Pinterest Stumbleupon Whatsapp
Ads by Google

If you happen to find an expensive smartphone on the street, youll probably wonder what to do with it. In short: return it! Don’t allow yourself to get attached! Your mission is to re-unite the phone with its rightful owner. It’s the right thing to do, not just because it’s what you would want somebody to do if they found your fancy phone. And it’s what I did.

The other day I found an iPhone on the street. It wasn’t hard to reach the owner. Lucky for me, the phone wasn’t locked and it contained plenty of contacts and recent messages. Within minutes, I was in touch with the owner’s mom and a friend. Less than half an hour later, the owner – who turned out to be just a kid – had his phone back. He said he didn’t even realize it was missing. Returning a lost phone is not always that easy, but that’s no excuse.

In case you are still contemplating how to handle such a situation, let me nudge you into the right direction.

It’s Not Yours

Let’s begin with the obvious: Just because you found something doesn’t mean you own it! Every lost item has a rightful owner. As the person who found it, you actually have a legal obligation to return the lost item to its owner.

Hand and Smpartphone

Consequently…

Ads by Google

Keeping It Is Illegal

Just to make this very clear: Keeping something that doesn’t belong to you is illegal! Depending on your country or state, you could be charged with a felony for larceny by finding or stealing by finding, if you’re caught in possession of an item that was reported as lost. The law typically requires that the finder of an object takes reasonable steps to locate the owner and returns the found object to them. If you fail to make any attempts to return the item, you are committing a crime.

Gavel and Books

In case you are clueless about how to track down the rightful owner, my colleague Kannon wrote a piece on how to return a lost phone How to Return a Lost Phone in Four Easy Steps How to Return a Lost Phone in Four Easy Steps Every year, millions drop their mobile into the unknown. In the US, about 50% of lost devices are returned to their owners. The rest get resold or reused – while thievery may seem eco-friendly and... Read More . If finding the owner is too challenging or time consuming, you can dispense the phone at a local lost and found. Typically, police stations or citizen centers run lost and found offices. And if the owner doesn’t pick the item up for a set amount of time, usually 12 weeks, it passes into your possession, meaning you can keep it and maintain a clear conscience.

Tracking May Be Enabled

The previous owner may have been smart enough to take precautions and installed tracking software to find a lost phone Top Lost Hardware Services to Trace Your Stolen iPhone or Android Top Lost Hardware Services to Trace Your Stolen iPhone or Android Bad things happen. Devices got stolen. Maybe you leave your phone on the table in the pub after you've had a few. Maybe a sneaky trickster like the one on the right there manages to... Read More or tools that activate the camera to identify the person who took the device Identify The Guy Who Stole Your Phone, Tablet Or Laptop Identify The Guy Who Stole Your Phone, Tablet Or Laptop After spending hundreds of dollars on smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops, we all try to be vigilant when it comes to thieves. In most cases you can walk down a street without any trouble; most... Read More . My colleague James Bruce, for example, reported how he retrieved his wife’s stolen iPhone using Find My iPhone How To Use Find My iPhone To Get Your Stolen iPhone Back How To Use Find My iPhone To Get Your Stolen iPhone Back Long story short: my wife had her iPhone stolen when she misplaced it at work the other day. I was instantly able to log into her iCloud account and follow the device all the way... Read More . Now you wouldn’t want a clever geek hunting you down for his precious phone, would you?

Smartphone Navigation

You Don’t Need It

Your life has been fine until you found the phone and it will be fine after you returned it to its rightful owner. Seriously, you don’t need it! You have enough stuff already Thou Shalt Consume: The Story of Consumer Electronics [Feature] Thou Shalt Consume: The Story of Consumer Electronics [Feature] Every year, exhibitions around the world present new high tech devices; expensive toys that come with many promises. They aim to make our lives easier, more fun, super connected, and of course they are status... Read More . And if you want it that badly, earn it.

Collect Your Reward

Some countries and US states have statutes to provide for a finder reward, whether or not the owner of the object has offered one. In Germany, the reward is a percentage of the item’s value; 5% for devices costing up to €500 (approximately $665) and 3% for everything worth more than that. If there is no legal requirement to pay a reward, you can just hope for a friendly gesture.

Make Someone’s Day

Gratitude is one of the greatest rewards to receive because it makes you feel valued; even more so if it comes from a total stranger. Apart from a cell phone plan, contacts, and other important data, the phone probably contained a lot of personal memories, including text messages and photos. Some things cannot be retrieved or replaced and it might just be the time to configure a new phone. They will be so happy and relieved they won’t have to go through this all over again!

Hands

Be The Change You Wish To See In The World

Imagine you lost your beloved smartphone. Would you sympathize with someone who kept it because they really like it? Well, you would probably curse them and rightfully so!

Dominos

You may not believe in karma, but if you watch closely, you will see that what goes around really comes around. In the fate department, it’s clearly better to pay it forward than to feed negativity.

What Are You Going To Do?

Are you going to return the lost phone How to Return a Lost Phone in Four Easy Steps How to Return a Lost Phone in Four Easy Steps Every year, millions drop their mobile into the unknown. In the US, about 50% of lost devices are returned to their owners. The rest get resold or reused – while thievery may seem eco-friendly and... Read More (if you found one)? And if your answer is no, why not?

Have you ever lost or found something and what happened?

Image credits: Hand and Phone via Shutterstock, Gavel and Books via Shutterstock, Smartphone Navigation via Shutterstock, Hands via Shutterstock, Dominos via Shuttestock

  1. Ayush Pathak
    August 29, 2016 at 9:06 am

    I found a lost phone (iPhone 4S), a phone which one of my enemies also lost a while ago. It is highly likely to be his because i saw his contacts and they match up to his old phone. However the last time i returned something to him he promptly blamed me and made the whole grade label me a thief. How should i return it?

    PS there are some inappropriate wallpaper images and internet search histories so teachers aren't my best bet

    • Tina Sieber
      August 29, 2016 at 10:08 am

      Can you just turn the phone off and return it via lost & found items? That way you can stay anonymous. Or you could ask a friend to return it to him without mentioning you.

