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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.
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.
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. 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 or tools that activate the camera to identify the person who took the device. My colleague James Bruce, for example, reported how he retrieved his wife’s stolen iPhone using Find My iPhone. Now you wouldn’t want a clever geek hunting you down for his precious phone, would you?
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. 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!
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!
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 (if you found one)? And if your answer is no, why not?
Have you ever lost or found something and what happened?