Friday, 9 September 2016

My stolen phone story

Image from here
by Farzana Rasheed

Last Sunday, we undertook a very exciting and memorable excursion to Tubmanburg. We piled into 2 vehicles around midday and, left for Tubmanburg, capital of Bomi County. We visited a farm and then went for a picnic at Blue Lake. We had a lot of fun and, I took a lot of photographs. I had specially invited friends for this excursion and, went to the farm to take photographs for a business proposal I will be putting together to help my friend get some funding to expand his vegetable and livestock farm. 

Unfortunately, my phone was swiped by an adept thief that evening. We came back home at around 9:30 PM and while we were unpacking our car, I set my purse down for a moment. Our building's security guard was helping us of course but then 2 other security guards from the neighbouring buildings had also rushed to help us. Our building only has 2 apartments and the front door is locked at all times. I picked up my purse after hardly a minute, put it on my shoulder and stood by the door waiting for the security to come back down. I locked the front door and went upstairs where Haresh was putting the water cooler, bags and basket of wet clothes away. 

After about 20 minutes, I realised my phone was missing. I immediately realised it must have been nicked from my bag. I dragged Haresh downstairs and, we saw that the security guard was not there and the next shift's fellow was there. We made a lot of noise and, one of the security gave us the address of the security guard who was there when we had just arrived from our trip. Apparently, the head of the company also lived close by. We drove to Vai Town, with another on-duty security with us, met our security officer and brought him back. 

After coming back to Randall Street, we did our own investigation. The security guard, Anthony, who had come back with us was adamant that he did not steal the phone nor that he knew anything. We identified 1 security who had come to help tow the bags besides Anthony. He emptied his pocked and, said he was a Muslim man and would not steal anything. We couldn't find the 3rd phone.

During this time, we noticed a spark on the LEC pole. We then piled back into the car -  Kavita with us too of course - and, went to Water Side. We patiently waited for the security guard to report the spark to the emergency. We came back to Randall Street. It was after midnight. 

Haresh decided to become bold and declared he would give a $ 300.00 award to anyone who brought the phone back.

We had been calling the phone throughout the evening and, someone kept cutting it off.

We went upstairs and, after 10 minutes an LEC crew came over to fix the light pole with the spark. The LEC crew wanted a tip but I ignored them because I was in a foul mood. 

Happy that the LEC had responded so quickly but dejected we got mugged, we went to bed. 

The next day, we decided to see if we could remotely access our phone (something we could have tried to do the very night). I also posted about my stolen phone on the Liberia Expats Google Group and, got some sympathetic e-mails including one from a close friend who offered to help by suggesting we seek middle people to call up the phone and, then exchange the phone for money. 

Meanwhile, we remotely locked our phone using Google's Android Device Manager.  You will need to sign into your Google Account and have your IMEI number ready. We found ours on the box the phone came in. But you can retrieve the number once signing into Google in case you signed into Google from your phone. See an article here

The phone was immediately locked with a message saying that a $ 300.00 reward would be provided if the phone were returned. Sure enough within a few minutes, the phone rang and, Haresh spoke to the man on the other end. The fellow told Haresh that he'd bought the phone for $ 275.00 but wouldn't mind giving the phone back for $ 300.00. 

He asked whether Haresh would involve the police and, he didn't want trouble. A time was set to meet. 

Haresh contacted the CID and, planned a sting operation. 

We arrived at the agreed meeting place, also having coordinated with the CID. The alleged thief asked us several times on the phone whether we had contacted the police and we denied it. We were to meet on Lynch Street. We parked at the meeting point and waited for the thief. No one showed up for 15 minutes and the thief's phone was off. We kept looking at pedestrians with a phone and wondered whether that was the thief. 

After a while we drove off and, the thief rung us up about 30 minutes afterwards. He was angry. Why did we call the CID, he demanded. Haresh fumbled and said he hadn't. The thief retorted: but why was Monk there? 

We couldn't contact the thief afterwards. He switched off his phone. Haresh sent begging e-mails to say that we should re-negotiate a new deal.

I couldn't believe that the CID had let themselves be exposed. We thought they were a bunch of bumbling fools. Others told us the CID is always hand in glove with the criminals anyway. 

We gave up. Haresh said we should get a new phone. I was extremely angry at myself for losing an expensive smart phone. Why did I set my phone down on the pavement for even a few seconds? Why did we let all these security rush to our aid? Why wasn't I more careful? Why didn't we remote lock the phone that very night?

I asked my friends to help out by calling the phone and, see if we could buy the phone back through a third party. I asked my friend Bendu (she has a tea shop on Randall Street) for help. She said she would ask around. Monrovia is a small city and, it's not hard to reach criminals. They usually smoke drugs she said and sell stolen phones for small amounts of money.

My phone was stolen on a Sunday night and after these efforts and feeling frustrated and exasperated, we received a call on Thursday night saying they had our phone! We couldn't believe our ears. There had been a raid on the ghetto behind the Mother Patern college and, my phone was found. Because the phone was still locked and our contact number was on it, the CID was able to call us.

The next day Haresh went to the Police Headquarters and retrieved my phone. He unlocked the phone and proved it was ours. The head of the CID explained that the police had made a raid and, the head of the community had produced the phone himself. Haresh gave a token cash gift to the police which he accepted. After all, it doesn't hurt to have the police in our good books.

I got my phone back and, am extremely grateful. My photographs were deleted though and I was quite sad. We put so much stock in our photographs, especially on special occasions with friends. Photographs are taken to be shared on social media and, as shallow as that sounds, we grow so attached to our smart phones and, our photographs. I also felt bad because I had wanted to use the photographs of the farm for a business proposal.

Haresh gave the phone to a phone expert who tried to root it but no luck. Rooting it would have given us a chance to retrieve deleted photographs. But no luck! I've learned a lesson. I will install DropBox on my phone and, back up my photographs. I will lock my screen.

My phone is back and, I am very glad. 

No comments:

Post a Comment