  2. anthony
    June 30, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    i found a phone i honestly was going to keep it but instead i returned it to its owner but when i was planning to keep it i took of the case that was on the phone and now the owner is saying that i need to buy him a new case is that right.

    • Tina Sieber
      June 30, 2016 at 6:37 pm

      Why would you take the case? Did you keep it or why does the owner ask for a replacement? Either way, you had no right to mess with the phone, it's not yours! Geez, what are you thinking!?

      On the other hand, the owner should be glad you returned the phone, case included or not. I don't think they can force you to buy a new case. After all, you returned the phone they were negligent enough to lose.

      Besides, who can say that you took the case? Shame on you for doing that, though.

    • anthony
      June 30, 2016 at 6:48 pm

      it was a bus drivers phone they have cameras inside the bus so it will be very clear that i took the case i'm assuming but i actually left it behind on the bus ....

    • Tina Sieber
      June 30, 2016 at 7:00 pm

      Well, if you suspect they can prove that you found the phone and removed the case, just be upfront and honest about what you did. You obviously had a change of heart and felt bad for wanting to keep it. They will also see that you found and didn't steal it, right? So they are lucky you took it and gave it back, rather than someone else keeping it. Good luck!

  3. Tek
    June 17, 2016 at 1:01 am

    I don't mind to return and no body claim what is my solution trash in Garbage????

    • Tina Sieber
      June 17, 2016 at 2:02 am

      If you can't access messages or phone numbers to reach someone who might know the person who owns the phone, then all you can do is bring it to a Lost & Found. Depending on where you are, this could be with the city or the police. It might even be legally mandatory to hand in valuable things you found in a public space. If nobody claims the phone, you can keep the phone.

      I once found a fair amount of cash at a Post Office and -- because the Post Office didn't want to hold it -- brought it to the Lost & Found at the nearest police station. Nobody claimed it and after 3 months I got it all back.

  4. sam
    March 7, 2016 at 5:54 am

    i found a phone and i kept it for a while and i thought it wasnt mine so i didnt use it for abt 3 months. I dont know what to do

  5. G.G.
    January 9, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    So I'm in a quandry...while walking my dog I found a nice smart phone on the ground. Immediately tried to call the numbers in Recents, service turned off but otherwise phone appears fine. Posted on CL lost/found and sent a couple texts from my own phone to "mom" and "dad" from contacts, telling them that I'd be happy to help reunite the owner with their phone. No reply. Then I opened photos, to see if I recognized any of my neighbors. And found a huge number of really gross, um, very "personal" photos that I wished I'd never seen. Now I hope it's NOT one of my neighbors, and I have no interest in meeting the owner. I'm thinking I'll stop by the police station and let them have it instead. Ugh, why are some people so gross!

    • Tina Sieber
      January 9, 2016 at 6:19 pm

      Dropping it off at the police's lost & found is a good idea. If someone should contact you after all, you can let them know where it is and you don't have to meet them personally. Some countries have laws regarding rewards and the lost & found office might handle that for you. Thank you for being honest and good luck!

    • G.G.
      January 10, 2016 at 1:38 am

      Thanks for your advice; it helped me decide to go ahead and drop it off at the police station this afternoon. I feel better now, because the officer I turned it in to looked through the photos and pointed out that, among the hundreds of photos on the phone, there appeared to be 4 types of pictures that jumped out at him: pictures/videos of a naked man in various sexual poses and with various partners; photos of very small children (some of whom were in bed with the same man in some of the photos, although not necessarily in obviously sexual poses--at least not as the officer described it to me); photos of the same man and some others posing with guns; and screen shots of local maps that appeared to be GPS tracking of someone's activities. The officer said he wasn't sure what that all points to but "it doesn't look like this phone belongs to anyone you want to meet." So I'm very glad I gave it to the police--if anyone contacts me looking for it, I'll just say very nicely that it is available for pickup from the police department. Many thanks for your advice!

  6. Valerie O' Brien
    January 5, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    Hi my phone was stolen in Chicgo on NYE. Using a tracker I was able find the address of the phone and I was able lock my phone and make its only use to contact me on another phone. The people who have my phone have been in contact with me and will return it provided that I "reward them for finding my phone'.

    I am willing to pay out to get my phone back as the pictures are invaluable. I am just wondering does anyone know of a way I can ensure that if I do transfer the money that If they dont post it, I am able get my money back. I have been in touch with the local police and they told me they can't do anything unless I am present which is impossible as I am a 3 hour flight away

    please someone help!.

  7. Noob Learning
    November 8, 2015 at 6:02 am

    I found this Iphone 6 in the ground two hours ago. From notifications, I got to call the owner and she told me "In 20 min I'll be there". She kept calling me from time to time while I was waiting for her. One and a half hours later she appears, She frowns, ask "Where is my phone?", unlocks it phone and turns around, back to her car. After I say "You're welcome" to her, she answers me a forced "thanks" and gets in her car.

    IS IT THAT DIFFICULT TO JUST F***ING SMILE AND SAY "THANK YOU"?

    Damn, did that woman deserve her phone back?

    • Tina Sieber
      November 8, 2015 at 10:52 am

      What a rude person. She should have been so happy and grateful!

      Thank you for doing the right thing!

    • Simon
      April 11, 2016 at 4:36 am

      I would of said thank you at least 3 times...I cant imagine how horrifying it would be to lose my phone. Please dont let a bad experience stop you from returning a lost phone you find because its the best thing you could and the person who lost the phone will appreciate it more than you know.

  8. frank
    May 11, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Why not just toss it in the BIG BLUE mail boxs and let someone else get blamed for taking it ???

  9. Jeremy Delapaz
    March 18, 2015 at 1:44 am

    no. im keeping the phone!

    • Vinitdesaii
      March 18, 2015 at 1:46 am

      no sell it on ebay

  10. Alex I Guess
    December 10, 2014 at 12:38 am

    I found a phone, called the owner he was very rude like "You should of brought it to me" and "Well I dont have time to come get just give it to me" and when I made him come to me he didnt say anything, he just grabbed it an left.
    I should have kept it

    • Tina
      December 11, 2014 at 9:37 am

      You did the right thing and that's enough. A 'thank you' would have been nice of course. He'll eventually understand that what you did was very nice - the next time he loses something.

