How I Recovered My Stolen iPhone With No Help From The Police

On a recent, beautiful and unseasonably warm, Saturday I decided to take my 6 year old son and 1 year old daughter to our local town center while my husband was out of town.  

After watching the local kids show, part of a St-Patrick’s day festival, my 6 year old started saying he was hungry. I decided to go to the local sandwich shop and buy him a snack.

He picked a chocolate chip cookie and I went in to the counter to pay for it. Like most mothers out there who travel with kids, I have a lot of stuff in my purse/baby bag, which I had to dig through to find my wallet.

While doing this I must have placed a couple of items on the counter – including my iPhone –  on which I was just finishing off a text to some friends I was planning on meeting up with.

I paid for the cookie and then my son got thirsty, so I got a cup to quickly get some water from the soda dispenser.  While I was doing this, I had left my purse and things at the cashier’s counter.

My little one decided (by balling her eyes out) that she did not want sit in the stroller any more so I had to pick her up as well. Anyways, after getting the water I turned around to put all the things back in my bag and saw that my iPhone was missing!

I asked the cashier and he said what kind of phone was it and before I could answer he said, “was it an iPhone?” I said, “yes, and it was black.” He then says that he saw three teenage kids on skate boards walk away with it.

I turned around and saw them escaping through the glass doors. I came out but they were moving away fast on their skate boards. Luckily my car was parked just outside the shop, and I quickly loaded my kids into the car and followed the teenagers in the direction they were headed – the next row of shops across the street.

I pulled my car into the parking lot and spotted them. I then pulled my car next to them and rolled down my window and asked them if they were just at the sandwich shop. They said yes and I asked them did they pick up a black iPhone? First they denied it but after mentioning that the cashier saw them they admitted taking it.

I asked for it back and they said well they have it and they are NOT going to give it back and off they went. I saw them skating off, but with two kids in the car and no phone I felt helpless and realized that I could not follow them any further.

As mentioned, I had made plans to catch up with some friends who lived nearby and decided to go there to follow up on this incident, rather than home as I wanted to.

Soon after meeting them and telling them about my ordeal,  I used their cell phone to call the police and report the incident. I dialed 911 and told them the story and thus began the nightmare with the local authorities.

The dispatcher asked where the crime happened and I told her just a few blocks away but I had come to my friends home (which was located in the adjoining town/suburb) to report it. The dispatcher then asked me if I could go back to where the incident happened and call the cops from there I was  – so that I could get the dispatch of that area!  

I was shocked to hear the suggestion since I just told her the whole story and the fact I had no phone and was with two small children, and my husband was out of town. Well after a lot of convincing she finally said she will send the cops out.

The Police vs. Find my iPhone App

In the meantime my friend, who also has an iPhone, asked if I had the Find my iPhone option turned on, on my phone. I said I think so. This is a free feature that is available to any Apple device.. By enabling it you can track your phone via the corresponding Find my iPhone application.

She opened the Find my iPhone app on her phone and  I entered my iTunes user details and viola I could see where my phone was via the built-in iPhone maps application.  It was only a few miles away from where I was.

find my iPhone app

The cops arrived at my friends house half an hour later and I give them the details for their file report. They also asked me if I wanted to prosecute and I said yes. The officer tried to convince me not to, which was disappointing.

I guess it creates too much work for them. I also told them about the location results from the Find my iPhone app and how I had just located the phone about 40 minutes ago but the phone was off now (so couldn’t be tracked).

They said there is not much they can do about it currently but if I find out an updated location to notify them. The officer took my contact details and said he will be in touch.

He also suggested in these types of cases the phone usually never gets recovered. I was really disappointed – both with their attitude and lack of real help.

I checked the Find my iPhone once more from my friends iPhone but my phone was still off and not trackable. But I enabled  the ‘send me an email when located’ feature so that if the thieves ever turned on the phone on I would get an email with the map (GPS) location of the phone.

Fortunately, my iPhone was also (pass code) locked so without the pass code at least my personal information on the phone was protected. I went home after that and hoped for the best.

Tracking my iPhone

Later that night after putting the kids to bed I checked my inbox and saw that I had recently received an email from the Find my Phone app stating my phone has been located.

I was so excited, I called the police station straightaway and explained the situation and said I have the latest location. The dispatcher informed me that she would pass on the message to the case officer. I asked what actions will be taken and she said “The officer will be notified who will then pass on the information to the detective,” and since it was Saturday night nothing might happen till the next day or Monday.

