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Bug Cellphones

Bug Sends Lost-Phone Seekers To Same Wrong Address 298

netbuzz writes "A mysterious GPS-tracking glitch has brought a parade of lost-phone seekers — and police officers — to the front door of a single beleaguered homeowner in Las Vegas. Each of the unexpected visitors – Sprint customers all — has arrived absolutely convinced that the man has their phone. Not so, police confirm. The same thing happened in New Orleans in 2011 and Sprint got sued. Says the Las Vegas man: 'It's very difficult to say, 'I don't have your phone,' in any other way other than, 'I don't have your phone.''"
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Bug Sends Lost-Phone Seekers To Same Wrong Address

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  • by mekkab ( 133181 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @12:52PM (#42592759) Homepage Journal
    Something along the lines of "Yes, the tracker says your Phone is here. No, it is not. Please call SPRINT at 1-800-xxx-xxxx" Lo-tech, but effective.
  • i would sue (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alen ( 225700 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @12:52PM (#42592767)

    it has been over a year and sprint can't fix the problem

    a nice letter to their legal department may move things along

    • by plover ( 150551 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @01:06PM (#42593049) Homepage Journal

      He could offer to move to a nicer house in a nicer part of town, and sell his house to Sprint. Better, he could offer to sell his house to AT&T and let them open a ATT Wireless store in his house - after being screwed by Sprint, perhaps their frustrated customers would be looking for a change.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @01:24PM (#42593363)

        Nah, too complicated.

        He should start actually stealing phones.

      • by vlm ( 69642 )

        I'm guessing the reason why it tracks to his house is he's the closest resident to a tower, so if GPS nav fails, it picks the strongest tower?

        So they've already got an unmanned facility across the street or whatever. Put a sign up there, put a manned store there, whatever.

        • Re:i would sue (Score:4, Interesting)

          by alen ( 225700 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @02:10PM (#42594089)


          i read this somewhere else yesterday and its actually the fault of Clark County. Seems they made a mistake and gave the cell phone tower his address in their records.

          still sprint's fault for not putting a some kind of fix in

          • by icebike ( 68054 )

            Wait, cell towers have nothing to do with GPS, other than supplying almanac data. This Almanac data helps the phone locate the satellites faster [].

            The only time the address of the cell tower would come into play is if the owner or the thief shut off the GPS.

            End users can't get the location of their cell phone without installing some software ahead of time, Such as Lookout [] or Find My IPhone [].

            Further, If the owner turns their GPS off, or the thief turns it off, those apps would only be able to report a rough tr

          • by treeves ( 963993 )

            So if they had not made the mistake, and things were working the way they are supposed to, all these people looking for their lost/stolen cell phones would end up at a cell tower? Sounds like a great plan.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        Better is that Sprint buys him a brand new house where ever he chooses. It's their fault they OWE him at least that because they are not capable of fixing the problem

        • by arth1 ( 260657 )

          As far as I can tell, the problem is the problem of educating your users. The position given is a triangulation starting point, with an error margin of hundreds of feet in all directions. It may very well be the best starting point they have, and thus correct for its purpose and not a bug.
          What it isn't is a promise that the phone will be at that point, and I highly doubt that Sprint claims this either.
          The last time I saw a cell phone locator, it listed a margin of error in yards, as well as a disclaimer t

          • by fermion ( 181285 )
            So your saying he lives next door to a chronic cell phones thief. Are you saying the las vegas police are not competent enough to check next door? Seems if there was a ring of cell phone thieves, and they knew the general location, they would have some incentive to take them down.
  • Sucks to be him (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kenh ( 9056 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @12:53PM (#42592781) Homepage Journal

    While frustrating for him, from the outside looking in, it's kinda funny. No matter what he does to assert his innocence, it will appear as lies to the owner of the missing phone...

    • Re:Sucks to be him (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hattig ( 47930 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @12:57PM (#42592879) Journal

      It's funny except that it's taking a lot of his time, it must be extremely stressful, the fact that people turn up at any time must be affecting his sleep, his mental state, and so on.

      And that's before someone turning up possibly gets violent.

      And their costs to get there. Why are they going? Because the police refuse to deal with stolen phone cases even where there is a GPS signal, so people go out on their own or with mates to reclaim their property.

      Quite clearly this problem needs a solution very soon before something bad happens.