      Although this guy turned out to be a jerk, had you not returned it, you might have wondered who the person was you didn't help out and what an a** you are for keeping their phone.

  11. praveen
    March 9, 2014 at 8:21 am

    I just lost my brand new smart phone.. :( its my 2 weeks worth of pay..Was having quick lunch and was thinking about my work meeting. Must have left it on my side and forgot to pick it up. I quickly called about 10 mins later but it was switched off.. I depserately searched for it and asked people sitting around but no luck.. I was hoping someone will call me but its been 2 days ..I hope whoever took my phone read this. I returned a lost phone about a year ago , I really hope karma works... I have so many personal info stored in my phone, I even sent a sms saying $200 reward.. I am loosing faith on people , What are we turning into..

  12. sarah
    February 14, 2014 at 5:11 am

    i just lost my phone, i hope the one who found it, will return it back to me.

  13. Mr Gunga Din
    February 4, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Can you re-write this so that the Bulgarians and Romanians understand this, I don't think they follow English law or care much about it.

    • Tina S
      February 4, 2014 at 12:23 pm

      Many English people have trouble with caring or following the law, too. Might be a systematic issue, don't you think?

  14. Zinaw Asres
    January 28, 2014 at 1:26 am

    I found an HTC One phone in a city train in Stuttgart today. The owner called after a few hours and I gave it back to her. It felt so good doing that.

  15. Scruff
    December 2, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    The phone I found and returned earned me a big bag of beer and stopped a massive family argument in its tracks! So hurrah all round

    • Tina S
      December 2, 2013 at 1:32 pm

      Awesome! And thanks for sharing!

  16. lastpersonalive
    October 18, 2013 at 2:49 am

    that can reach the owner of that phone* oops i should proofread.

  17. lastpersonalive
    October 18, 2013 at 2:48 am

    i do what you did whenever i find a phone, i call the contact listed as 'mom' because i figure that is the person that can reach their phone, and then i turn it into the store closest to where i found it. if you turn it into customer service they'll hold onto it for the person. i'll call the parent/leave a message if i have to, tell them where i found it and where i'm dropping it off at. it always makes people happy and i have my own phone. i don't want someone elses. i know how bad it would suck for me for MY phone to be gone and no one turn it in, to lose all my contacts i don't have backed up, my apps, everything i have saved, so i do the same for others.

  18. sl0j0n
    October 16, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    Hello, all.
    This is what people overlook about the Scriptures.
    Over 3500 years ago, Moses wrote about this very thing.
    The main point is that it DOES NOT belong to you.
    You KNOW if something is yours,
    and you know when its NOT!
    The second point is, what would you want the person that finds YOUR 'lost phone' to do with it?
    The ONLY 'reasonable' thing to do is to make every effort to find the owner, AND return their property to them.
    Really, would you want anyone to do anything else with your phone?
    Just because you 'misplaced' something,
    does NOT change the 'ownership' of that thing.
    Ifs its in your home, is it still yours?
    Of course it is, and its still yours,
    no matter WHERE its misplaced or lost.
    If you had amnesia,
    would that 'give' your name to the next person that claims it?
    Of course not.
    Yours is yours, and mine is mine.
    Yours is not mine, and mine is not yours.

    Have a GREAT day, neighbors!

  19. john doe
    September 30, 2013 at 3:22 am

    not going to return it. going to give it to the police. might be a drug dealers phone.

    • Tina S
      December 2, 2013 at 1:32 pm

      That's OK too.

  20. cristiano007
    September 29, 2013 at 3:47 am

    I definitely would return any kind of mobile phone I found, because all the god reasons you listed and also because... I was returned a lost phone once and it feels so wonderful for yourself and so grateful about the other person. I left the phone dropped in a restaurant and a nearby guest picked it. He saw the main screen with a family picture (that's a good tip) and checked the contacts, found one labeled Home, another labeled Wife (another good tip), make some tries and ready. Ok, he was some kind of executive and his secretary did the boring part, but still was very nice on his part. I didn't want to be rude offering money so I bought a big box of chocolate candies to the secretary, she was very happy. I never met the good man, but I left him many "thank you"s and praise for his integrity and concern. In conclusion, a very rewarding experience for all. And doesn`t matter how cheap the phone looks, it's always important for the owner in some way. Mine was cheap but the one I could afford at the moment, and it made very nice 1 mpx family pictures! . An if it's expensive and your little devil is tempting you, remember that it will take more illegal actions and many lies to use the phone and keep your dirty secret safe, and those kind of things always explode in your face sooner or later. The other option, trash the phone again, is so stupid and evil, shame on you if you consider that, return the damn thing! Hah.

  21. Lori
    September 28, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    We were tourists in Rome, visiting St. Peter's Square. My son found a digital camera. We looked around to see if anyone looked like they were trying to find something they lost. Nope. We tried to find an information booth. Nope. Thought about giving it to someone else who might be in a better position to find the owner, but thought that person might just decide to keep it. We saw a group of nun's and thought, well they are not going to steal it. But, they didn't speak English & we didn't speak Italian. Our gesturing didn't go anywhere. We thought about just leaving it where we found it, but again worried that someone else would find it & keep it. Before we left we wrote a note on a scrap of paper & as we were going back to the States the next day, we wrote that we found a camera & put wrote down our home telephone #. We used a band-aid and stuck it to a post near where we found it. Later that evening we got a call from the person who had lost it. He had called our home telephone # & my husband gave him the # where we were staying. We made arrangements to meet to return the camera (which he had identified). He was so grateful & happy. The camera's card had all their honeymoon photo's on it. We declined a reward, but he insisted and gave my son a 50 euro bill. We felt good. My husband was confused.

  22. Dominic Go
    September 28, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    I just lost my phone a week ago, and i tried to contact my phone and geez, every time i do he hangs up, and he like changed his no. twice!? I'm debating on whether or not to take it back. Good thing i installed tracking apps o' plenty and Tasker, but is it really worth taking it back though?

  23. Ben B
    September 26, 2013 at 6:19 am

    wish the person who stole my daughter's iPhone in Bayonne recently had read this! Because the phone was not bought from her service provider neither they nor the police will/ can do anything apparently in case it's an insurance fraud!

