Another Way to Get Your Lost Phone Returned

April 24, 2017 | Bob Covello
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When was the last time you misplaced your phone?

It has happened to all of us at one time or another. For InfoSec pros, it is a terrifying feeling – as we understand the possible consequences from the loss of the vast amount of data on a smart phone. In addition, those things are getting darned expensive!

If you misplace it in your home, it is usually easy to find by simply calling it, or perhaps you use one of those “tile” devices to help you. In other situations, you may try the “Find my phone” application, or, my favorite, the LookoutMobile locator service with the handy “SCREAM” feature that is sure to catch someone’s attention.

But what happens when you leave your phone in a place where none of those methods are available? Think about it, if you are in a big city, it is little help to know that your phone is somewhere near Trafalgar Square in London, or somewhere near Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, which is all you will get from a phone finder application.

What if your phone cannot get a signal and none of those methods of contact are available?

A simple method that works well is to change your lock screen to a photo of your business card, or some other contact information to facilitate the return. This might raise red flags to privacy-conscious InfoSec folks. But there are two reasons why this method may maximize the return of your phone.

The first reason that this increases the likelihood of the return of your phone is because your contact information on the lock screen makes it very easy for the finder of the phone to contact you. No need for you to frantically call your phone, hoping for someone to answer. In the case of a phone that cannot get a signal, that phone call will only go to your voice mail, which does nothing to reduce your anxiety. Make it easy!

My lock screen includes my E-mail address and an alternate phone number where I may be reached. (It would be counter-productive to include your cell phone number, wouldn’t it?)

The second reason that the photo of your contact information on your lock screen increases your chances of recovering the lost device is one of subtle social engineering. A person will be less likely to ignore or deny the obvious contact information. Most folks would prefer to do the right thing, rather than knowingly deprive someone of a lost item.

If you are concerned about any privacy implications, just remember that you will eventually have to come face-to-face with the person in possession of your phone in order to retrieve it. Also, if the person is a criminal, he already possesses an easily fenced device, and he probably is not also an identity thief.

For further incentive, if you use a protective cover on your phone, slip a modest-sized reward into the case with a “reward for return” note. My phone case holds a US $20 bill with a smiling President saying “thanks for returning my phone” along with my faux business card with my contact information. This may be a bit extreme, but when you consider the cost of the phone, wouldn’t you offer a reward for its safe return? Not only is this “reward” concealed, it can serve as your emergency money stash if you ever find yourself a bit short on cash. Just remember to replace it with another smiling Jackson as soon as possible.

Sure, your contact information on your phone’s lock screen may not be as cool as the photo of your favorite automobile that currently “blings” your screen, and it may not be as warm and fuzzy as the family photo, but it could mean the difference between a returned or a lost phone with the troublesome tasks and costs involved in recovering from the loss.

Bob Covello

About the Author: Bob Covello, Guest Blogger
Bob Covello (@BobCovello) is a 20-year technology veteran and InfoSec analyst with a passion for security topics. He is also a volunteer for various organizations focused on advocating for and advising others about staying safe and secure online.
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