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A traveler’s nightmare

I received an email from my brother Andrew this week from Cape Town, South Africa, where he is on his first stop of a two-week vacation, telling me his iPhone was stolen. It was picked from his pocket in downtown Cape Town.

It was the second day of his visit to Cape Town, so he was accustomed to the many people coming up to him trying to sell  souvenirs or begging for a handout. While on a walking tour in the early afternoon, someone stopped right in front of him, pushing something into his chest. When he pushed the person back, his hands came out of his pocket where it was resting on his iPhone. A moment later he realized his iPhone had been picked from his pocket.

Once he realized what had happened, he went to a nearby police station, thinking it would be wise to file a police report, if nothing more than for an insurance purposes. He thought he had insurance through Verizon, but it’s never safe to assume it covers what you think.

A police sergeant at the station took his report, writing everything down in longhand very slowly. About 45 minutes later he left the station and called Verizon from his friend’s phone. Verizon deactivated his stolen phone and told him he could keep his number to use when he gets a new phone.

By this time panic began to set in as Andrew realized his phone had everything on it for personal and business needs for the next two weeks of his trip. Names and addresses, itineraries, access to his business portal, his camera, maps, and the only means to stay in contact with his travel group and everyone back home. He decided to look for a phone store to buy a new phone, and found an iStore in a local shopping mall. (iStore is a worldwide network of stores authorized to sell Apple products.)  He took along his iPad, thinking it might be useful to have with him.

He purchased a new iPhone that first had to be configured for Verizon. (iPhones work on all networks, but each carrier requires customization to their specs and the loading of their own apps.) The store contacted Verizon who asked Andrew to first verify his account, by allowing them to call another number on his family plan he shared with his kids. They provided him a list of phone numbers, and asked which one to call.  Andrew realized that he didn’t know which number belonged to who and who was available to verify. Fortunately, he had his iPad with him and was able to use it to send text messages to his kids on the account, and have one verify his account.

Andrew asked the sales person if she could configure the phone to his old number so that it could be used, on his trip, but she said that needed to be done in a Verizon store when he returns to the U.S. But she offered to try anyway with no expectation of success.

To her surprise, she was able to download a Verizon eSim card and the phone came alive and was able to make and receive phone calls. Like magic, all the apps and data that were stored in Andrew’s iCloud account began to reappear on the phone. The phone showed it was on Verizon’s travel pass just as it was on his stolen phone. The address book reappeared and more apps loaded. Everything eventually reappeared, including his photo album. except for the pictures taken earlier that day.

It’s quite impressive to imagine how the various cellular networks, the software, and the cellular equipment all worked together to reconstruct an exact clone of his stolen phone seven-thousand miles from home, all in a few minutes and just three hours from the phone being stolen.

As to coverage for his stolen phone, Verizon’s insurance is handled by Asurion. The only thing they will do is ship Andrew a new or factory refurbished model of the stolen phone to his home address in the U.S. after paying a $229 deductible. They will not provide any reimbursement toward the phone that he bought.

My take away from this is to travel with more than one device, such as a computer or tablet that will still allow you to access your accounts, should your phone be lost or stolen. And wear travel pants with pockets with zipper and velcro closures, hidden pockets, and other deterrents. Coincidently, I shopped for some last month in preparation for an upcoming trip and I bought these travel pants    from ScottEVest designed specifically for this purpose.