  24. Becky B
    September 25, 2013 at 3:21 am

    Last year my phone disappeared while I was in the emergency room. Exactly 11 and 1/2 months later I received a phone call and my phone had been found. It was in the lost and found department of the hospital and a bored employee charged it and got in contact with me. I had already replaced the missing phone, but I sent him a $25 gift card as a token of my appreciation.

    • Tina S
      September 25, 2013 at 4:13 pm

      This goes to show that it's always worth checking the Lost & Found. As the many, many comments above show, there are honest people in this world. And it was super nice of you to send them a little reward!

  25. Aashish Niroula
    September 25, 2013 at 1:41 am

    About two years ago, I was on my motorcycle....the people on the scooter ahead of me dropped a Nokia XpressMusic...forgot the model. I had to literally guess the way they rode to and find them. They had stopped after finding out about the phone. And when I returned the phone....could see the happiness and how relieved they were. Felt honest and happy on my part too.

  26. Jay Haskel
    September 24, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Sadly, there should be no need for such an article. It's not yours...return it...period.

  27. Robert B
    September 24, 2013 at 6:24 am

    A few year ago I was visiting my sister who lives near Asheville, North Carolina. I and my service dog went on a drive up on the Blue Ridge Parkway that goes past Asheville and I found a cell phone at one of the scenic over looks. Fortunately it was not locked and still had a charge so I called the entry for Mom. When doing so I found out that the owner of the cell phone their daughter and her family were from New Orleans and victims of hurricane Katrina and had lost everything. She and her family were staying with a family of strangers from Asheville who very graciously opened their home for a family who were refugees as a result of the hurricane. I gave her mom my cell number because the lost phone was about to run out of charge. A few minutes after speaking with the mom I got a phone call from the phones owner. She was on the same type of sight seeing afternoon as I and were several miles ahead of me so we made arrangements to meet later that evening at a local restaurant which we did. When we met she was in tears and told me that when she and her husband discovered the loss of the phone they at first became overwhelmed with a feeling of hopelessness because all of her friends and family who had also been displaced because of the hurricane phone numbers were on the phone as well as all the contact information for insurance companies and FEMA. Then she could not believe that the family they were staying with and who had taked them on the sight seeing trip received a phone call from her mom telling her that someone had found their phone. All I can say is that it felt really good that I had done the right thing and that by returning the phone helped a hurting family.

    • Tina S
      September 25, 2013 at 4:18 pm

      Thank you for sharing your story, Robert! This reminds me of the notion to always be nice to other people because you don't know their struggles in life.

  28. Anonymous
    September 24, 2013 at 3:22 am

    Very Good Article!

    Good point to remind us all about " just because it is lost does not mean it is yours".

    Sometimes we forget the right thing and it is good to get periodic reminders in this fast-paced world, that some things are constant; "Doing the right thing!". THANKS for the reminder.

  29. Mike
    September 24, 2013 at 3:18 am

    I once found a cell phone in the back seat of a taxi. I called the owner and he said that I should FEDEX it to him. When I asked for his account number he seemed very annoyed but gave it to me. It turned out be be one of the biggest hedge funds in the country. They really have a warped sense of entitlement.

    • Tina S
      September 25, 2013 at 4:32 pm

      Mike,

      You have to understand that some people are caught up in their world. Actually, it is very hard for most of us to put ourselves into someone else's shoes.

      So for this very busy and affluent business person it was irritating that you would not use the quickest and most efficient route to send him his phone that he obviously needed so urgently. He had no concept of someone else's situation, i.e. maybe not having a FEDEX account or not having an assistant who can process the parcel or having limited funds.

      Unfortunately, he also had no concept of sincere courtesy and kindness. Guess it's a common breed of people in this kind of environment. We can only hope that they're too busy to have children or that whoever gets to raise them teaches them a different view of the world.

  30. Jaack
    September 24, 2013 at 3:04 am

    Returning a phone is the true test of INTEGRITY! It is the right thing to do even when no one is watching you. But you know what you did. Want the cops knocking on your door looking for the missing phone?
    Could you afford to replace an expensive cell phone? No, what about the real owner's finances? You both may be as poor as I. Get it back to its true owner and make someone's day!

  31. Lloyd
    September 24, 2013 at 12:15 am

    You have forgotten perhaps the most important reason. If it belongs to a drug dealer, he may just kill you to get it back.

    • Tina S
      September 24, 2013 at 11:53 pm

      Is that a scare tactic or has this actually happened to someone? Just wondering. On the other hand, I would not even want to meet a drug dealer to hand over the phone...

    • Lloyd
      September 25, 2013 at 4:22 am

      Primarily a jest, Tina. Cop humor. However, never go alone to meet anyone you don't know anywhere for any reason. Even if your motives are pure, you don't know about theirs and it's always safer to be hyper suspicious than to help anyone who may think of you as a victim before you even meet. It's a rough world out there and getting rougher by the day. The safest route would be to take it to police headquarters and turn it in at the police property room.
      They will (eventually) trace it to the proper owner and notify them to come get it. This precludes any possibility of reward, in fact the property room clerk may even scowl at you for interrupting his crossword, but you can be about 99.9% certain that he won't attack you.

    • Tina S
      September 25, 2013 at 4:51 pm

      The police property room reminds me of a fun story. I found something I wanted to turn in. I was new to the city, it was a beautiful day, and I decided to walk to explore a part of town I had not seen, yet. That was my first experience walking down Hastings Street in Vancouver.

      The police station is at the intersection of Hastings and Main Street and ironically that's the worst part of town. Homeless people, alcoholics, and drug addicts occupy the sidewalk, trying to sell their stuff to make a little money. In bright daylight it probably wasn't dangerous at all, but it sure felt uncomfortable.

      When I returned to pick up the item a few weeks later (nobody had claimed it, meaning I could keep it), I took the bus.

      Anyway, I get what you're saying and I'm not encouraging people to be completely naive. I *try* to see the best in people, while being prepared for the worst and I think this world would be a better place if more people made an effort to trust one another.