 I was shocked and told her that the phone could be long gone before then. I finally convinced her to send the officer back to my home so I can give him the updated information and location maps I had printed out. I had done all the detective work, I just needed someone to get the phone!

So here is how the app works : It basically uses the GPS feature on the iPhone and pinpoints it’s location on the map (satellite or map view). It does not give an address. I had to use a combination of Google maps and to match the location and get the exact address. I then used a reverse look up on to get then name of the homeowners. It is surprising how much personal information there is online!

The police officer asked how I was able to get the address, and I explained to him the above process. He said he had never heard of this technology/app before – so much for tech savvy cops in the twenty first century. 

I asked him what will happen next and he said he would go to the address I found and check with the person(s) there about the phone. He said he would call me tomorrow afternoon with an update because his shift was ending.

So I eagerly awaited the officer’s update and periodically checked the status online for my phone status but it was turned off. I got a call back from the officer the next morning saying that he had gone to the house but no one answered the door. He also asked that if I was sure about going ahead and prosecuting. I said yes, again.

The next steps he told me would involve him passing the information on to a detective who will take over the case. I was really disappointed in the police work and lack of proactive follow through.

I know this is a small crime in the scheme of things, but the attitude of the police force, despite me doing all the work for them, was a huge let down and waste of my tax dollars.

Taking Things into My Own Hands

My husband came back on Sunday (I had kept him updated on proceedings) and asked him if we could go to the house I had tracked the iPhone to. I had thought to myself since it was teenage kids involved chances are the parents probably did not know what they were up to.

My husband asked one of his Spanish speaking friends to come along since the home owners name sounded Spanish (Lopez) and the kids who stole my phone were of Hispanic descent. Plus it’s better to have an extra person, just in case.

We got to the house I identified and knocked on the front door, which was answered by a young woman. We explained the situation to her. But she, in Spanish, told us that she was not the home owner and that she would call them.  

She informed us that the owners were out and should be back shortly and that we could wait for the owners to get back.  About 15 minutes later a car pulled into the driveway, which the house guest informed us was the owner.

A middle aged woman and her two daughters (I assumed) came out of the car and we calmly explained the situation to them and why we came to their house.  My husband and his friend showed them the print-outs from the Find my iPhone app.

I asked if she had a teenage son who also skateboards and she said yes.  Her daughters were surprised and said they don’t know why their brother would do this. They all have iPhones.

Well the boy (son/brother) showed up in a few minutes later and I was able to clearly identify him as one of the teenagers who made off with my phone. He looked shocked to see me and his mom asked him about my iPhone and he said his friend has it and made him take it. He didn’t even try and deny the theft! His mom asked him to immediately call his friend over who lived around the corner.

The other boy showed up holding my iPhone and with head bowed handed it to me. No questions asked. They at least had the grace to apologize and look sheepish about what they had done. The mother looked the most angry and I am sure she was not going to let her son and his hooligan friend forget what they did anytime soon.

My iPhone had already been reset since the teenagers who stole it could not unlock it. The phone was basically useless to them they could only use it as an iPod or iTouch device. 

I spent the next day restoring my phone and calling my cell phone provider to tell them I had it back. I did lose some data, mainly pictures stored on the phone, but overall was able to get most of it back.

I was a blackberry person for years and had recently converted to being an iPhone user.  This incident showed me how easy and useful it was to track my iPhone I am now a true ‘Apple convert’.

While I hope that no one goes through what I went through to get their stolen cell phone back, make sure you have the free Find my iPhone feature enabled in case you ever lose your iPhone.

Oh by the way it’s been over one week and I still have not heard back from the local police department.

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27 thoughts on “How I Recovered My Stolen iPhone With No Help From The Police”

  1. I left my phone in an Uber. Contacted Uber and they said the driver could not find it. I said find my iPhone shows it at this address is this the drivers address? They would not tell me if it was or not or give me his number. I asked him to email me he didn’t. I drove 50 minutes to his house by myself after work with my 45. I passed a cop at a school. I pulled up behind him advised I’m on my way to recover my IPhone a few blocks down I advised I have a CCW permit and have a firearm on me. He had his dispatcher call it and he said he would knock on the door but then he said I could file a lost property ticket instead. I pulled up to the drivers house and waved him down as he was backing out of his drive way. Showed him on my Ipad that my phone is here. He found it under his back seat. I was surprised that the officer did not accompany me to the house knowing that I am headed there to recover my property at someone’s house in the dark with a firearm. Thankfully it was a peaceful encounter.