      • Re:Sucks to be him (Score:5, Informative)

        by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @12:59PM (#42592921)

        The police doing their job seems to be the best solution. This seems pretty common though. A friend once reported a theft from a vehicle and the police were annoyed he made them fill out a report when he did not have insurance for this. They literally did not even want to collect basic information that could be used to monitor the number of crimes occurring much less attempt to catch the perpetrators.

        • Re:Sucks to be him (Score:5, Interesting)

          by geekoid ( 135745 ) <`dadinportland' `at' `'> on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @01:20PM (#42593269) Homepage Journal

          Probably less want and more man power issue.
          and the vast amount of 'stolen phones' are lost phones.
          You see this same thing with wallets as well.
          Interesting story: in 1989 there was a string of pickpockets in Reno. So the police started keeping certain areas under surveillance.
          There were no pickpockets. There where people leaving the casino, literally through their wallet away and often injuring there face in some manner.
          Upon questioning these people, it turned out they didn't want to tell their spouse they lost all their money in the casino.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

            Sounds like a good area for pickpockets to target. People going to the casino with plenty of cash on them and a police force that will do it's best not to investigate their crimes.

            • by Holi ( 250190 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @02:44PM (#42594641)

              You really think the Casinos would not put an end to pickpockets on their turf? They don't like competition from amateurs.

              • You really think the Casinos would not put an end to pickpockets on their turf? They don't like competition from amateurs.

                They don't do a thing unless you make a big stink and the thieves are stupid enough to get caught with the items on them. There are a bunch of threads on the las vegas boards about how casino security is there only to stop people from stealing from the casino and how various people had stuff stolen with minimal response. Like casino security wouldn't even look at their ow

        • Well, we do give law enforcement hell when crime doesn't improve... can't really fault them for following the incentive not to report. I'm not sure what the proper incentive structure should be, but I bet the smarty-smarts here could come up with something better. For instance, perhaps a commission that follows up on some percentage of 911 calls.

        • Re:Sucks to be him (Score:5, Interesting)

          by BattleApple ( 956701 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @02:16PM (#42594179)

          Once someone came into the parking lot where I work, smashed my window and took my gps unit. I didn't have insurance either. I was pretty impressed with the response from the police though. They even sent a detective to collect a blood sample where the guy cut himself when he broke the window. While we were at my car, they got a call from the police in the next town, about 5 miles away, and they had caught some guys going through another car in a Walmart parking lot and they had a bag full of GPS units.
          I identified my unit at the police station, then they had to hold it for evidence.. for 3 and a half @#$&% YEARS!! Court systems sucks.. the cops were pretty cool though

          • Re:Sucks to be him (Score:4, Insightful)

            by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @02:41PM (#42594603) Homepage Journal

            Makes me question why they need the physical unit.

            Inspect it, take photos, download storage. Document document document.

            Then give the fucking thing back!

            • ...well, until some perp gets a competent lawyer (either during the trial or any of the appeals), who demands access to the thing for his own analysis on it. Fail to do that, and suddenly there's a reason for mistrial.

          • Had the same kind of thing happen with a laptop at work. It got stolen from the guy's car. It had Computrace on it so we called them up and had it fired up. After a fair bit of time the police were ready and used the info to go and arrest the people (who of course had a bunch of stolen goods). They then had to hang on to the laptop for like 9 months as evidence even though it was a pretty clear and quick, by court standards, case.

            Thing is not only does it take some time for the prosecution to get everything

        • Re:Sucks to be him (Score:5, Interesting)

          by AlphaWolf_HK ( 692722 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @02:24PM (#42594323)

          I went on a police ride-along once. Pretty fun job IMO, I would have done it if I didn't have eyesight issues. Anyways, some of the BS they have to put up with is just that: BS.

          One incident we went to was some lady who had some Italian man profess his love to her, and they got engaged two days later. He couldn't afford a ring, so she bought the ring, an expensive one too. He says he needs to take it to a jeweler to do some sort of adjustment, and then disappears with it for good. She doesn't know his real name, only what he told her what it was, and a vague description of what he looks like. Not a whole lot of information to go after, but her and the rest of the public expect the police to actually be able to do something about it.

          Another incident was an alarm on somebody's home security system. The officer told me that 99% of the time they are false alarms. Nonetheless, him and a few other officers had to go through the regular routine of pistols drawn, slicing the pie, and all of that jazz (since the owner wasn't home - also ever since columbine, regular cops now have to go through at least some SWAT training and engage a potential hostile situation accordingly, whereas before they would dispatch special officers to do that.) Huge waste of time, but it is obligatory anyways.

          Resources are finite, and the police are constantly busy. They can't be arsed to take every little issue seriously. Some people wonder why the police will take a long time to show up at the scene of an accident when there is no injury involved, but will show up quickly if there is fighting or if somebody is injured. If it is an emergency, they'll drop something else they are doing (which is every bit as deserving of their attention) to handle the emergency instead.

          Here's what I mean by that: Any one incident that the police officer has to deal with that requires any formal documentation requires about an hour worth of paperwork to do, even if the incident itself only lasted about a few minutes. Paperwork being figurative, because it is all done on a computer they have in their car; so you can imagine just how much stuff they have to write and detail. Take that false alarm for example. I used to think that a police car parked at the side of the road was just a cop watching for people speeding. Not so. That is typically a cop sitting there doing his paperwork. You could fly past at 60 and he wouldn't notice you.

          I've been pulled over all of four times in my life, and all four times the officers had a perfectly valid reason to give me a ticket but didn't because they really didn't want to deal with the hassle of doing so.

          One time I got pulled over for passing over three lanes while making a right turn when I got off work. The officer pulled me over because he thought I might have been robbing the store, until he saw me wearing the uniform (he had this "oh" look on his face when he saw that.) He asked me for my license and registration, and I didn't have my registration (another ticket there.) He told me not to worry about it and sent me on my way. Easily something the state could have made a $300 profit on, but he didn't want to bother. And it's pretty obvious why: when I pulled out, there was no traffic for miles, so it wasn't exactly an unsafe maneuver that he was prepared to split hairs over.

          Another officer pulled me over for one of my headlights not working. Again, easy ticket, but chose not to write it up. I told him I was aware of it and was waiting for one of the headlights to arrive via mail (which was true.) He just wanted to make sure I was aware of it and that it was being dealt with.

          I had an expired plate and was driving to get something to eat on new years evening. Cop pulled me over and asked where I was going. I gave him my license and registration, he said my plates were invalid (huge fine for that) but let me go because he was looking for drunk drivers, and didn't want to spend the time writing paperwork on me when he could have been looking for drunk drivers. He just told me to

    • Re:Sucks to be him (Score:5, Insightful)

      by berashith ( 222128 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @12:58PM (#42592907)

      For a long time I had a deadbeat using my phone number while obtaining lines of credit. The collectors would start calling and asking for her, and there was nothing that I could say to them to convince them that I did not know her, she did not live at my house, had never lived at my house, etc. It looks like lies no matter what, and these arent people who are willing to actually follow the laws about harrasment. They bothered me enough that I was ready to hunt her down for them.

      • by Ambvai ( 1106941 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @01:20PM (#42593291)

        I had this problem when I first got my Google Voice number before. I ended up redirecting the number to the front office of the collection agency. After three months, I never got a call from them again.

      • by ffflala ( 793437 )
        I've found that the most effective way to get these kinds of wrong-person debt collection calls to stop is to tell the collector that they have to validate the debt. (It helps to read through the entire FDCPA, so you're familiar with the details.)

        This is useful because of the way these kinds of bottom-feeder debt collection agencies work. They buy packages of debts from various companies for pennies on the dollar. The agency gets to keep any money they collect from these accounts. The cheapest past due acc
    • While frustrating for him, from the outside looking in, it's kinda funny. No matter what he does to assert his innocence, it will appear as lies to the owner of the missing phone...

      It's really funny until some nutter with a gun, a short temper and a generous interpretation of stand-your-ground rights comes looking for his stolen phone.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @12:53PM (#42592795)

    Open an Apple store there. Sell iPhones. The people showing up are inevitably short a phone.

    I'm surprised Apple hasn't patented this yet.

  • Why are these people showing up at his door anyhow?
    Isn't that the job of the police, and isn't vigilantism illegal even in Las Vegas?

    • you think the police care?

    • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @12:57PM (#42592869)

      Is it vigilantism for me to knock on your door and peacefully ask if you have seen my phone?

      To me it seems no different than when religious folks or girl scouts knock on my door. Well other than I don't have your phone, am not interested in your myths, and would like one box of thin mints and one box of samosas.

      • Your sign should

        1 have a pentacle (assumes you are not a JC type person)
        2 state solicitors will be shot/eaten/sacrificed
        3 request that 1 case of thin mints and 1 case of samosas be delivered (does the GSA have an EStore??)

      • Re:I don't get it (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Wookact ( 2804191 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @01:08PM (#42593085)
        Yes, and the angry people are going to say thank you and walk away. Completely believing your story. These people are not like your average girl scout. They are mad, and they want their damn phone back. They will not be walking away when you give them your polite response. You thinking so, means you haven't thought this through.
      • by brkello ( 642429 )

        Is it vigilantism? No. But it is a horrible idea. You have no idea how crazy the person is.

        • And it works both ways, too.

          For the person going to the house: You don't know if this "phone thief" (whether or not they actually have your phone) is an elderly lady who wouldn't hurt a fly, or an escaped felon who enjoys torturing people who show up at his door before killing them.

          For the person at the house: You don't know if this "my phone was stolen" person is going to politely ask, believe you, and then leave or get belligerent and whip out a gun demanding to know where his *@%!# phone is.

          Besides, are

      • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Informative)

        by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @01:28PM (#42593425) Homepage Journal

        Is it vigilantism for me to knock on your door and peacefully ask if you have seen my phone?

        Read the original article [].
        This is clearly not what is happening.

        And even if you should ask politely and during polite hours, unlike the people this man has encountered, you would be taking the law into your own hands and accusing him of lying if you rang his doorbell over this despite the clear note he has put up outside his home.

        Part of the problem is that people use technology they don't understand. Sprint isn't pointing out his home as the address where the phone is. It's a triangulation starting point, with an error margin of several hundred feet in all directions.

        tl;dr: The real victim isn't the yobo who lost his phone.

    • My guess is people show up initially to accuse him, then get the police involved later when he invariably professes in his innocence; at which time the Police hopefully backup his claim.

      • by dougmc ( 70836 )

        My guess is people show up initially to accuse him, then get the police involved later when he invariably professes in his innocence; at which time the Police hopefully backup his claim.

        Yes, but some people skip the police step entirely and will just assume the guy is lying and beat him up. Or worse. Or wait until he's not home and break in to steal their phone back (after all, it'll say that it's still there.)

        It's not just a matter of having to explain to a lot of people -- it's a matter of a lot of people being absolutely convinced that you're lying and you've stolen from them -- the evidence is right there -- and it's a dangerous combination.

        Assuming this is all correct, guy needs to

    • by Ksevio ( 865461 )
      The police also show up apparently, though in cases where the 911 GPS points to his house for domestic violence calls, not missing phones.
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      They report the location of their phone to the police, get blown off, and conclude they';re on their own.

  • by cellocgw ( 617879 ) <cellocgw@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @12:59PM (#42592919) Journal

    "These aren't the GPS coordinates you are looking for."

    (Well, that's better than, say "Imagine a Beowulf cluster of people looking for lost phones")

  • by frank_adrian314159 ( 469671 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @01:05PM (#42593021) Homepage

    I'd start stealing phones. How would Sprint know the difference?

  • And this is what happens when you don't know how to design a working GPS
    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      And this is what happens when you don't know how to design a working GPS

      I don't think it's a problem with GPS itself, I think the problem is that the stolen phones are not able to use GPS - like a phone is stolen and whoever took it is keeping it in his kitchen cabinet. The phone can't see any GPS satellites so it relies on a cell tower fix. If it can only see one tower (and maybe this guy has the nearest address to the tower), the phone is claiming that it's at this guy's house.

      I suspect that whoever is harassing the guy is ignoring the large circle in his positioning app that

  • So I conclude this hasn't involved an iPhone. Otherwise at least one of the stories would've worded it as "iPhone owners and a few random others", because news writers seem to think that's the only phone that'll draw readers.

  • Hand Out News Copy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @02:01PM (#42593957) Homepage

    'It's very difficult to say, 'I don't have your phone,' in any other way other than, 'I don't have your phone.''"

    I suppose keeping some copies of this news article by the door and handing them out might help a bit.

  • The linked to article sucks. Here is a better one with much more detail. []

Whenever people agree with me, I always think I must be wrong. - Oscar Wilde