OK.....I am writing this to show you guys how I have successfully tracked down and retrieved 2 stolen Droid's so far. My wife seems to have a knack for having her phone stolen so unfortunately I have had to get a little crafty in these days. Anyway I have had success and would like to help you guys too if you find yourself in need.
MOD's feel free to move or sticky this thread.....or delete if you see fit
What I find to be the biggest mistake an owner can make when their phone is stolen is to call their carrier and report it. Reason being is they deactivate the phone on the spot which eliminates your ability to track it down. At the same time you want to cover yourself so you are not responsible for any minutes and such used by the "new TEMPORARY owner" ....I will cover that in a few.
So....let's get to it.
What you can do BEFORE your phone is stolen:
There are several apps out there, Lookout Mobile, Privacy Blocker, and so on....who can or at least claim to be able to help you. But I have found myself really relying on 2.....but there is a third that I prefer as well.
Make sure you enable GPS at all times. Some of these apps can't always enable it which would render them useless. However I think all the one's I use will also use network towers to locate but it is not quite as accurate
Test these apps before you need them. Meaning install and configure them...then test them out so you will know what to expect and verify that they do indeed work.
APPS to get and why:
First and foremost is Latitude
This is built into Google Maps and is totally free. One requirement here is if you don't have any family or friends to help you...you are going to need to setup a second gmail account and share your location with them. What makes this great is from any phone or gmail account you are sharing with you can find and track the location of your device. This has proved to be most useful in these events. In addition there is no notification of tracking. You can also send "pings" for updated locations if for some reason it isn't already updating.
Where's my Droid by Alienmanfc6 there is a free version and a donate for $1
This app is amazing for me. Basically it works off of 2 commands. There are other options as well but these 2 are the most used for me.
First, "Where's my Droid" if you text this to your phone from another phone (any phone) your phone will automatically set it's volume to the max and start ringing or "screaming" for up to 5 minutes. This is useful if you have misplaced your phone but know you still have it. There is another benefit to cover with this command but give me a minute to get there.
Second, "GPS my Droid" if you text this to your phone from another phone (any phone) your phone will respond with text messages back....4 of them to be exact. The first response will have the confirmation of keyword acknowledged, second response will have lat, long, heading, and speed, third response will have address if possible, and fourth response will have links to google maps.
Now this is where the difference between free and donate come into play. If you have the free version you cannot change these keywords. So if I am a thief and I have your phone. I get a text that says "GPS my Droid" what do you think I am going to do? Out the window right? Or smash it.....so in the donate version you can change the words. My wife and I have a set that works well for us. We use "sprouts" to replace "where's my droid" for "screaming" and "the sour cream" for "GPS my droid" for tracking. See neither one of us like sour cream or sprouts and a thief wouldn't think twice about seeing that. All I do is send "dont forget" in a text just before the keyword just in case they are paying attention.
Wavesecure by McAfee
This app allows for tracking as well as remote wipes of data and locking down the device. I primarily use it just in case there is no way I can get the device back or I am about to call and deactivate it. I would simply wipe and lock the device then call VZW. Have fun with a brick thieves.
Other apps that you should consider are:
Phone Locator Pro
OH NO!!!! MY PHONE IS GONE!
ok....so now how do we use all of this together to get your device back? Let me break it down for you.
What I have done is first off I go to my computer (or grab wife's phone) and send my keyword for GPS my Droid. Reason I do this first is it will tell me pretty quickly whether or not my phone is in my possession providing it is on and has service. The nice thing about this is even if your phone is off....as soon as it is powered on it receives the text and responds....nice little notifier that you might be getting close to getting it back. If your phone's location is with you then send the "where's my droid" keyword to help find it by it "screaming".
If you get the magical 4 texts in response and find that your phone has been abducted (yes I use that term because my phone is dear to me) then I sign into latitude either on PC or wife's phone and start tracking my phone. Now although you may be getting locations you gotta remember that they might be travelling or moving from place to place. Ideally you want the thief to go home so you have the best chance of retrieving your device's location and it staying there until you get there. Remember I am already getting emails from sending the GPS keyword.
Again if your phone is off then you wont get responses from WMD until the device is powered back on. Same goes for location via latitude. It will continue to reports it's last known location until updated otherwise.
