First, let me start at the beginning. I have been living in a different town, moving my mom and her husband out of their 35 foot Safari Sahara motor home into a new retirement village. They are in their mid-80s and we needed them to be in a safer location.
So I was shopping at Walmart on Saturday April 11, two days ago, and I was buying them a file cabinet, storage items, and some lamps. I looked at a convection oven. I must have put my phone down to take a picture of the oven.. or maybe the lamps.. or maybe I left it in the ladies room.
Anyway, I was with a friend who had a truck and we purchased everything. After we checked out, we drove to BJs in Antelope Valley Mall to get some dinner and I reached into my purse and couldn't find my phone.
I was overcome with panic.(You know the feeling?) I had become too dependent on my cell phone. Even though I had backed it up on iCloud, and iTunes, I was still worried because I had just taken photos of private financial information and all our social security numbers and my parent's new address and their tax information so i could help them. i hadn't had time to transfer and delete the photos to iPhoto. I also had taken the fingerprint and password locks off my phone and had put all my most critical passwords into the phone. In fact, all the browser info had my bank accounts wide open for anyone to view.
I also keep an amazing music library and iTunes, Amazon and Paypal accounts on my phone!
So I grabbed the keys to my friend's truck and he loaned me his new iPhone 6 and I ran to the parking lot and drove back to Walmart. This all happened within 45 minutes.
Back at Walmart I immediately went to Customer Service and found that no one had turned an iPhone in. I retraced my steps up and down the aisles, then searched all the shopping carts outside. Then I went back in and did it again. I left the manager a number for them to call in case it was turned in.
It didn't dawn on me to check Apple "Find my Phone" or learn how to lock my phone from a distance. Anyway, I went back to the restaurant and my friend suggested turning off the phone with AT&T. Duh!
Then I went online and Googled "What to do when your iPhone is stolen or lost." it led me step by step through a procedure: Go to https://www.icloud.com/#find change your password, click "lost phone" and then they ask you to write a message to the person who might have your phone. So I wrote: "This phone is lost. Please call me. PLEASE return my phone. My mother is in hospital and I need my phone. Then I put in a phone number of the friend I was with.
I tried to add a 4-digit pass code lock but for some reason I guess it didn't take the first time. So for the next 12 hours I assumed the phone was locked, but it wasn't.
For some reason, I did not want to click "Erase my phone" yet. If you click on this and erase all the data on your phone, you can never again track it.
I went to bed and at 7:45 in the morning I checked the iCloud link and it said my phone was found. At that point I quickly double checked and found that I had not actually put a remote 4-digit passcode to lock the phone! (You can remotely lock it in iCloud find my phone.
When I logged into https://www.icloud.com/#find and put in my new Apple password, the map showed a glowing green dot. I zoomed in on Hybrid Satellite view and got the exact location: from the roof view, it appears to be a large house with a swimming pool in backyard. The phone moved to the house next door and then back again. We zoomed in and got the exact address.
I called the police in and asked if they would meet me there, since the phone had sensitive information and the thieves had access to my parent's location.
The police were very nice and the dispatcher said "Yes, call us when you are 30 minutes outside the location." It as about a 45 minute drive to the town.
My friend and I drove to the exact address and did a stake out on the corner. I called the police within the allotted time and they said they had other emergencies they had to take care of first. They could not say whether it would be a half hour or 7 hours.
While we were sitting there watching the house, another car pulled up at a distance across the street from the back of the house. A man got out and walked into the alley. I'm a mystery writer, so of course I immediately suspected that this guy was going there to buy my phone and hack into it and resell it. I thought they were fencing stolen goods. Either that, or this was a meth lab, crack house or gun smuggler. I had to keep reigning in my imagination.
I have been practicing metaphysics, law of attraction and the law of love -- seeing the good in others. When I am using my highest wisdom I see only beauty and goodness (which are laws of the universe) and when I am in this state I know there are no criminals in Divine Mind (the purest, highest part of us is the divine.) So I prayed to see the good in these people. I also saw them returning my phone easily.
But it was still a dangerous proposition -- to go up to a house and ask for property back. At the very least they could simply deny having it. If I had the police with me, I might get the phone back more easily. But after all, these people didn't "steal' the phone outright; they found it in Walmart.
I suspected it was a teenager or a kid. But then again, it could be a gang member.
I then said to my friend, "Should we just go ring the doorbell?" At that moment, my friend jumped out of the car and marched up to the front door of the house. I guess he decided to simply stop being afraid.
I followed behind him and we rang the bell and heard a kid's voice coming from behind a white security screen door. We couldn't see inside.
My friend said: "We located our iPhone at this house. May we have our phone back?" The kid said "Yes, just a minute." Then my friend pulled out a $20 bill as a reward. He said "Here's $20 for your trouble." Then we heard a mother's voice speak in broken Spanish-English, "We want $30" We couldn't see her through the screen security door,. So my friend reached in his pocket and pulled out a few more dollars. He folded it into the $20 bill. Then a teenager came to the door. He opened the door. He must have been about 14 years old. He had my phone in his hand. My friend handed him the money (which was really only $22.00 -- we tricked them into believing it was $30.00.)
I grabbed the phone. The teenager said "I can't unlock it; there is a lock on it." Well I had just put the 4-digit code on it a half hour earlier. The boy seemed nice, as if he wanted to return the phone. I can't figure out if his mother grabbed it while I was in the Walmart restroom -- and then gave it to her son as a gift.
Before we left the front porch I asked the kid, where he got the phone. He said "Walmart." I told him, "The police are on their way. I won't prosecute but I want you to know that this is wrong. It's wrong to take someone's property." I said it in Spanish. When the boy handed me the phone, the urgent ALERT message I had left via the computer was clearly visible on the front of the phone's screen. There was even a phone number to call.
Today I tried to post to Facebook from my phone, guess whose account I tried to post a status update to? The thief's. His name is Michael Ramirez. I have all his information.
What should I do now? He didn't seem to realize that iPhones have GPS technology embedded in them. Some people have been killed for their iPhones. He also added some game apps to my phone and put in his own iTunes I.D. -- but all my music is gone. I can upload via the cloud, but now that tI have his email address and his Facebook account -- I wonder if I should report him or his mother -- or at least call him out publicly..
What would YOU do?