  2. What happens if your phone was stolen in the mail. You got the IMEI from the seller, after calling phone service providers you find out your phone’s IMEI was activated two days after the phone was stolen and they can see its current location because the thief activate find my iphone. If you give all this information to the police can they recover your phone and arrest the thief?

  3. Mr. Peter Carnick made an excellent point here. The reason the Chicago Police want us to call “911” is because it is dangerous to show up on a stranger’s front porch, knock or ring the doorbell and say “Yes, my phone was tracked to your house. I’m here to pick it up from you.” That is enough for the individual to become defensive or worse — assault the person standing on the front porch wanting to pick up his or her phone. In Chicago, we have a non-emergency number which is for City Services or issues pertaining to the City of Chicago (this number is “311”). I was fortunate to have a neighbor who IS a Chicago Police Officer. He was kind enough to go with me, after he was OFF DUTY, to recover my phone from the individual who had it at his house/home. I was tempted to call “911” but decided to speak to Officer Hoffman (my neighbor) and asked him to accompany me. My Android was in the hands of a man that didn’t look like he was “all there” and he appeared very disoriented when he came to the front door. I don’t know if the man was on medication or something else. Someone else posted that “911” is for Life Threatening emergencies only, but in Chicago, this is NOT the case. The police officers who go with someone to a stranger’s house to recover a cell phone are usually officers who are working in offices (administrative) or desk jobs — not homicide detectives. Why do I know this information? Because my neighbor, the police officer, informed me that this IS the case and it IS a fact.

  4. Thanks for sharing your story. I had the same issue. I tracked my Android (Smart Phone) to an exact address. I even found the Owner of the House by first and last name (on Blockshopper). I am an avid runner and was running with my dog early Sunday morning. I usually have my phone in my pocket and zip up my pocket. That morning, I inadvertently FORGOT to zip up and secure my pocket. My phone was gone! I looked for my phone all over the park and even asked the man who works for the Chicago Park District if anyone had “turned in” a Samsung Galaxy phone (the latest model). In fact, I still owe $190 on the phone (before it is paid in full). I went to the Chicago Police Department and filed a “Stolen” report and the police officer told me to “go” to the house with my husband. I indicated that I am supposed to call 911 and have a police escort to GET my phone back. He had no idea I knew this bit of information (my neighbor who is a Chicago Police Officer provided this information to me which is WHY I knew what is involved with the process for recovering a stolen phone). I was able to TRACK my SmartPhone because it was NEVER turned off. It was in the same location for several days. The battery eventually went to 51% but it was still TURNED ON which made it super easy to continue tracking my phone. Even though I called my phone and forced it to RING for 2-minutes (for 2 days) the person who had my Android NEVER answered and never replied to a Message indicating “REWARD” for returning phone. No questions asked. Not a freakin’ peep — in the end I GOT my phone back but it took several days. I realize the Chicago Police Officers are busy with the violence and murders in our City. My neighbor, who is a Chicago Police Officer, went to the address with me (even though he was already Off-Duty). He wore his police uniform and we were able to recover my phone. Phones are not inexpensive these days so I was GLAD I got my phone back. Obviously, the man who found it was not very tech savvy because he NEVER bothered to turn it off. Thank goodness — I tracked my phone for 2-1/2 days before I got it back.

  5. Look I get it , I live in LA and the neighborhood that the phone was found in is terribly dangerous. I clearly understand that the police has many more important things to do, however its also a reality that iphones cost 1K now so its no small thing. Even if you have the insurance it can be costly and time consuming to replace.

  6. My sister and I got our phones stolen at a local pool 5 days ago… we called the non-emergency number and the police came over and everything but there’s been no phone calls or anything. There was also a security camera inside the changeroom hallway (it was a family changeroom so everyone changes in rooms) where all the lockers are so we are hoping that whoever caught on tape is recognizable and will be caught soon! Otherwise, there is no way we will be able to afford two phones (we had iPhone 6 and 6s) so I guess that sucks a LOT for us

  7. I agree with babs 100%. If a couple of puny teeny boppers stole from me and I knew it,
    I would handle it myself. I’m trying to recover an iphone that was stolen by grown, crack addicted men,
    who immediately took it to a badly crime infested area of a city (and I mean real crimes-narcotics dealing, prostitution, murder, rape, etc, not larceny), so this read was of no use at all.

    I can’t believe you, the author, and other commenters don’t realize how wrong it is to call 911 for a matter like this. There is a regular dispatch number to call in each district/jurisdiction in the united states for matters of this nature. 911 IS FOR LIFE THREATENING EMERGENCIES ONLY!! If you really didn’t know that, or worse, you did, but have an entitled enough mentality you did this anyways while the 911 operator could’ve been saving a life, then had the gall to take issue with how the officers proceeded to do their job, I pity your children and the poor education and morals they’re learning at home.

