My daughter's phone was just pick-pocketed on a Rome subway. Help

So, I feel kind of stupid like I should know the answers here…

  1. The last Find My update was about 18 hours ago, so that appears to now be useless.
  2. The options to play a sound and notify when found and mark as stolen all still say “pending”. Perhaps they powered it off?
  3. T-Mobile says they don’t have towers over there anyway. And if they did, they claim we would have needed their FamilyWhere app installed anyway.
  4. She has reached out to local police, but I don’t think there’s any lead there.
  5. Her latest photos appear to be in, so we probably have all the data in the cloud somewhere
  6. “Erase This Device” - I’m trying to decide if we should do this for safety, or if it might hinder the ability to recover the device??
  7. Will Apple be any help here? (I’m gonna try as soon as I get off with T-Mobile)

Sadly, it’s a brand new 12 mini. And no, we don’t have insurance on it. That stuff is pricy. Sigh.

I could start googling, but I wanted to hit you guys first as you’re smarter than Joe Google (lol) and I’m quite immersed here…

Thanks in advance!

Hate to say it but it may be gone. If are able to locate it, you may be able to buy it back. Does she have a reward with her password hint? That is the only thing I can think of. Others? Rome is known for its pickpockets.

Thanks for the reply.

I don’t know about this feature, but I just added a reward to the Lost Mode message (which also has a phone number and email address). Of course, Lost Mode is still pending, presumably because it’s still powered off or at least not on the internet.

Apple says that if they try to restore the iPhone, it should phone home and communicate the lost mode to the phone. It should apparently also update find my with the location of the Mac or pc, but he didn’t seem very clear about this.

The information on the phone is often more valuable than the phone itself, and alert her carrier immediately if she bought an international mobile plan. Be sure to get a written confirmation about the theft from T-mobile; you’re responsible for calls until they do so.

She should most definitely contact the police directly, even if she got an incident number. Many services, including insurance companies and some credit cards, require written confirmation or you are responsible for all charges if she didn’t get a written confirmation from the police. The police should be accommodating, she should should keep asking for one if not…documentation is critically important.

All passwords for iCloud, shopping, school, social media, etc. should be totally changed ASAP; do not pass Go. Credit companies and banks should be notified.

IIRC, only about 1-3% of stolen mobile phones are recovered globally. Unfortunately, my husband had his mobile phone pickpocketed in Rome years ago before iPhones were born, and he was told not to expect it to be found; it wasn’t.

Buybacks for mobile devices, keys, etc., are almost always scams. Someone says they found your phone, and you must pick it up from them at a remote location. Because they know where you live or the hotel you are staying in, they break in while you are gone. They often try this when purchases on stolen credit cards are maxed out.

Since it was stolen versus lost, and it was immediately taken off-line so it can’t be tracked, that means these people are pros and know what they’re doing. You won’t get it back.

You might check with your homeowner’s insurance to see if it covers theft of personal property or your credit card (if you bought it with a credit card) to see if there’s any financial help there. You might also plead with carrier (or Apple) and see if they can’t work out a discount on a replacement deal. It wouldn’t be free, but maybe you can get a new phone for half price or something.

Definitely make sure carrier disables the SIM and you cancel credit cards on the thing (just to be safe) and change passwords (especially ones like email as you don’t want the thieves getting access to your password reset emails).

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I’m curious about all the advice about password resets and cancelling credit cards. My understanding of iOS and iPhone devices is that any password or card data on the device is well-encrypted, and that without the device passcode, anyone short of a nation-state has no way to extract that data. I have fortunately never had my phone stolen–it was in my pocket when the thieves in Rome made off with my carry-on while I was at the rental car counter. But my understanding is that part of what we pay Apple for is the ability to NOT have to go through all this hassle even if a phone is stolen.

Is there any evidence on record of someone’s passwords or credit card information being retrieved from an iPhone that was stolen when locked?



It depends on the person. For myself, I doubt I’d bother canceling cards because I agree with you, that it’s all encrypted and I’m the only one with access. I also know that I’m careful and don’t leave credit card or password info in insecure places.

But not everyone does that. Many people don’t use a password manager, keep credit card numbers in something like an Apple Notes document for easy copying/pasting, use simple passwords and use them in more than one place, etc. Some even use 1234 as their passcode to unlock their phone (shocker)!

Also, canceling cards and changing passwords and all that is a hassle. I figure telling people they need to do that if they lose their phone is added motivation to keep their phone secure and locked and encrypted.

It would be the latter (or the lack of a passcode on the device) that would be the big problem. An Apple Note will not be accessible without unlocking the phone. And once the phone hits the internet it will go into lost mode, so will be essentially unusable without clearing lost mode anyway.

