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“Find My iPhone” MobileMe App – A Wireless Lifesaver

As anyone who is in the wireless industry can attest, we hear a lot of stories about how a wireless device helped someone out in a jam. It might be something as simple as letting someone know you’re running late or it could mean saving a person’s life.

Since my wireless devices, like many of you, have personal information, I have taken a few simple steps to secure my devices. Yes, I am one of those people with more than one so I am contributing to devices outnumbering Americans!

On my devices, I have installed passwords and "in case of emergency" contacts. I’ve also downloaded GPS tracking apps. While you hear a few stories about these apps being used, a CTIA staffer told me her sister’s story about how she was robbed, carjacked and how a GPS tracking app saved the day. While this happened a couple of months ago, it’s still amazing.

This is her story in her words.

My sister, Kelly, was in Maryland on Monday night, doing her grocery shopping. She turned her back for about 30 seconds to grab some vegetables and when she turned back around, her purse was gone. Her first reaction was disbelief – this could not have happened to her – but as she looked around, she realized that her purse was nowhere in sight.

She ran to the store manager and let her know her purse had been stolen, and asked what could be done since only a couple of minutes had passed. But as she glanced outside, Kelly realized that not only was her purse gone, but her car was gone too! She panicked, because like so many others, her whole life was in that purse and now her car was stolen as well.

The store manager called the police and my sister sat with the officer while he reviewed the store’s surveillance videos. There were security cameras throughout the store and even outside, but the angle where her purse was stolen wasn’t a good one and outdoor cameras were not much better.

Kelly asked the officer what the police could do, and he told her he would file a report with their auto theft division and that they would work on it. Feeling helpless, she asked the officer to give her a ride home because husband was still out of town and his return flight had been delayed. Time was of the essence – she needed to find a locksmith to replace her door locks since the thief had her house keys and knew her address from the driver’s license in her purse.

She used a phone at the grocery store to call her husband, Chris, who was just leaving the airport. Chris was shocked by the story but suddenly remembered he had installed the “Find My iPhone” MobileMe app on his iPhone and was almost positive he had installed it on his wife’s iPhone too. He rushed home as fast as possible and immediately logged on to MobileMe. Sure enough, “Chris’ Phone” was listed next to “Kelly’s Phone.” When he clicked on the “Find My iPhone” button, an address popped up – Ellicott City, MD, just outside of Baltimore.

Incredibly, Chris could even use the Google Maps app to see pictures of the street view where Kelly’s iPhone was located. It appeared to be in a beautiful neighborhood with large homes, many with pools. The officer called the Howard County police and explained the situation, but as they were talking, Chris yelled that the phone was moving!

Chris continued to track the phone online to Columbia Mall, a place where my sister assumed the perpetrator was going to spend her money. But after a brief stop, the iPhone was again in motion. This time it was heading south on Route 29 – good news for the officers, because the road goes back into Montgomery County, MD. As soon as the iPhone crossed county lines, the officer immediately issued an all points bulletin – all while my sister was listening to the play-by-play on the officer’s radio!

Six police cars took position at the intersection of Route 29 South and Greencastle Road. As the thief in her stolen car approached, they leapt into action. Kelly heard the radio squawk, “SHE’S BAILING,” and then “WE GOT HER!” Relief swept over her, a welcome change from the helplessness, fright and excitement of the past hour.

My sister and the police officer went to the crime scene, and when they arrived, the realized the car was undamaged. The police officer handed Kelly her purse and asked her to look through both the purse and the car to make sure everything was there and to make a list of anything missing.

Thankfully, everything was still in the purse, plus a few unexpected items. Kelly found a $2 bill that she was certain is not hers, but that wasn’t all. The police officer searching her car asked her, “I assume this bag of heroine isn’t yours?” There was also a bag of more than $1,500 of electronics and a clothes item that also wasn’t hers.

In the end, the amount of heroin in the car was enough to charge the 26-year-old woman with possession with the intent to distribute. She hasn’t used any of Kelly’s money or credit cards, but had stolen some merchandise at Columbia Mall and was charged with larceny. She was also charged with grand theft auto, resisting arrest and other felonies.

Thanks to the “Find My iPhone” app, my sister got “her life” returned, made $2, the police took a criminal off the street and they also got the address of a potential drug dealer’s home.

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