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October 18, 2014

It Could Have Been (Much, Much) Worse!

Have a read of this: Vodafone customer’s £15,000 billing nightmare after mobile phone theft

Having had my phone stolen in Barcelona this last week, this article made me thank my lucky stars I’d taken adequate precautions beforehand and knew exactly what to do in the immediate aftermath too. I knew that the perpetrator making calls could have been an issue, but I never even considered they might be organised enough to have their own Premium Rate numbers that they’d call, over and over again at the potential cost (to me) of £20 a minute!

So, for those of you taking your phones out and about, particularly (it unfortunately needs to be said) to Barcelona, here’s how I had my phone stolen and and ended up with only a £50 insurance excess:

Pre-Theft

  • My phone was insured – This should be a no-brainer, but I wonder how many people’s phones are actually insured. Subsidised phone contracts isolate us from the actual cost of the device, but if you need to replace it mid-contract (and contracts these days can run for up to 3 years) you become painfully and immediately aware that, for instance, it would cost upwards of £600 to replace!
  • I had made a note of the make, model and IMEI number – Barcelona Police would have refused to even accept a report of theft without the IMEI number.
  • My phone lock screen was set to more than just “Swipe to Unlock” – If nothing else, this bought me some time, stopping the thief from immediately starting to make calls.

The Theft Itself (Or “Retrospectively, How I Should Have Known”)

  • Keep you hand on your belongings at all times – My phone was in my front-left pocket, with my wallet. During the day, whilst walking down Las Ramblas I was compos mentis enough to have my hand in that pocket also, but at 2:30am, walking home from a night on the town, I didn’t.
  • Don’t let anyone get close enough to you to pick your pocket – We passed a well-dressed young North African guy who called to us (in English) to see if wanted to go to a Salsa Club. We declined, he insisted, following us down the street. Eventually, he insisted enough that he was beside me, whence he grabbed hold of me and attempted to trip me up. My instinct was to push backwards to stay on my feet and it will have been at this point that he removed my phone. (I’m only glad he didn’t get my wallet in the same move.)

Aftermath

  • I was sober enough to realise what had happened immediately – We were close enough to where we were staying to get back within minutes of the theft.
  • I used Google Device Manager (GDM) to lock the device down – the pattern lock which I used on the phone would only have kept a thief out for a short period of time. GDM enabled my to remotely lock the device with a longer passcode.
  • I used GDM to start the phone ringing at full volume – This forced the thief to turn the phone off, further hampering his attempts to either access my data or make calls from it.
  • I used GDM to instigate a data wipe – In hindsight, I should have done this before the previous step but destroying ones own data is difficult to make oneself do immediately – we always hope for a better outcome. Still, having sent the wipe command, the phone would have acted on it as soon as it reconnected to a network, via mobile or wi-fi data. As my personal data is most dangerous in the hands of others when the device is online, this meant that had the thief reconnected to try to access anything that the phone was automatically logged into, everything would have been wiped for good.
  • I accessed my mobile service provider’s website and blocked the SIM card – On realising he couldn’t use my phone to make calls, the next step for the thief would have been to move the SIM to another unlocked phone and make the calls from there.
  • I made an online theft report – You can make an online denuncia here. You still need to go to the Police Station to sign the denuncia, within 72 hours, but that process is much quicker and much less painful if you’ve filled in all the information beforehand online. Remember, you need your IMEI, else the police won’t accept the report at all.

This morning we sent off the insurance claim forms and I ordered a replacement SIM from my provider. I should be back as before in a matter of days but it’s thanks to having done all of the above in good time that means I’ll only be £50 worse off and just slightly inconvenienced!

October 18, 2014

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