Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Mistakes Were Made: Losing an iPhone

30 July 2013

How My iPhone Was Stolen: A Risk Analysis

The afternoon I left Cape Town, South Africa, my iPhone was stolen by my cab driver. I made a bunch of mistakes that put me at risk. This is an analysis of the ones that have occurred to me.

  1. If you have a personal relationship, cultivate it. I do have a friend in Cape Town. It’s possible I could have asked her for a referral. I did not, so the days that I was in town and she wasn’t able to see me, I went with whatever cab driver I could find. I could also have asked for a referral from a friend of a friend.
  2. If you create a personal relationship, stick with it unless you have a compelling reason not to. A bad feeling is a compelling reason. My cab driver on Saturday was Sharon, who was kind of one of those bossy mom-like cab drivers. I really liked her, but when it came to exchanging phone numbers, I chickened out. I’m sorry, Sharon. It’s not that I didn’t trust you, it’s that I just get weirdly shy sometimes, and that was one of those times.
  3. When you have an item you carry with you at all times, guard against overstuffing it. My purse had too much paper in it. Therefore, it was too full. Therefore, when I needed to stuff my phone somewhere at a moment’s notice, there wasn’t room for it. Therefore, I covered it with my palm and put it in a thin nylon bag that the taxi driver stuck in the trunk. See where this opened me to risk? He may not have even seen my gesture, but the fact that it was there, out of my direct control, made it risky.
  4. When you have an appointment (e.g., for a taxi pick-up), be ready far in advance. My taxi driver arrived 12 minutes early. My bar tab wasn’t paid. I had to dig through the overstuffed purse for my neck wallet with my remaining South African currency. This created unnecessary stress and distraction.
  5. When your possessions are in the hands of other people, always watch the full transaction end-to-end. Now, as a matter of habit, I do watch taxi drivers load and unload my stuff, but I never really thought about why I did it. And so, my purse being overstuffed, I was stressed about something falling out into the taxi and my losing control of it, and that included things far more important than a phone (like my passport). So I paused by the rear door of the cab to finish stuffing the paperwork inside and zipping it closed. It took me no more than a few seconds, but I was fully engaged in what I was doing, you know?
  6. Weirdly, I didn’t trust the taxi driver, but I didn’t double-check the contents of that carryon, either. I did have an instinct that I should have. I don’t know that that would have actually accomplished anything, though. What would have happened if I’d discovered it then? Would the police have sided with me? Or would it simply have gotten worse? I don’t know.

So, an iPhone 4S with scratches all over its face from sliding across the floor of the Conrad Puerto Rico, a constant memory of my ill-fated stay there, was stolen by someone who was far happier to have it than I was to be reminded of it every time I looked at my phone.

Street value used for it was $50, so I’m more annoyed than hurt.

One other tip I’ll impart: if you are in a situation where you’re traveling remotely like that, make sure that your international data is enabled when you have the phone out of your possession. That way, you have a chance to remote wipe it when you deem it a total loss (assuming they don’t just power the device off immediately). Instead, I spent a lot of happy fun time changing my email passwords (first, because that’s what you get password resets sent to, right?), bank site passwords, my DropBox password, my iCloud passwords, and, most importantly, my 1Password passphrase and PIN. I have since changed all my other passwords — they were overdue — but that was a lot of tedium I shouldn’t have had to bother with.

Apart from that, the most practical immediate loss (since I had a cellular iPad with me as well as a wifi iPad Mini) was that all my tunes were on my phone. I have my devices somewhat segregated, and my iPads are more for video where my iPhone was used for music. So that part sucked, especially since I didn’t have time to download very much to listen to before my 11 hour flight to London.

Still, that’s a pretty small complaint, all things considered.

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