    • Before my iPhone was stolen a few days ago, I would absolutely have agreed that one should call the local precinct and not call 911 as it could tie up a line for life threatening situations. Apparently, the police do not agree. When I called my local police precinct, I was told to call 911 instead. They did not want to speak to me. When I was finally able to speak with the police, they did not seem to view the tracking results of Find My iPhone as theft. Nor did my ignored attempts to reach out to the thief through texts or calling before the phone going offline constitute evidence of theft. They claimed that only if I had seen someone take my iPhone could I claim it was stolen. On my report they put that it was lost property. I was nowhere near the place where my phone ended up.

    • I agree that 911 shouldn’t be called but they have non emergency numbers that most people don’t know about. I wouldn’t go as far to say that people who call 911 about a stolen phone have “low morals” and that their parenting is bad… after a theft, the first thing that comes to mind is calling 911. However, people can just go to the nearest police station instead to fill out a report.

  8. I’ve had no answers I went to a Dunkin donuts their employee did not follow procedure and gave my phone away they have videos and will not cooperate and return any of my calls. I also have find my iPhone app and it’s on but if they power it off it don’t track it it’s been since the 15th they have not yet turned on I sent for me to be notified through a text or email as well and nothing so far has been turned in or turned up yet. I know it was fully charged they shut it off so I can’t track it so makes no sense why they went through the trouble to lie say it was theirs and not even turn it on I made sure it will make the beep sound once turned on erase it completely and notify me on my daughters cell but only owned it 3 months and was an iPhone 6s

  9. You are lucky you weren’t assaulted when you went to the home, which often happens. Furthermore, you were irresponsible to put your children at risk by pulling up to the teens to begin with and more so when you put your friend at risk simply because he speaks Spanish. Had things gone wrong, would you have used your “I’ve just been stabbed” app? The police would have responded and handled it and you would have been the cause that they couldn’t respond to some other non-violent crime elsewhere. Police are over worked and underpaid. They are not allowed to shake people down even if your app says a phone is nearby.

  10. I think you may try iLostFinder for getting back your lost iPhone without anyone. It works better. thanks anyway for the post.

  11. My wife phone was just stolen in Woodfield mall in Schaumberg, IL. After 2 hours, I tracked it down using Find My Iphone, and the location showed a very dangerous area where mostly poor black people lives there. I called the police and shockingly they are not able to enter that house. I didn’t dare to go there and knocked the door. It is just a phone that doesn’t deserve to risk my life. I just remotely erased it.

  12. If I lost my phone, or left it unattended somewhere and it was taken, I would be bummed too. But I would not expect someone with a cape to appear after calling 911 and them to resolve all my problems. This is a minor trivial crime that is more difficult to investigate and do anything about then most people realize. In this instance, documenting the phone missing with the police and getting a copy of a police report for insurance purposes would suffice. using the find my phone app and the leg work you did to retrieve your missing phone should be expected of you, not the police. Expect great things of the police if you were robbed of your phone, not in this situation. Law enforcement generally cannot even act on information obtained from apps such as find my phone because it is not perfect. Police cannot go knocking on every door in an apartment building for example beccause you have gps saying your phone is in that area.

  13. Im glad this lady got her iPhone back. She should have called the local Sheriffs department or her states State Highway patrol. I do, however, condemn her for taking actions into her own hands. She was extremely lucky because situations like that don’t usually end well. I had a similar situation happen to my sons iPhone but I won’t take the year and a half this lady took to write a story that could’ve been narrowed down to a paragraph!! Bottom line, the “Find My iPhone” app is an awesome tool but people put too much faith in a technology that is not 100% and that’s what cops typically want is 100% verification with up to date information before they show up at an address with guns blazing risking their live for a freakin iPhone. Although this lady seemed “shocked” at every twist and turn that didn’t turn out in her favor, the fact that she was reckless with her own belongings can’t be denied. I have 3 kids myself and I know keeping up with them takes all my attention, but she wouldn’t have had this problem had she left her phone locked in her car. By her own admission, she was using it socially to make future plans with friends. Had she have waited to contact those friends when she got home, this situation NEVER would have happened but people are attached to their cell phones and feel completely lost without them. Bottom line, like texting and driving, the message to her friends could’ve waited and because she had her kids with her, she should’ve left the phone in a locked car and given her kids 100% of her attention. But because her hand has an iPhone grafted to it, her attention is going to be lost with her kids. Phones should be like guns; just because you have one doesn’t mean you use all the time!!!!!!……