    • Lloyd
      September 25, 2013 at 7:22 pm

      I couldn't agree more about the world being a better place if we could all trust one another. However, after spending 30 years as an urban cop in a fairly large midwestern city I found that a disturbingly large number of people translate "trusting" as "pigeon." I'm 82 now and have been away from policing for many years......yet still in the wee hours of the morning when I can't find sleep no matter where I look for it, I often find myself weeping for people I didn't even know whose only mistake was trusting. It's a popular fiction that cops aren't affected by what they see....based on only the imagination of modern screen play writers.

  32. SuperStar3000
    September 23, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    Yes - I would return the phone... NOT because I am concerned with GPS tracking or the prospect of being thrown in prison for life - but because I would like to think I live in a world where returning things to their owners, is the natural way that things should work.

    Some might call it "civilization" or "a culture of decency".

    I am also grateful that I don't live such a low-life, that I would actually need to rely on a "found-phone", but as I suppose there are those creatures who would delight in taking owership of a phone that I might have lost - I keep regular backups of all data and numbers, and maintain replacement insurance.

    That way - if someone wants to activate my lost phone, it will not be my problem - the phone has automatically become the property of the insurance company, so anyone who chooses to activate it, will be challenging the legal resources of the insurance underwriters.

    • Tina S
      September 25, 2013 at 4:52 pm

      Great advice there!

  33. Claudia
    September 23, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    We once found a forgotten phone in a pay-phone booth, of all places, back when built in cameras were the new thing. We returned it, but it was not a nice experience, the owner's husband called, he kept us waiting for him to call again as it was about to get dark and we were pressed for time.
    He was rather bossy and did not seem grateful at all. We finally had to walk somewhere nearby and hand it over to someone whom we weren't sure was the right person, since he insisted we hand her the phone so he could make sure it was the person we were supposed to leave it with. We just heard some not too reassuring speech on our end, she did give us 5 dollars or something like that, but we left feeling weird about the whole thing.
    If I ever find anything on the street again I wont touch it, since it's not mine, and I don't feel like mothering ungrateful strangers.
    By the way, on the karma side of things, we had some drunk teenagers break into our apartment and steal our camera, which I need to make a living. Have not been able to replace it with anything near to what we had after 5 years.

    • Tina S
      September 25, 2013 at 4:53 pm

      Sorry to hear about your bad experience, Claudia. Hopefully, the other stories here will change your mind next time you find something. I think most people are thankful if someone is kind enough to return something they have lost.

  34. Amber
    September 23, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    I found an Iphone a few months ago. I had been wanting an Iphone so badly, I practically shrieked with joy when I stumbled upon this one. I took it home and stared at it lovingly for 2 days - it had been off service for more than a year and I was sure it would now be mine. Then I discovered how to track the owner through their gmail account. I'm ashamed that I even thought to keep it . . . but i realized that i just couldn't do it. If i did, I would be a thief. :( Sadly I contacted the owner, who in turn was so grateful.

    The next day I rewarded myself. I still can't afford an Iphone, but I'm now the happy owner of an Itouch 5th generation. Half the price, no service fee and the reason I wanted the phone to begin with, is part of the Itouch 5's package: the camera!

    I sleep better when I'm doing the "right thing." And so will you.

    • Tina S
      September 25, 2013 at 4:54 pm

      Thank you for sharing your story, Amber! It's inspiring and I'm glad you don't regret doing the right thing. :)

  35. Mary Lee FOley
    September 23, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Yes, I would return the phone if I found it. That said, my nephew's was stolen (as in: apartment was vandalized.) He located it but police said they had "no probable cause" to enter the building and he was out of luck.

  36. Krzysztof B
    September 23, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    I have found someone's phone 3 times. And always returned it. My conscience would bug me all the time about it, if I wouldn't. I hope that when I will lose mine phone there will be an honest finder who will return the phone to me.

    Great article. In fact, the main reason why I returned found phones, which was better than mine, was the feeling that it was right to do so. And there was no other option for me.

  37. Mad Dog
    September 23, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    "...you actually have a legal obligation to return the lost item to its owner."

    I believe this law was overturned in the case of Finders Keepers -vs - Losers Weepers.

  38. Dr. Pope
    September 23, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    My wife and I were walking in Monterey, and saw a brand new (at the time) iPhone 5 sitting face down. We couldn't believe it! I immediately took it to the closest store and told them what had happened. The woman I gave it to seemed like she was going to keep it. Oh well, no number/contact information because of the lock. I did my best.

  39. Me Myselfandi
    September 23, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Not saying I wouldn't return a smart-phone or anything else if I could possibly figure out who owned it, but "you actually have a legal obligation to return the lost item to its owner," is a bit of a stretch isn't it? I don't live in Latham, Mass., where Jerry Seinfeld and Co. got locked up in the final episode for not aiding a car-jacking victim...
    You have a legal obligation not to keep it, not one to return it. Honestly, I think in most US major metropolitan areas, a missing phone would most likely be written off by the owner and having to buy a new one and restore it is likely frustrating, but accepted. I personally enjoy the challenge of reuniting them as well as the fulfillment when it happens, particularly when they've already given up on it. I enjoy being an agent of restoration of people's faith in humanity, mostly because I have so little myself.

    • Tina S
      September 25, 2013 at 4:59 pm

      It depends on where you live. It is a legal obligation in Germany. Since nobody can be expected to track down the owner of an object, lost & found offices collect items and you actually have to turn in found objects within two business days. The situation in the US may be different; I tried my best to find out about the legal side and what I found might not be 100% correct (anymore).

  40. Kobi
    September 23, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Hi,

    Great Article! I think not only is returning any lost item to its owner the right thing to do, but if it was you who lost your cell phone or anything you would hope for the same thing in return! Right?

    My daughter had her cell stolen at school, right out of the back of her backpack while walking down the hall to class.

    The next day a boy who she knows, saw an older boy using her phone (with its floral case). The younger boy went up to the older boy and actually confronted him, said he knew that wasn't his phone and took it away from the older kid and brought it to the school office. The office called me and my daughter got her phone back! I thought that was not only nice but brave! I gave the kid $20 to be nice and he was thrilled!

