type of service. In this case, it was my son’s. I tracked it down to the exact classroom where the kid who took it was sitting.

My son calls when he arrives at school each day, so we know he arrived safely. Today, he left his phone out on his bike after locking up and heading to class. By the time he realized his mistake, the phone was gone. The case was still there, right on his handlebars. The phone itself had been taken out. Clearly, it was stolen.

When he called to tell me from the school office. I fired up the Find My iPhone service from Apple. That’s enabled on his phone, but there was no recent location.

About 45 minutes later, a location appeared on the school campus, out on the PE area. I got hopeful. It seemed likely another student had taken it. I triggered the phone to ring, and I also sent a message to it asking that it get turned into the campus office for a reward. Then I headed over to the school, with my MacBook Air and a mifi in hand, so I could keep tracking.

In the school office, there was much amazement that you could even track a phone like this. I waited for someone to take me out to the PE area, on the off-chance that maybe the phone had been ditched there, while we watched the screen. I was explaining more about how the feature worked when suddenly, the location changed again. This time, it jumped to a block of buildings with only three classrooms.

One of the office administrators walked me down to the block. Only two had classes in them, one far away from where the location pin-point was showing. So, we went to the other class and asked the teacher if anyone had turned in a phone. No one had turned in a phone, but he had confiscated one after someone’s phone rang.

Yep, it was my son’s. The kid who took it must have switched it on when outside, turned it off, then turned it on again when he got back into his classroom. It got my message to ring, and since you can’t have phones switched on while on campus, she’d known something was wrong to took it from him.

If you don’t have a Find My Phone service on your smartphone yet, do turn it on. They do work. My recent CNET column explains more about this: These ‘find my phone’ services will ease your mind.


  1. says

    Glad this worked for you, Danny. You’re lucky the thief turned your son’s phone back on. My similar story had a disappointing ending when the little hope-stoking dot disappeared never to be seen again.

  2. Paul Kragthorpe says

    I love Find my Phone. However, it is very easy to stop. Take a phone and simply remove the SIM card, or turn the phone off. Now, if they could make it so it wasn’t so easy to remove the SIM card, this would be excellent. Glad it worked for you tho!

  3. says

    Pity Find My iPhone doesn’t also include “discharge painful shock…” setting as well. Glad the phone got back to your son.

  4. says

    For me the apple iphone is the best smartphone you can get. Loosing it hurts. If i would lose my iphone, it would be horrible.

  5. says

    Andrew, heh, that’s funny.

    Joseph, he doesn’t, and I never spoke to him directly, myself. He seemed to be well known to the office staff, however, and they said he’d be dealt with, so I’ve left it with them.

  6. says

    No offense, Sounds like a fabricated story in order to get peeps to use this service to turn a small prof – because we all know you can track phones for free the same way (and call them to make them ring). But glad the story had a happy ending.

  7. Tom DiMercurio says

    I can so see you doing this Danny. I had a similar one last week with my 22 year old. Same phone same service. In this case, we tracked it to the backseat of her car!

  8. says


    I love “found my iphone” stories. I tracked down my stolen iPhone in 2010, back when Apple charged for the service:

    (That was a few weeks before I left the same phone in pants pockets that went through an entire wash — and it survived when I tried the “bag of rice” trick. Most amazing phone ever.)

  9. says

    Interestingly I suggested using Find My iPhone just yesterday at SMX Sydney after someone’s bag was (allegedly) taken from the speaker ready room.

    The missing phone was called and the thief answered it and said he’d bring it back (was taken by “accident”). When we saw on the map the phone moving in the opposite direction we knew it was stolen. We saw the rough area it was in, but not close enough to locate but the police are chasing up…

  10. says


    I am going to ask a personal plea, to all you technologists (Gizmodo) out there..because this device does not exist yet. As a parent who constantly must don the cap of the “Finder of Lost Objects” I have fruitlessly looked for a solution, to find those lost objects. Socks, Remotes in the couch, School Bags, Missing Shoe, Missing Jackets, Toys missing homework assignments, Missing video game cartridges — and don’t forget the car keys.

    I too have experience the joy of the iPhone submarine ping, but with bitterness that this technology does not exist for the other house hold madness of “Lost Stuff”. I have seen/heard of RFID technology that is being used industrially to match “Left Socks” & “Right Socks” in factories of Turkey to appear in the local store. The happiness of the planet will be raised a notch – if a lost item is an internet search away!

    If someone wants to become very rich..I will be your first customer, for an end to the madness..


  11. says

    Danny, this is a fantastic app! Not having an iPhone I wasn’t even aware of this neat function! I think the way you tackled the theft was brilliant as it will have served as a large deterrent to the majority of children in the class too! I bet your son was so relieved to have been re-united with his phone too!

  12. Christine says

    I lost my phone last week, used the find my phone app, but then panicked and erased phone when thief did not respond to call or text.

    Next time, or if this helps others, call police with the information. I know who took my phone, and where they live, but cannot recover it.