Stop thief! That’s my phone!
It happened in the blink of an eye. One second I was on my dream trip, happily cycling down a busy street in Sumatra, Indonesia. The next, my precious smartphone was gone – snatched from my waist by a man on a motorcycle.
My first reaction was stunned disbelief. Had that really just happened? Next, came a wave of anger. I yelled at the thief in English. I pointed at him, too, but the Indonesians around me didn’t understand and just looked on in confusion. I could only watch helplessly as the thief sped away. At the next intersection, the thief met up with his partner – a man on a second motorcycle. They stopped beside each other and exchanged something – presumably my phone. Then they turned the corner and raced away.
By then, I had gathered my wits. I was pedaling hard on my bicycle, trying desperately to reach the corner before it was too late. But when I got there, the thieves were already out of sight. Onlookers were of no help. Two armed security guards were standing nearby at a local mall. I approached them for assistance, but they had no idea what I was saying.
The disaster was starting to sink in. My phone was gone. Now I had to deal with the consequences.
It was time for damage control. With my unlocked phone in their hands, the thieves had access to my entire online life. I needed to get online fast and change all my passwords before they got in and wreaked havoc.
I sprinted back to my hotel and grabbed my laptop. As quickly as I could, I set about changing passwords. There seemed to be no end to them. I worked fast, but my hands were trembling and I couldn’t think straight. Nearly two hours later, I was done, and now I could go to the police.
The police were sympathetic and did what they could. We even returned to the scene of the crime in a police truck. I demonstrated what happened while the officers videotaped me. A full and detailed report was filed, and that was the end of it. The police made no pretense that I would ever see my phone again. They’d seen it all before.
As the days passed, I went over the events in my mind. I thought about all the things I did wrong and how I could protect myself in the future. But it didn’t change anything. The damage was done. That one second – that blink of an eye – turned my trip from dream to nightmare. I swore it would never happen to me again.
The consequences of having my phone stolen continued for weeks and even months afterwards. It became very apparent that I should have been much more careful. Losing your phone is not something you want to happen while overseas. Here are some of the things that occurred to me in the aftermath that I should have done:
- bring the purchase receipt for your phone with you (copy or original) to show the police
- write down your phone’s serial number and IMEI number and keep them in a safe place
- always secure your phone with a PIN or other lock, or buy a phone with a fingerprint scanner
- consider buying a cheap phone for your trip; leave your good phone in a safe place; use the cheap one for Google Maps while out walking around; keep no personal information on this “burner” phone; then if it is lost or stolen, it isn’t as big a deal
- learn the local word for “thief”; you can shout this word when a thief strikes; shouting “thief” in English doesn’t help you when no one speaks English
- consider clipping a super-loud emergency whistle to your knapsack or keeping one in your pocket; blowing this whistle could help alert people to a thief; I purchased the Windstorm after this theft occurred
The full story of the theft is on this blog. If you’re interested, you can read about it in these posts: