The best iPhone protection? Lock your doors

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Does anybody out there believe in karma? Pride coming before falls and so forth? This column was supposed to be about cool applications for the iPhone.

Unfortunately, my phone was stolen early one recent Sunday morning.

The guy actually woke me up while he was taking my phone. I woke up and found him kneeling by my night stand, literally creeping up beside me.

I had forgotten to lock my door after a guest left Saturday night, so the thief just walked right in.

I reached over and touched the guy's head before I realized what was happening.

He took off out the front door, and I called the police immediately. They came out and dusted for fingerprints; I didn't think they actually did that. Here's another thing you won't learn on CSI : Eyewitness reports are a joke. I saw the guy for half a second and gave a description that was worse than useless. I reported a teenager in a T-shirt.

Being a paranoid techno-junkie, I immediately started spinning conspiracy theories about location snooping and the dangers of in-phone GPS. But this is probably just a neighborhood kid who saw me using this thing every morning, or maybe just a random crime of opportunity.

The odds of their finding it are less than zero, and the fancy iPhone data-wipe thing applies only to enterprise accounts for large corporations.

You can't get phone insurance for the iPhone through AT&T, and even if you could, theft is not covered under phone insurance or AppleCare. Though the iPhone does have all kind of fancy credit card and GPS systems, none of those systems is designed for theft prevention or recovery of stolen property.

That's not the worst of it. I learned this when I was working for Cingular customer service and confirmed it this week: The price you pay for a phone at the store is a subsidized price, contingent on completion of your two-year contract. If your phone is stolen before that contract runs out, you have to replace it at full retail cost, which can be more than double what you paid.

Apple and AT&T won't be much help if your phone gets stolen, but Visa might. If your item is lost or stolen within 90 days of purchase, you can file a claim with your credit card company and try to get some kind of compensation. I don't know what information they need or how much they can do yet, but I filed a claim electronically and will see if anything comes of it.

This claim will refund only the contract price I paid AT&T, not the full retail replacement price.

I've learned firsthand that there's a price to be paid for following technology fads. Just as guys in BMWs have to be careful to park in the right spot and lock their doors, people with expensive gadgets need to be discreet and keep their eyes open.

There is a bright side to all this. My cell was my primary phone, so now I can't hear my parents call and tell me how stupid I am.

I could give you 800 more words about security issues and identity theft, but the first step is to lock your door.

My thief didn't really look like a subscriber, but in case any other criminals are fans of my column, the headphones you see on my neck are now connected to the Sony Walkman I used in college. The radio skips, the cassette player stopped after it ate my Counting Crows tape and the batteries are held in with duct tape.

Come and get it.

Reach Michael Duff at michaelduff.net.


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