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If you live in Karachi, or any part of the country for that matter, the concept of mobile phone theft/snatching must not be new to you. Street crime is prevalent in this metropolitan city, despite many improvements in the provision of security. And almost every Karachiite is likely to have their own personal experience about a stolen phone.

Most of such street crime never gets reported. This is partly because we Karachiites have somewhat become immune to it and partly due to loss of faith in the police department. Most of us believe that the police would not help them out in such cases. In fact, many believe the police to even facilitate these robbers!

However, a recent incident in Karachi shows another side of the police department.

In the last days of June, a girl named Sarah was shopping for Eid-ul-Fitr in the KDA market located in Gulshan-e-Iqbal. Much to her dismay, somebody stole her mobile phone from her bag. Distressed, she tried to locate the robber but he/she was long gone before Sarah could realize what had happened.

Fortunately, for the benefit of the Eid shoppers, the police of that area had set up a security camp in the vicinity of the market. Sarah immediately reported the case to DSP Agha Asghar, who was present at the camp along with a team of male and female police officers. The DSP asked her to send him the IMAP number written on the mobile phone’s box. This would be used to track the phone whenever it would be switched on, said he. He further promised to try his best to get the phone back. As soon as she reached home, Sarah messaged him all the details.

The Disappointing Wait And The Queer Message

Days passed and there was no development in this case. Sarah kept waiting for the good news that the police had tracked the device but it never came. The police said that the phone hadn’t been opened and the criminals have come up with new ways to block their tracking. Sarah had lost all hope and was about to buy a new phone when suddenly she received this queer message from an unknown number:

stolen phone

It was a picture of her phone that had been stolen!

Sarah was shocked and scared. Was the robber behind this message? If yes, then what did he want now?

She immediately contacted the police, who guided her. The DSP told her to stay anonymous but to carry the conversation forward to get more information. It was not clear who this message was from. He also advised her to come to the police station immediately as it could be the robber himself and his intention behind the contact could be harassment. However, she should not let the person know that the police had been involved.

It turned out that her stolen phone had been sold off at a shop in Hub, Balochistan!

This was where a young man named Asif had bought this phone for his brother Faisal. After buying the phone, they were surprised to find that there was some data in it. And the Google account was also signed in.

The shopkeeper had sold him the phone saying that it was a second hand phone which he had purchased from the original owner. Whenever a person sells off a phone or gadget, he or she removes all their personal data from it and logs out of all the social accounts. However, this was not the case here. This made the brothers suspicious that maybe it was a stolen phone.

Upon going through the data in the Google account, they located Sarah’s CV and extracted her number from it. They then decided to contact her to find out the truth. The brothers sent her CV and some of Sarah’s photos, asking her if they were her pictures and if she was the owner of the phone. They also inquired whether she had sold the phone or had it been stolen away from her.

stolen phone

stolen phone

The Police in Action

DSP Asghar first tracked the device to confirm whether these men were telling their true location. They were. Subsequently, Sarah replied to Asif and told him that indeed it was her stolen phone. Asif showed the receipt of his mobile phone purchase and quoted the amount of money that he had spent. He had bought the phone one month after it was stolen.

stolen phone

The police told Sarah to inquire whether that man would return the phone in exchange for the exact same of amount of money. Asif said he would. After that, the police officers called him. They informed him that an FIR was registered for this stolen phone and it was being tracked so he needed to return it, to which he agreed. The police asked him to return the phone to the shop and demand his money back. In the meanwhile, they also called the shop which was selling stolen products. As was expected, the shopkeeper even denied owning a shop!

The Balochistan Police Played Their Part

DSP Asghar contacted the Balochistan Police department to deal with the problem at Hub. The Balochistan Police offered their full cooperation. They accompanied Asif when he went to return the phone to the shop. However, first he went to the shop alone. When Asif confronted the shop keeper, there wasn’t much that he could say in his defense. He just took the phone back and said that he would return the money later.

Following this, Asif took the police officers there. They questioned the shop keeper about why and how he had got this stolen phone and investigated further into the matter. The police also confiscated the phone and took it to the police station.

stolen phone
Asif’s messages to Sarah, telling her that he had gotten the phone into police custody, to be delivered back to her.

DSP Agha Asghar got the phone delivered to the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Police Station the next day. He returned it to Sarah, who was very grateful for his help. Asif and Faisal were also thanked for what they did and their money was returned to them by the shop keeper. Also, the Balochistan Police department promised to deal strictly with the vendors who were purchasing and selling stolen gadgets.

stolen phone
DSP Agha Asghar of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Police Station, Karachi, who played a vital role in retrieving the stolen phone

How a Mistake Helped Sarah

When Sarah had lost her phone, she didn’t log out of any of her social accounts. Her phone had a sim lock and a phone lock so she was sure that when the thief would get the phone formatted to access it, her social accounts would be automatically logged off. She was also sure that all her data would get erased after the formatting.

Surprisingly, it turns out that maybe such criminals have some IT expertise/tricks through which even after formatting a stolen phone, they are able to access some personal data and accounts of the phone owner. Or maybe they are able to access a locked phone without formatting it due to some new features in smart phones. In either case, this means that even if we have security locks on our phone, we can never be sure that the robbers can’t access our personal data on it.

This Incident Has Many Lessons For Us

This mistake helped Sarah, but it could prove to be dangerous for others who lose their phones. Therefore, if, God forbid, your phone gets lost, snatched or stolen, be sure to do the following:

1. Log out of all your accounts. Each social account can be logged out of from any other device. Don’t skip this thinking that it would happen automatically after the formatting of the phone, because sometimes it doesn’t.

2. Get your sim blocked immediately as it may get used in criminal activity, otherwise.

3. Report to the police ASAP.

4. Additionally, don’t buy stolen phones. There are a few ways to check if the phone is a second hand one or a stolen one. Don’t opt for stolen phones just because they cost lesser.

5. If you suspect that a phone that you have purchased is a stolen one, report it to the police for sure. Be like Asif and Faisal, who made time and effort to confirm if it was a genuine phone or not and then took pains to help return it to the original owner. Also, do cooperate with the police when they try to take action against mobile robbers and vendors.

6. Be very careful about your phone whenever you are in crowded areas. Keep it in close proximity or in your hands instead of in a bag from where a thief could easily take it away without you noticing it.

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