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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Stolen iPhone or iPad: Here's How You Might Get It Back

Posted By on Thu, Mar 10, 2011 at 12:00 PM


My new iPad was stolen recently, and while that's probably a lost cause by this point, what can I do to prevent this from happening in the future? I hear about GPS tracking devices and such, but most of them seem really expensive and not worth it. Thanks for your help!


Damn, everyone wants an iPad. They're like the Beanie Babies of our generation. This guy even lost his finger struggling with a thief over his newly-purchased iPad. GPS tracking devices have their strong and weak points, as you seem to be aware. However, when Apple released its iOS 4.2 software update, it also made its Find My iPhone service free. Before, you had to pay $99 a year for a MobileMe account. Find My iPhone allows you to geo-locate your iPhone/iPad, send the thief threatening or exasperated messages, and remove all your data remotely. This privilege is free only for fourth generation iPhone users, however. Us lowly third generationers are still up iShit creek if ours gets lost. A few other ways to track or locate your stolen items can be found here.

Note that GPS tracking must be installed before your device gets stolen, otherwise it's useless. Also, if your phone/tablet is turned off, if it's been wiped, or if the SIM card has been removed, GPS tracking won't work. Not to be a Debbie Download or anything, but your chances of recovering a lost or stolen device aren't so hot, if police reports are to be believed. Alas! There have been a few vigilante success stories. You can read some here, here, and here.

A few other security precautions

First, know your serial number. Write it down somewhere that you'll remember (which is to say, on paper). This is for police reports, and for the off chance that the idiot who stole your device ever tries to get customer service help from Apple, or tries to go to the Genius Bar to learn how to use Garage Band or whatever. Another number to write down, if your phone is stolen, is the IMEI, which your service provider will need to block your account details and render your phone useless. How do you find it? By entering *#06# on any of your phones' keypads. (It's not just for the iPhone).

Use a passcode lock. Also useful for extramarital (or extra-whatever) affairs, protecting your kids from discovering your raunchy sext messages, and, in the case of these six Pennsylvania teenagers, not getting busted for "child pornography" for taking dirty photos of themselves.To set up a passcode, go to: Settings, General, Passcode Lock. Bam! This will ensure that strangers don't get easy access to your contacts, e-mail messages, photos, and so on.

(For phones) Turn your SIM PIN on. This setting ensures that if someone tries to take out your SIM card and use it in another device, he or she won't be able to make long-distance phone calls to Britain's Got Talent. To set up, go to: Settings, Phone, SIM PIN, On.

Lastly, make sure your iPhone/iPad is up to date. Apple is always fixing security bugs, making it harder for hackers to bypass passcodes and such. So stay on that. Just connect your device to iTunes, and it'll prompt you to update.

Outside of bribery, has anyone successfully recovered a phone or tablet? Did you use a GPS tracker? Leave your tips in the comments.

*Shameless plug alert: I'm going to be reading at this event tonight. If you need another excuse to drink on a Thursday, and want to come watch me read hilariously bad OkCupid messages, then please come. Details here.

Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at

Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley and @ExhibitionistSF
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