Would you return a lost iPhone?

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Ellen Creager, Detroit Free Press
August 11, 2015

“Excuse me! Ma'am! Is this your phone?”

I turned around to see a man hurrying behind me. He reached out his hand. It held my iPhone 6.

I had not even realized I had lost it.

This fellow passenger had chased me the length of the Salt Lake City Airport concourse to reunite me with my phone after I accidentally left it on a counter at a ticket re-booking kiosk. I could not even describe how grateful I was. I thanked the honest man over and over again.

He shrugged and grinned. “If I lost my phone,” he said, “I'd want someone to do the same for me.”

If you have ever lost a phone or tablet while traveling or been the victim of theft, you know most stories do not end this well.

Thieves or those who stumble upon lost phones usually operate on the “finders' keepers” premise.

The Wall Street Journal reports that even new kill switches that lock or wipe out content from lost phones don't deter criminals. They just sell the phones for parts or ship them abroad to be finagled with in distant lands.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, one in 10 of us has been a victim of smartphone theft, and the vast majority of the time (70 percent) we never get them back.

The odds get even worse for retrieval if more than an hour has passed since the loss.

But here's the interesting thing: Most phones are actually not stolen outright. A survey conducted by Lookout/IDG Research in 2014 found that 44 percent of stolen phones are purloined only after owners forget them in public places, usually in broad daylight. The most common places we lose them? Restaurants, nightclubs, at work or on public transit.

Only 14 percent are actually burglarized from a house or vehicle; just 11 percent are stolen from a person.

While most of us would never outright steal a phone, the test of honesty really comes down to what you'd do if you found a lost iPhone or tablet.

So if you ever are confronted with this situation, ask yourself, WWSLCMD: What Would Salt Lake City Man Do?

If an iPad could talk

Recently, my daughter's iPad went on a mysterious journey. On a flight from Los Angeles to Charlotte, North Carolina, she tucked it in the seat back pocket. When she got off the plane, she accidentally left it there.

Hours later, she noticed it missing. She posted its “lost” status on iCloud.

Later, her device locator showed it was back in L.A., and someone had tried to turn it on.

Then, black ops. Nothing.

She gave it up for lost.

Then, about 10 days later she got an email. It was from a man in Milwaukee. He had found her iPad sitting on a table in a coffee shop, saw her “lost” message and contacted her. Not only that, he mailed the wayward iPad back to her.

Another honest man! Thank you, Wisconsin.

Exactly how the intrepid little device escaped the clutches of a casually unethical thief and ended up falling into the hands of a super nice guy at a Milwaukee coffee shop, we'll never know.

But I'm a big believer in karma. If you want your phone or tablet returned to you when you lose it—and you will—be honest when confronted with smartphone temptation.

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