"Good Samaritans" return lost phones from Avast experiment

Deborah Salmi 1 Nov 2015

"Good Samaritans" return lost phones from Avast experiment

Twenty Android mobile phones were intentionally lost in The Lost Phones social experiment that Avast security analysts ran for 5 months.

The story is about how Avast Anti-Theft was able to track the phones and follow the journey that some of them took after being found. But four of those phones were returned to Avast because of good Samaritans who didn't feel it was right to keep them.


Quiana W. returned a lost phone to Avast Quiana W. returned a lost phone to Avast

We spoke to two of them; Quiana W., who found a phone on a park bench in Harlem, New York City and to Michael D. who found one in a public restroom in San Francisco. We asked what they thought when they first spotted the phones.

Quiana: I wanted to check it to see if it was on and see if I would be able to contact someone to return their phone. I know what it feels like to lose things, wallet or a phone, so I was just trying to pay it forward. It doesn’t necessarily have to happen back to me in this way, but it was just something that kind of took my heart.

Michael: My initial reaction was to leave the phone where it was. It seemed a little suspicious – how could someone not hear the phone drop onto the floor? I also thought that someone might mistake me for a thief if I walked out with the phone. But then, partially out of boredom and partially out of honesty, I decided to play detective and find the phone’s owner.


Lost_Phones Michael D. found a lost phone in a public restroom

Why is your phone so important?

Quiana: Everything revolves around technology. The most valuable piece of information on my phone is probably my contacts, because I try not to keep too much private stuff, or stuff that is sensitive, but I guess my contacts or things I may discuss with people via text messages are most important to me.

Michael: My own phone is important to me because it keeps me in contact with family and friends. The most valuable data on my phone is the contact list. Then the old messages saved to memory.

Why did you return the phone?

Quiana: I lost my phone a couple of months ago and I didn’t even know I lost it. I was in a car and my cousin kept asking me why I was calling her? So, I’m like, Wait a minute, I don’t have my phone! Where is my phone?

I dropped my phone in a parking lot of the grocery store that we were just at, so I went back to get it. So, I kinda would feel lost (without my phone), I would feel definitely lost.

Michael: I returned the phone because I don’t take things that aren’t mine.

What would you fear about losing your phone?

Quiana: The amount of money I would have to pay to get it back.

Michael also thought about what would happen if he lost his own phone. If that happened, he would be more concerned about losing the device itself rather than the data on his device.

Protect your data and the device it's on

Even though four honest people returned a lost phone to Avast, 15 stolen phones are still out there. We were able to track 11 phones immediately because they stayed online for more than 24 hours after losing them, we were able to track 7 phones for several months, and 4 phones are still online and being used.

“More than 3 million phones are lost each year,” said Gagan Singh, president of mobile at Avast. “Fortunately with Avast Anti-Theft, users have the means to track and recover a lost phone – or remotely wipe the data on it if it’s not recoverable.

You have a better chance of getting your phone back if you install Avast Anti-Theft. Get it for free from the Google Play Store.

Follow Avast on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+ where we keep you updated on cybersecurity news every day.


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