If your phone or laptop goes missing, there are a variety of free apps that will help you locate it and protect your data so crooks can’t compromise your financial security. But will using them put you in physical danger?
Find my phone apps help address a rampant crime
Theft of cellphones is the fastest growing crime in the U.S. In Los Angeles, cellphone theft is up 26%. In San Francisco, it’s up 23%. The New York Times report 1 in 5 crimes in the city involve theft of cellphones. Three million phones were stolen last year in total, according to Consumer Reports.
The industry has fought tooth and nail against a kill switch requirement. With a kill switch, once a phone is stolen, you can “kill” it by remote and it’s of no use to a criminal at all. Kill switches radically eliminate the theft of cell phones.
In the absence of an effective industry-wide kill switch system, many people use free apps to help locate and recover their gadgets once they’ve gone missing.
Syndicated radio host and columnist Kim Komando recently ran a story in USA Today about what’s available. Among her suggestions are the following:
- MyLookout.com — Freemium service for smart phones that run Android, Blackberry or Windows.
- PreyProject.com — Freemium service for Macs, PCs and smartphones.
- Find My iPhone — Free service for many Apple devices.
- Where’s My Droid — Free service for Android smart phone users.
- Plan B — Free service for Android smart phone users. This is the only one that can be remotely installed on your phone after you’ve lost it.
But would you use such an app if it lead you to a criminal? The reality is the police have to prioritize other crimes. So even if you do FindMyiPhone and locate your stolen phone down to the exact street address, they won’t help you.
Some people are using find my phone apps to confront criminals
The New York Times profiled a 26-year-old female yoga instructor who was fierce and furious about her stolen phone. She tracked the phone down and called the Los Angeles Police Department, but the police didn’t help. So she decided to confront the thief.
She shows up at the house where the beacon shows her phone is…Knocks on the door…and says, “I think you have my phone.”
The person denied it at first and closed the doors and the blinds. But then he came back and hands her the phone, plus a friend’s phone that was stolen too!
Police say not to do what this woman did. Let the police officers take care of it…
“It’s just a phone — it’s not worth losing your life over,” an LAPD spokesman said. “Let police officers take care of it. We have backup, guns, radio, jackets — all that stuff civilians don’t have.”
But wait. It was LAPD who said they couldn’t spare the resources to get the phone back!
What do you think? Would you confront a criminal if you could track them with a find my phone app? Be sure to vote in my poll!