    Whether it's a phone or anything else you're right. It's not yours, it doesn't belong to you! I guess if you happen to be in an area where no one is around and you find $ on the ground people would take it right? If there's someone standing nearby chances are that person dropped it.

    I try to do the right thing and I teach my daughter the same.

    Thanks!

    • Tina S
      September 25, 2013 at 5:00 pm

      That is such a cool story, Kobi! Thank you for sharing it. What a brave kid!

  41. Rob H
    September 23, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    I got a call from my son's phone while he was away with a group of friends, someone had found it in a theme park at the bottom of a ball-pool. I sent them a small "thank-you" and they put it in the post.
    I didn't tell him when he came home but asked why he'd not responded to my text messages - I got an evasive answer. It was clear he didn't want to admit to having lost it. I managed to play him along for a few days - things like "can I borrow your phone for an hour my battery is flat" - "No I must have left it at Ollies last night". In the end I had to end his misery - up to a point: "What's a kid of your age doing in a ball pool?" And of course 5 years on if he can't find his phone I just ask if he's been in a ball pool recently.

  42. Chris S
    September 23, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    I was with my teenage son and as were were driving along saw a cell phone in the street a about 5 years ago. He had left it on top of his corvette and drove off. I stopped and my son got out and picked it up, it was in a leather case. Took it home and waited..a.bout an hour later the phone rang, I answered and it was the owner hoping someone had it and would answer. Told him my address and he came over and picked it up. Turns out inside the case there was also money. Which was still in there. He wanted to give us a reward but I refused it. Thought it was a good example for my son.
    About a week later in the mail a card arrived with a lovely note from the phone owner expressing his thanks and a gift card for $50.
    I also found a purse in a grocery store cart. The owner probably loaded groceries in a hurry and forgot the purse. I took it into the store and gave it to the service desk employees. They took my name and phone number. Called me several hours later to let me know the owner had come back frantic looking for it and wanted to give me a reward, again I refused it, told them to tell the owner if she ever found anything I would hope she would do the same thing. Pay it forward so to speak.

    • Tina S
      September 25, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      I love the idea of paying it forward. This has become such an undervalued concept in our society. Yet when you think about it, we benefit from it every day... Thank you for keeping it alive, Chris!

  43. Glen
    September 23, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Love all the reasons stated...

    the biggest reason for me is :

    PEOPLE: don't you get it yet?

    YOU reap what you sow!!!!!!

    • James B
      September 24, 2013 at 8:27 am

      Except for if you're a banker, or CEO, or footballer, or any other profession paid an obscenely large amount , in which case you reap what everyone else sows.

  44. Ellen
    September 23, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    I found a checkbook in the street one day; it turned out to be a neighbor's who inadvertently put it on the roof of his car and drove off. Of course I returned it, it is the right thing to do! However, I once found a $50 bill in a plain envelope blowing around on the sidewalk and I kept it because I wouldn't know where to start looking for its owner. THAT I considered Manna From Heaven!

  45. CF
    September 23, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    I find it sad that this article needed to be written.

  46. Echo
    September 23, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    I myself would return it asap. Once after leaving my cell on the counter in error at Walmart and ... within minutes I realized it - went back to get it ... it was gone - Poof. I used my friends phone to call my own lost phone and the culprit answered it right off but said he liked it and didn't think I would see it again then he suggested I pay him for it so I kept him talking as though I had left the store already but pretended I was interested in his 'sell it back to me idea' while my friend and I walked quickly through the store searching for a man on a cell. We omitted the girly dept's 1st off and sure enough found him in Electronics with his kids. Yes ... his kids ... right there with him listening to his side of the conversation. Great parenting huh? While we continued to speak I walked right up to him and all the while still negotiating price ... He finally saw me approaching - figured out quickly it was me and then held my cell close to his chest (he was way bigger than me too) but I went close to him looking at him in the eyes without a blink ... then I asked his kids if they were having a good time at the Walmart and when one of them stared to reply to me he looked at her to say Shhhhh and I reached with force and grabbed it back from his tight hand. He smirked at me then turned his back on me. I made a remark about being an example for his kids and he ignored me. My friend and I left simply bewildered by his behavior. It was not the most expensive phone but I had no extra funds to replace it so easily. I myself am not a good thief. Makes me feel guilty inside for a long time thinking what a loser I must be to have resorted to such an act vs: getting/earning something on my own. I think returning an item is the right thing to do for myself. I sure hope the majority of 'others' feel the same in today's crazy - give me I want it kind of world. That's my little cell phone story and I still have the same phone ... years later. :) Echo

    • Tina S
      September 25, 2013 at 5:09 pm

      Wow, that's an incredible story. Some people! It was so smart of you to keep him on the phone and super brave to claim the phone back. I hope the kids were ashamed of their dad and won't ever be like him.

  47. Woolie
    September 23, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    This happened to me on the weekend. I was wandering through the clothing section of the local grocery store & noticed an iphone on a shelf by some gloves. The gloves had been making prank calls, but I removed the phone from their clutches... luckily it was not locked, and the screen was showing two missed calls from home. I called this number and spoke to the owner's teenage son, who then described his Mom to me, and mentioned that she was frantic, and was also on her way back to the store already to look for it. Unfortunately my peas were melting and I had to get home, so I left the phone at the store's service desk for her. I assume they had a happy reunion; I know that I would if the situation had been reversed!

  48. Rick
    September 23, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Thank you, Tina, for reminding us of the RIT thing to do!

    Rick

  49. Cristina T
    September 23, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Almost a year ago I found a lost smartphone. It was kinda hard to track down the owner because the smartphone had lock screen and the microsd card didn't had any contact information. But then, after minutes searching between pictures of unknown teenagers, I found one folder with those unintentional printscreens, and one had the owner's mother phone number on it. The mother was thrilled to know that I was willing to return it. It gave me the idea to have a similar printscreen on my microsd with the message "If found, please call".

    • Tina S
      September 25, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      That's a cool idea. Thanks for sharing, Cristina!

  50. DH
    September 23, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Best Reason of all? Because it's the RIGHT thing to do. Geesh!

