Call Kurtis: Can GPS Phone-Tracker Apps Help Find A Stolen Phone?

STOCKTON (CBS13) — Many of us have smartphone apps meant to help find our phone if it’s lost — but what good does it do you when your phone is stolen?

Leah Andrews of Stockton thought she had tracked her stolen iPhone down, but still couldn’t get it back.

“It was just gone,” she said. “A total loss.”

She admits she panicked when she realized someone had stolen her iPhone from her car, but using Apple’s Find My Phone App, she said she was able to see where her phone was — the map showing it was at a Best Buy location in Stockton.

Andrews said a Best Buy worker confirmed someone traded it in, but she said she was asked to file a police report to get it back.

She did.

“I was relieved, I thought I would get it back,” she said. “I just assumed I would get it back.”

But then she said Best Buy claimed it never had her iPhone after all.

“[I’m] 100-percent sure,” she said. “My phone locator from Apple showed me it was there.”

A lot of smartphone apps promise to help you locate, lock or even erase a lost or stolen phone, but how often do people really get their phones back?

CNET’s Kent German said it’s rare.

“You’re not gonna get the device back in most cases,” he said.

Apps are designed for consumers, and most police departments are too busy to get involved in a stolen phone case, German said.

The apps’ biggest benefit? The “lock” or “erase” feature, according to German.

“Most of these services are about preventing your phone from being used again, or preventing someone from accessing your information,” he told Call Kurtis.

The GM of the Best Buy store insisted it never had Andrews’ phone.

Best Buy corporate told Call Kurtis whenever a phone is traded in, “seller information is recorded, including a signed statement of ownership and a thumbprint.”

Realizing her phone is long gone, Andrews said she doesn’t understand why Best Buy said it had her phone if it didn’t.

“I will never do business with them again,” she said.

CNET reported many stolen phones are disassembled for parts or shipped to Asia or other countries where they can be sold at a higher price.

Consumer Reports estimates about 1.6 million smartphone thefts in the US last year, which is more than any other household good.

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