Avoiding the good samaritan’s snare

When most people find a phone lying on the ground, or in this case lying in a ditch, the first instinct is to try and return the phone to its rightful owner (right?!). But, if the phone has been reported as stolen, how do you know that if you take the phone into the carrier’s store you’re not going to get hooked up for stealing the phone? Well, you don’t!

Ok, so here’s the setup. A friend had started taking daily walks to improve his health. Great, I should probably do the same! Well, on one of his daily walks he found a fairly new phone laying in a ditch along his usual walking path. When he picked it up, the screen was cracked kind of badly, but still worked dispite being in a ditch for at least a few days (he had been out of town for a few days). Seeing that the battery was almost dead, he decided to charge it up to see if he could figure out who it belonged to. Well, that didn’t take him very far. He brought the phone to me to see if there was a way to find the owner to return an obviously pricey phone.

I took a look at it and decided to take on the challenge. Because hey, you know me – I love a good challenge! Well, about the only info I could glean from this Samsung phone was that it was less than two years old, was on the T-Mobile network, and had been put into “lost-mode”. So I told my friend that I would do my level best to get the poor lost phone back home. Later that day while looking at it I realized that I had opened myself up to potential legal trouble by simply possessing the phone!

Lets step through a mental exercise to illustrate what I’m talking about here when I say “potential legal trouble”. Lets say that someone drops their phone while riding their dirt bike back from the gas station (likely the back story of this situation as the phone was found near a set of semi-recent dirt bike tracks that led either to or from a near by gas station). Not really sure if they left their phone on the counter while buying a lollypop (because I don’t have a good imagination) – or if it fell out of their pocket while starting their bike, or whatever the case may have been – they put their phone into lost mode through the Google dashboard as soon as they discovered the absence of their beloved little buddy.

Now, in some cases when the phone is marked as lost or stolen as soon as it’s powered up it notifies you that the phone has been found. While not very likely, it’s possible that the owner may report the phone’s location to the authorities with the assumption that it’s been stolen. In that case, if the police show up and I have the phone then I’m automatically in possession of stolen property by circumstance. That would not be what I’d call a highlight of my week! So, what should I do immediately to avoid being arrested for trying to do the right thing?

After all those thoughts finished running through my head, I grabbed the phone and my keys and headed out to the nearest T-Mobile store. Once there I told the guy behind the counter the situation and asked him to see about getting the phone back to it’s rightful owner. After a little bit of convincing that I did not want to hold onto the phone, I left my card in case there were any further questions or whatnot regarding the phone (also, in case someone asked about phone repair. Of course!) and thanked him for his help.

So, if you find a lost phone the best thing to do is to see if there’s any way to identify who it belongs to. If you can’t readily figure this out, the next best thing is to take the phone to the closest carrier store for the phone and leave it with them. That way, there is no question of your intent, and little risk of legal troubles following your attempt to do the right thing!

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