Finally I call my provider (in my case VZW). Although I inform them that my phone was stolen I do not allow them to disconnect it yet. I want it activated so I can track it. What I tell them is that my phone was stolen. I have tracking on it and I know it's location. I am going to try and get it back but I want you guys to know what's going on. They SHOULD be able to notate your account so you are not responsible for the charges that the thieves may rack up. I always put a time frame on this though with VZW. I tell them I want to keep it activate for the next 3 days. If I don't get it back I will call back and get it deactivated and replaced. This way VZW knows this is a short lived time frame here.
Now that we have started the ball there are a few more things you can do.
USE DISCRETION with everything below. If you are a child you should have your parents read over this part to help you along
Log into your Verizon account on the web. Look at your call log and note numbers from both incoming and outgoing from the time it was stolen.
Try to do reverse lookup's on the numbers you get. Sometimes you get lucky and get accurate information with the free sites. Idealy you have an address your phone is located at and got a name from there. I spoke to people that lived a few houses down (outside of the possible range that the GPS might be off) and got names both times.
Then I would call the numbers asking for the name. If they asked why I would tell them because the local law enforcement was looking for them due to the fact that they stole my phone. It's a $500 phone which makes it a felony and I will press charges against all everyone that is involved.
Both times these phone calls resulted in me getting my phone back. Typically people will call family for some reason with your phone. I don't know why but both times.....first time it was the dude's sister and the second time it was an aunt. Both times that particular party (aunt or sister) would be the one that facilitated getting my phone back.
**I have no idea if this is true or not** I was desperate with this phone because we had pictures of our second born son's birth on there that we had nowhere else.
I do know that if you know for sure where your phone is....which hopefully you will....you can call and have an officer go to the door with the information. According to the officer I spoke with he felt he had enough evidence to "encourage a search". I had this happen with the first phone but the guy wasn't home.
When the officer arrived he asked what was going on and I told him that my phone was stolen, it was a very expensive phone but more importantly it's the data that I can't afford to lose....I show him the proof (printed screens from google maps, location on google maps from other phone, or whatever) and he went to the door.
As I said I worked it out with someone that I called that they had called. Seems safer as they don't really have any involvement and they know that you aren't mad at them. But use discretion when you approach the final retrieval of your device.
With my second phone I had them drop it off at the front desk of my work. Told them to tell the receptionist that "I left it in their car".
I would not advise going to get your phone back in person without an officer present. This is a potentially dangerous situation in which YOU would be at fault in the law's eyes because YOU went to THEIR house.
Once the 3 day mark has hit if I didn't have at least an updating location on it or leading information I would use Wavesecure to wipe and lock the device turning it into a brick. Log in and change your gmail passwords and anything else that might be sending notifications to your device. YOU MUST DO THIS IF YOU DO NOT GET YOUR DEVICE BACK....IF NOT THEN EVEN AFTER THE PHONE IS DISCONNECTED IT WILL STILL FUNCTION IF ON WIFI....MEANING THEY WILL STILL GET YOUR EMAILS, CHARGE THINGS TO YOUR GOOGLE ACCOUNT, AND SO ON. Then call VZW and have them add it to the list of stolen devices and deactivated......enjoy your shiny new brick thief.
Remember if you are relying on latitude.....you don't want to change the password to your gmail while you are tracking your device. If you change the password then latitude will fail to log in which will result in not being able to update.
What you can do if you did NOT do anything before your phone was stolen
ok....if you didn't take any proactive measures to protect your device then shame on you.....how dare you not protect your baby....with that out of the way. I only really know of one thing you can do at this point. There is an app in the market called Plan B
Plan B is an app that you push to your device AFTER it has been stolen. It automatically installs and then starts sending emails to the email address provided with your devices location....same as above as far as links to Google Maps and so on. When I used this for the second phone it did exactly what it said....
The nice thing about all of this is once you set all the steps in place....keyword sent to gps my droid, latitude pings, Plan B....once this stuff starts....they all start once the device is started. You can compare the data provided and get a much better idea of what the situation is.
All of this stuff requires your phone to be on at some point to be of any use. There is no promise or guarantee that your phone is going to be powered on anytime soon after it is stolen. Also this is ONLY what worked for me. I am just posting this to help others.
Also....use your head if you ARE tracking it and going to the door yourself. Do not be aggressive right away. Say something like "my wife lost her phone and my GPS tracking says it's here" if you have pic's or a phone tracking it that you can show them it would most likely persuade them to oblige in returning the device. I would imagine most of the time it is a kid that has your phone and the parents will go get it back for you......
These are the benefits of modern technology people.....you have a smart phone....don't do something stupid like lose it
Adapt and overcome.....outsmart your opponent....if you can't.....leave him with a brick