    Oh, and you can lose your job over it like one fellow did when he took it from the restaurant he worked at and the patron told the manager the neighborhood it was pinging from - since it wasn't a place he wanted to visit (rough side of town). Patron got his phone back the next day and a particular waitperson was never there again.

    • Mike Klubok
      September 23, 2013 at 9:20 pm

      It is probably the best reason.

  51. Deborah
    September 23, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    This recently happened to me! A friend and I try to walk at work for a half hour as many days as possible. We were walking the perimeter of the parking lot and we found a smartphone that was almost out of power. It wasn't locked, but the battery was almost dead. We looked around to see if anyone was actively looking for a phone (if they had just dropped it). Not seeing anyone, my friend took it back to work and found a compatible charger, got it back to life, called the number under "HOME" in the contacts, and the owner's wife was soooooooooo happy to hear that someone found the phone. The owner jumped in his car to come get it, and the phone and owner had a happy reunion. No reward was offered, and none was expected. We just hope that someday, if necessary, someone does the same for us!

  52. Kenneth S
    September 23, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    It is refreshing to see a corporate entity espousing ethical behavior. Not all companies are unethical, but taking a proactive stance is certainly good to see.

    • Tina S
      September 23, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      I'm really just a freelance writer, not a corporate entity. :)

  53. Rusty Anvil
    September 23, 2013 at 2:46 am

    If you lose a phone, don't expect that a business will try to find you. They may only toss found phones in a box, making no further effort to find the owner. When my wife returned to the store where she lost her phone, they had a large box under the counter with a lot of 'found' phones in it. It was only when I called her number, and it rang, that they were able to find it among all the dozens of others in the box.

  54. TM
    September 21, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    I return ANYTHING I find. Everyone should put their phone on "ice". (I.C.E.= In Case of Emergency) add it to your contacts with phone number of someone to contact. I always had my mom's number there. Anyone who looks up ICE in contact list can call that number and that person can tell you who the phone belongs to. Police and EMT's can also do that incase they find you unconscious in a car after a bad accident, etc.

  55. Bhavani Chandra U
    September 21, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    I may return the phone. But if I don't its because I lost tow phones already, nobody return it to me. then Why me? But you are right though.

  56. Iyekeoretin A
    September 21, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Yes I will return it because I know how its feels to lost my smartphone. it is a part of me and its hurt if i misplace mine and it is not returned to me...

  57. iftikhar
    September 21, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    i will return it as early as possible because i hope the same if i lost my phone.

    • Jean-Francois Messier
      March 8, 2015 at 7:17 pm

      Just what I would hope for. So I see that I am not the only one who believes in good samaritans.

  58. Some guy
    September 21, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I found a Samsung galaxy s3. I re flashed it and loaded a buncha games on it ;oD

  59. Mikkel Petersen
    September 21, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Why do my comments disappear?...

    • Tina S
      September 21, 2013 at 4:41 pm

      They don't, they are just queued for moderation. Your comment might have contained a keyword we filter or, more likely, it exceeded the maximum length. It's visible now.

  60. Mikkel Petersen
    September 21, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Every time I've found something and returned it, I've barely gotten a thank you.
    And one guy actually accused me of stealing his camera, and giving it back out of bad conscience. When all I really did was handing it to him after finding it in the movie theatre I worked in.

    I've also recently lost an iPhone in a club, with tracking enabled, but the phone was already turned off when I realized it.
    I've had two scooters stolen, and a number of burglaries 5 in total.

    So if your idea of karma is worth something, it looks like I will get shit either way, and might as well just keep what I find.

    • molly_dog
      September 24, 2013 at 9:00 pm

      I'm truly sorry you've had such bad luck but that's no excuse to join the ranks of the sleazy. They have enough members in good standing. If you're any kind of decent person you don't return something you found out of an expectation of reward. Like Tina said, you return it because it's simply the right thing to do.

      I learned an awfully long time ago if you count on people you invariably get let down. But, again, that's no excuse to become a jagoff yourself. Just my 2¢

      And to "some guy" below, I truly hope you're being facetious. If not, you're pretty pathetic

    • Anonymous
      January 23, 2015 at 7:05 pm

      I agree. I never own a nice phone and I been nice and returnful all my life. But if one time I happen to find nice phone and I can't figure out the disable or how to find a way to return it easily, I don't think life will get better or worse for me, based on karma, because wat if I win tons of money or find lots of work using a phone and, deservingly don't, live a slightly or much better life in result (especially compared to how shitty life has been vein nice guy finishing last)

    • Anonymous
      January 23, 2015 at 7:09 pm

      Bein a nice guy finish last rathr, and I meant deservingly not deservingly don't lol.

  61. Bobby L
    September 21, 2013 at 9:11 am

    yes i would return it.my wife works at denny,s.and people leave their phones behind alot.so instead of leaving it in lost and found if the phone is on she will call people and find the ownerusually before the end of her shift.my android fell out of my car at the market before.and the person who found it returned it to me the same way.so remember.due unto others as you would have them do unto you.i believe they call that karma

  62. Nell
    September 21, 2013 at 7:40 am

    If the person who found mineis reading this..take note

  63. Jaime Brown
    September 21, 2013 at 7:22 am

    That feeling good is better than cash reward. I have found a few phones and just ended up phoning someone on their phone list, it has worked every time:)

  64. k saikumar
    September 21, 2013 at 7:02 am

    I found a blackberry phone on my way and returned to owner he was very thankful to me

  65. BeyondtheTech
    September 21, 2013 at 5:33 am

    You know, OS X allows you to put text on the lock screen. iOS should do the same without having to throw it into Lost Mode remotely from the iCloud website or the Find My iPhone app.

    • Mike
      September 21, 2013 at 6:44 am

      Just photograph your business card or write your info and photo it and use it as your screen!

  66. BeyondtheTech
    September 21, 2013 at 5:28 am

    I wouldn't be surprised if stolen or lost non-activateable iPhones turn into spare parts sales. While the motherboard will be locked down, a pristine touchscreen, or back, chassis, Home button or Touch ID sensor, or spare battery is sellable on eBay or CraigsList, or usable by someone who broke or messed theirs up.

    Apple should turn to etching the device's serial number on components like they do on car parts and windows.

