People keep going to this home looking for their lost phones; couple lives in fear

Peter Holley reports for The Washington Post, “For months now, angry strangers have been showing up at Christina Lee and Michael Saba’s front door with a curious demand: ‘Give me back my stolen phone!'”

“Sometimes, families will show up; other times, it’s groups of friends or a random person with a police officer in tow,” Holley reports. “Despite using different service providers, everyone who bangs on their door has been led to the suburban Atlanta home by a phone-tracking app. The problem — as the couple desperately tries to explain visitors — is that the missing phones aren’t at the house and never have been.”

“The pair doesn’t understand why exactly, but both Android and iPhone users on various networks are being directed to their house by phone-tracking apps,” Holley reports. “Once the awkward situation is explained, most lost-phone-seekers are understanding. But the couple told Fusion that a smaller number of people who place absolute faith in their tracking technology are convinced that the couple is lying, provoking potentially volatile conflicts. ‘My biggest fear is that someone dangerous or violent is going to visit our house because of this,’ Saba told Fusion by email.”

“So why is it happening?” Holley asks. “So far, nobody is entirely sure; but several theories have been floated by experts.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: This isn’t a “Find My iPhone” problem, it’s a data problem. GIGO.

In instances where triangulation via cellular towers doesn’t work, a tracker will attempt to use the “the last known wi-fi signal the device found,” according to the BBC.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dialtone” for the heads up.]


  1. “the last known wi-fi signal the device found,”

    As in guest networks you automatically join… Like xfinity etc.

    Triangulation by the cell towers is not accurate. Find my friends on my moms phone, places her miles from where she actually is. Standing right next to me when I was messing with it.

    Leave the finding your iPhone to law enforcement. Use the app, lock/wipe the phone.

      1. Well if you as a citizen take your property back by force… You are breaking more laws than the thief that has your property.

        And as the article points out, the location apps are not always accurate… So you could be harassing and or harming people that truly have nothing to do with your property.

        If you do go tracking down your phone.. Be civil, and understand that YOU could be wrong…

      2. Wow, if the crime isn’t “good” enough, we are supposed to forget about? I’ll have to try that at my job! Hey boss, I didn’t feel your concerns merited my attention, so I didn’t do what you asked. Cheers!

  2. If it’s just a triangulation issue, wouldn’t the police and fire department be showing up at their door all the time responding to 911 calls from cell phone users? If that’s not happening, it seems to be something else causing it.

  3. Since this problem involves both Android and iOS, it appears to be a location/data issue, not an app bug/issue.

    Isn’t it possible to assign a fake location to a wifi spot? If so, then phone thief/thieves could have assigned an arbitrary fake location that takes people to this particular residence.

    Another possibility is that the phone thief could reside nearby and be tapping into their wifi network, making it seem as if the phones are there. If so, they are probably getting their jollies watching the parade of people and police officers visiting these folks.

    If I were Apple, i would assign someone to help these people solve this problem. Apple is at least peripherally involved because of “Find my iPhone” and it is also the right thing to do. In addition, it is in Apple’s best interests for Find my iPhone to home in on the proper location and helping these people out would make Apple look like the good guys. If Google steps in to solve the issue, you can bet that everyone will try to make Apple look bad.

    1. Good idea. Perhaps the next time someone shows up at their house they could try turning off their WiFi (since they can’t turn off the cell towers) and see if the tracking app changes the location.

  4. In case anyone gets the wrong general idea by reading this . . . When my daughter recently dropped her iPhone at a Burger King and someone else found it in the street and took it home, Find My Friends (I could have also used Find My iPhone) took us to a house miles away where a surprised but friendly girl returned it to us. We were even able to tell her which room the iPhone was in when she forgot where she put it down.

  5. My wife and I use “Find My Friends” to keep track of each other, and it sometimes does return silly results. What I learned to do is tap on her icon on the map. A shaded circle shows up indicating her possible location. If the phone is using only triangulation, the circle is huge.


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