I only had my iPhone for about 3 months and will now be paying off a phone I bought on contact for the next year and 9 months. I couldn’t afford the insurance and needed the phone for work, and since we’ve been so crazy busy I put off backing up all my data and now, with Conference just 3 weeks away I am sans meeting notes, sans over 2000 photos and sans the added convenience of having my office stored on a mobile device.

What got me after the initial shock of losing the phone, was that I had no idea what kind of bureaucratic mode I was supposed to be switching into. All my other phones had been junkey hand-me-downs on pay-as-you-go. The first one stolen, was taken from my home and was the old phone I reserved for travelling, not much loss there. The second one I lost in an armed robbery minutes after it gave its final breath. The last one was my first out the box brand new contract dream phone. I waited almost a year before I finally went to the iStore to pick it out. You get the build-up?

My phone was stolen off my desk at work. I left it with my colleagues in the office and checked it one more time before leaving for a meeting in view of a young man who seemed to be keeping an eye on us and slipped in through the door past me, picked up the phone and slipped back out the door, down the stairs and out the building. Our office is being renovated and with the door open and CCTV cameras taken down for ceiling painting the police are unable to arrest the young man because he isn’t captured on camera with the phone in his hand.

The biggest problem with this event, which in itself only took a few seconds to take place is that I am at the receiving end of judgemental and pitying looks from all agents involved for not having taken out insurance on the phone, which makes me feel a little defensive. I understand that in the event of something taking place which prevents me use of my purchased phone insurance will then free me of dealing with the consequences, and alternately I am now in a position of having to bear the effects. That is fair. It is fair that I have to make good on my contractual obligation to continue payment on the phone. However, how has phone theft become such a commonplace accepted event in our society that I feel like this theft is almost deserved because I did not fork out the extra money for insurance?

I took care of the phone. It had a good quality cover and was protected by a case and baggy which prevented damage from a variety of regular external forces. I did not leave it lying around in public places and did not even go jogging with it. I left it in a secure environment. The security guards at the CCTV control room asked me why I bothered trying to find the person who stole the phone, and the company representative of my service provider was actually quite defensive when I went in asking for help.

Admittedly their reactions were mostly a reflection of our society, and I was pretty upset, but when I explained that I didn’t want to get out of paying my contract but merely wanted advice on procedures, they relaxed and dealt with me compassionately. I really just needed the opportunity to empower myself and not feel like a powerless victim. I needed to know what I could do, not what I couldn’t do. I called the necessary numbers and the service I received was excellent. The operator even expressed regret for my loss. I had to blacklist the device and was advised to put a temporary block on the sim until I can do a sim swap. The IME number on the phone was swapped for an ITC number which was swapped for a case number and so now the wait lies ahead. The police followed up on my (hopeless) case and even came to our building to check up on the CCTV footage and came to my office to explain the case to me in person.

I wish I could say that I felt a tremendous hope that crime in my country wasn’t such a regular everyday event, but I can say that a little compassion, goes a long way and if semi-hysterical people are coming in on a daily basis freaking out about their freshly stolen phones, have an action plan in place to help those people empower themselves with can-do options rather than well-now-you’re-screwed proclamations (I made that deduction myself, thank you!).

So what CAN you do?

  • Grab your phone box
  • Grab a piece of paper and a pen
  • Write down the phone’s unique IME code as well as your phone number (unless you remember it by heart).
  • Grab your ID
  • Call your service provider (or visit your local store)
  • Have the device blacklisted and block your SIM if you have a contract (these actions can be undone if you later realise it was a prank or you discover your phone under your car seat a few days later).
  • Make a case at your local police station and supply the ITC reference number. They will sms you a case number as a reference and if you do have insurance you will need that to make your claim.
  • Thank everyone for their time and help

And thus: Thank you to all the amazing people who brought cups of tea, loaned phones, gave lifts, prayed , helped and encouraged me…and especially my fellow Apple users who kindly kept their iphones on silent the last few days and instagrammed a little less than usual.

This song is for you…