    • Yeah prople should not take matters into own hands… However the “law” protects thiefs from cops. Look at me at my apartment somone breaks into my place took most of my stuff and no one saw or heard anything. However i call the cops they gave me “case number” blahblah. This was thursday, on monday i came home from getting groceries somone had grab welcome mat on the front door and kicked it to the side meaning that they are still there and they want to get scare. I called my detective, he tells me they cannot search the building because it is against the “law”. Thiefs know this they are not stupid they know they break in take my stuff and move it to their unit and cops will not be able to bother them. So yeah sometimes you do need to take matters on to your own hands or simply “roll over and play dead” while they take your shit. Its also against the law to steal yet thiefs are the only ones that can benefit from this privacy law.

  14. I had my iPhone stolen, I got a new phone, then find myiphone app sent me an email with the old phones address, then the 2 phones started syncing, the thief was taking selfies of themselves with my phone & they deleted all their contacts & replaced them with theirs , so I had their dad/mum/sisters etc name & phone details. I called the cops who were not very helpful they said they tried calling the thief a few times, but the thief wasn’t returning their calls – how about going to the house & getting my phone back!

  15. You know this just makes me sick. If the police aren’t worried about a crime like this, what ARE they worried about. Ugh.

  16. My dad just got his iPhone stolen today. I tracked it down to the point where I know where it’s at. The problem is that it’s in a building/ apartment complex so I don’t know where exactly it is in the building. Any tips on finding it?

    • That’s hard. Normally you can get to an address, but due to privacy laws it can be hard to find a specific apartment. My suggestion is to let the police know and they can then search their databases to see if any known crooks live in the building. Alternatively a more extreme option is to print up a flyer and stick it near the front door of the building saying something like, “I know my iPhone was stolen by someone in this building, and I have called the cops. If you want to do the right thing call me on XXX to return my i-phpne.”

      Good luck!

      • Privacy laws are not the only reason. It’s the technology side. First, it’s NOT 100% and second, it’s not 3 dimensional. If it had the floor plans to every building in the U.S. stored in memory along with accompanying addresses, THEN you could do it. But privacy isn’t 100% of the issue; it’s the limitation of the technology.

  17. I just had my iphone stolen last night. I do have the Find My Iphone app, and it has showed up a couple of times. The address is never exact though – how did you know the exact address?

    • 1. You need to be on a regular PC.
      2. Log on to and into your account. Go to the Find my iPhone tab and go to the map.
      3. Open a second browser and open google maps (with a map view), do a street view and then use the map from the find the iphone wesbite to match locations.
      4. Drop a pin (from google maps) on the location and it will give you an exact address
      5. You can use whitepages.come (reverse look-up) to find the name and number of the person based on the address.

      Will take some time, but works.

  18. Really Babs? This lady had every right to expect service from the public servants. Since when is it okay to steal $800. That’s what an iPhone costs. You’re an idiot.

  19. I would of run the little suckers down. You think the police would have acted then Babs? Im not surprised the police department didn’t do anything. I’ve heard of plenty of cases of the exact same story. Its property and it should be no different than a car. Some people have a lot more than that invested into it(emails, bank accounts, credit cards…. list goes on). You got lucky very lucky. I would of imagined that if someone owned a iphone.. they would of at least knew how to re-program it and wipe it but they were kids..

  20. My point of view: Seriously? Local mom dialed 911 and expected the local police department to help retrieve her iPhone? To add insult to injury mommy claims that their lack of interest is a waste of her tax dollars—get a life, real housewife! The police have more important things to enforce, such as serious crime, than helping local mom retrieve her silly iPhone. Next time local mom’s iPhone is stolen tell her to call her insurance company. Don’t waste my tax dollars on such a frivolous “non-emergency” call.

    • If the police focused on these crimes, it would lead to far greater rewards. In this case, it would deter the teenagers from acting as they did (although the poster valiantly managed to get that outcome). In other situations, it would lead to them readily to larger crimes: drugs, identity theft, etc. So, not focusing on the $800 iphone has ramifications beyond just a phone. Thanks to her, those teens may think twice before stealing again (and avoid bigger crimes) simply because they knew they could not get away with it. The teems should thank her. Petty crimes are a beginning. Isn’t it a public service to stop them…or no, we should wait until it gets “serious” rather than avoiding it. If we thought coherently, every theft would be given proper scrutiny.


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