  67. Lynn
    September 21, 2013 at 3:28 am

    I found a Droid in the snow at a ski resort in CA soon after they 1st came out. I had no clue how to use the thing but I found a number with the name Mom beside it. I called "Mom" on my phone & told her of the find. She put "Dad" on the phone & he explained they were skiing & the son crashed with an unzipped backpack. That was 3 days before I found it, good battery yes! When I left the resort of Homewood that day I dropped the phone off at the office where a lady already had an addressed envelope for it.

  68. Kevin H
    September 21, 2013 at 3:22 am

    I can't believe we actually need an article to tell people to return lost items...

  69. Unclesamhain
    September 21, 2013 at 3:14 am

    Just like I have when I have found wallets and checkbooks, drop it in a mailbox.

  70. Vishnu
    September 21, 2013 at 1:59 am

    Personally I will return anything I find on the street to the nearest police station. But on an android device the things you have said may not act as a deterrent. Flashing/Wiping the device & loading a ROM will disable any tracking software. The law enforcement folks can of-course track the device using its hardware id (IMEI), but then again keeping it in Airplane Mode with just wifi on perpetually means you can use it as a gaming device.

    • darrennie
      March 9, 2014 at 7:40 am

      I think your missing the point.

  71. baber latif
    September 21, 2013 at 1:54 am

    Returning any lost item, requires absolutely no reason what so ever, provided one has a conscious.

    • Tina S
      September 21, 2013 at 4:25 am

      Very true!

      This article serves as a reminder of the conscience we all have. :)

  72. JimA
    September 21, 2013 at 1:44 am

    #9 - that may be the lifeline to a dying friend or relative, a birth, a public safety worker....
    #10 - it could belong to a really serious dope supplier/dealer/bad guy...

  73. berend
    September 21, 2013 at 1:34 am

    If its not lockrd i search for kontakt information and call them to tell them where they can pic it up
    Or if it has a lock i just wait for them to call and arange where he or she can pic it up

  74. Jay s
    September 21, 2013 at 1:26 am

    I wish the guy who stole my iPod Touch had read this. It was on the bench at the Washtenaw fitness club and I took my eyes off it for a second & BOOM it was gone. 4 months later & it still gravels my ass that I share the locker room with some ass wipe who thinks it's ok to take other people's property.

  75. Mark
    September 21, 2013 at 1:14 am

    Any cell phone's owner can be found through the service provider. The phone has an ID number that is tied to the person who is the account holder. So even if the phone is locked, if you know the service provider (which is usually pretty obvious on most phones), you can get the phone back to its rightful owner.

    • Anthony
      October 11, 2013 at 6:13 pm

      The service provider usually has no interest in "doing the right thing" and even participating, even though it's trivially easy for them to do so.

  76. Mike
    September 21, 2013 at 1:06 am

    I once found a Blackberry on a snow covered road and it turned out to belong to a policeman. I took it home to dry, and once I booted it up and realized whose it was, returned it asap.

  77. Joe Joe Pelligrino
    September 21, 2013 at 1:02 am

    if you open notepad and write down your personal info take a screenshot and set it as your background, if you're phone is locked they can still find you!

    • Mike
      September 23, 2013 at 4:02 pm

      My iPhone's front screen consists of an image and my name and office phone number below the time. I added the text to a picture I liked using Photoshop, and saved the document as a JPG. I then made that JPEG my front screen, so it's there even when the phone is locked.

  78. Darryl Gittins
    September 21, 2013 at 12:39 am

    If you lose your phone and it's locked - as it should be for your own safety - an honest person can't return it to you unless you have your name on it. May seem like kindergarten, but it could save you $$$. Great use for a labeler.

    • S. Giesbrecht
      September 23, 2013 at 4:51 pm

      I have my name and work address for my personal phone. This helps from people knowing where I live.

  79. Randy Busch
    September 21, 2013 at 12:39 am

    Or you should just be able to turn it into which ever carrier that phone uses.

    • Karl D
      September 21, 2013 at 1:33 am

      I found a cell phone a while back. It was locked, but I was able to call the carrier.

      They didn't give a damn.

    • Tina S
      September 21, 2013 at 4:22 am

      Yeah, that's how you might be able to return it and if you're lucky it's that easy.

  80. Jean-Francois Messier
    September 20, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    I would try to find the owner and return it ASAP. First, he/she would be happy. Second, I would also feel happy regardless of whether I would get a reward. I already have such device and I'm happy with it. Why risk being in trouble for a stupid phone ??? Especially if the one I find is an iPhone or such........ I'm an Android type.

    • A. I. Sajib
      September 21, 2013 at 12:40 am

      Makes me think what you would do if you found an Android.

      Just kidding. :P

    • scott
      September 21, 2013 at 2:32 am

      If I came across a lost iPhone, I would just leave it there. :P If it was Android, I'd pick it up.

    • Jean-Francois Messier
      September 21, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      And if it was an Android phone, I would also return it, as I already have one that fits me well and that I like. It's the ideal one for me and I don't want to replace it, given the use I have of my current cell phone: classic phone use and MP3 player. I don't need much. Everything else Ido is on a tablet that is not an iPad.

    • Tom
      March 8, 2015 at 2:52 pm

      I went into a bank yesterday to the atm, left. Some guy found a smartphone , thought it was mine. My friend took the phone, ok. I tell my friend to lets return the phone to the owner, he refuses. He wanted the phone for himself. I said absolutely not that will not happen, I took the phone away from him. We got into an argument, he's telling me not to piss him off, I'm his friend, I shouldn't do this after he has helped me a lot. I asked how would he feel if someone took his lost possessions, he didn't care because some "nigger" stole his mother's phone, therefore in his mind, it's ok for him to do the same. I told him just because other people do terrible things does not make it ok for him to do it too. I absolutely did not cave in to his demands and threats, I did not care if he was pissed off. Then he tells me he won't be my friend anymore if I do this, I said good because I don't want a dishonorable thief as a friend anyway. He chose to get out of my car since he valued the phone over our 15 years of friendship, I drove away anyway with the phone to its rightful owner that only took me 20 minutes of my time.

      So now I have a clear conscience, pride and a toxic friend that I don't want in my life. He gained absolutely nothing out of this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *