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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…

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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 able to log into her iCloud account and eventually get the device back. 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

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