A hard to guess passcode should be good protection because after a number of incorrect attempts the phone will take longer and longer before it allows another attempt.

Perhaps the biggest threat is a text message that appears to be from Apple asking for the passcode and then the 2FA code for the account that’s really from people who have access to the stolen device, looking to get the lost mode cleared from the phone and/or get access to the Apple ID.

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This is true about iPhones, but a big % of people have passwords that aren’t hard to guess. And a very big % of phone crime, especially in cities, is managed by syndicates consisting of specialists in specific areas…those that grab the phone (and there are sub specialties here), those that break into accounts, those that transfer info, etc. They can check contacts, email, texts, social media, work or school info, etc. And not many apps even have two factor authentication. And there is usually some time between a phone is grabbed and then reported missing. A lot of damage can happen in a few minutes.

Most mobile device thieves are also expert at phishing scams, including the one I mentioned above, and have no qualms about contacting victims directly. Spoofed messages and emails that look like they come from respected business, including Apple, are rampant. IMHO, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  • This is the sad fact. I’d have remote-wiped straight away. Even passcodes that are not that obvious are breakable quickly.
  • I’ve been robbed in Italy, and much as I love the place, I would retire there in the morning, I would not expect too much from their police service.
  • I would identify any method of accessing my funds, not just banks, PayPal, Amazon, any shopping sites or other apps, Venmo etc. and change passwords.
  • I would request fresh credit and debit cards. I’ve had them stolen in New York, they typically aren’t accessed quickly, they wait and see how it goes and then test the waters with a small purchase, so don’t trust no activity on the account. Let me tell you it’s a pain getting the funds back even if the bank covers such things and they only will if you are timely. My friend in banking recommends fresh cards on a yearly basis, the banks are only too happy to send them out.
  • The phone is gone, any attempt to contact you is most likely an additional scam. Your best bet is your home insurance.

Someone else also said they must be pros because they powered it down immediately.

What doesn’t add up to me is this: isn’t an iPhone locked with activation lock a brick when stolen? What pro would steal an iPhone? Unless they’re going to take it apart for parts??

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So here’s an update.

I agree the phone is likely gone forever. Apple was useless. Find My should basically be viewed as a way to find something you misplaced. This illusion in my head that somehow it would help recover a stolen device, possibly originating from some story I heard years back, is probably something I should never have believed.

The assumption that activation lock might deter thieves also seems misplaced.

I tried to get some deal from the carrier. No luck. But they pointed me to an existing promo to get an iPhone 12 mini for half price ($360) with any working iphone, even the original. So I found a 5c for sale locally for $50 and will be trading that in.

Since the original phone was practically new, she will now have almost 24 months with two phone installments. Since I can’t bare the pain again, I’m doing the insurance which, at $18/mo, is MORE than the half-price installment of the second phone! ($360/24 = $15/mo)

I’m tired of managing 3 kids with iPhones. I’m trying now to plan a monthly phone allowance and then it’s on them. Buy what you can afford. If you lose it, replace it. I don’t even want to hear about it. I’ll pay for the plan.

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Check the credit card you used (if you used one)—some offer theft and loss warranties that are surprising. I have a couple that sent me a huge pamphlet of features when I made purchases with it.


Thieves who are serious or part of an operation immediately power the phone down or stick it in a foil bag. While there’s no legitimate way to defeat Activation Lock, there are apparently methods to erase the phone without bricking it that are still workable. The good news is that doing so doesn’t unlock the phone’s data, but it lets them resell the phone.

Despite that, Activation Lock probably does deter some large percentage of thief who is casual, because it seems like phone theft went down (along with other property theft) over the last several years. It’s more professional thieves/outfits that target them now.

Not all thieves are that smart, and with phone within the same country you signed up for service on and Bluetooth crowdsource location, you might have been able to direct the police. But it’s petty theft, so police often don’t care or have the resources. It’s definitely better at finding a lost or misplaced item.

I’m so sorry about this! What a pain and cost for all concerned.

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My travel tips…
I think the important thing is to make sure that the phone needed a passcode to unlock it at the time it was stolen (i.e. always require a passcode on waking - don’t set a delay). Otherwise a lot of security information is compromised.
The second thing is to make sure the passcode is not easily guessed. iOS devices now require a 6 digit passcode. If you still use a 4 digit passcode then I recommend updating it to 6 digit.
Thirdly, ensure that Find My is activated for the phone and, if it is mislaid, use your iCloud account to deactivate it or remote wipe it, if apparently stolen.

Next try to cancel your SIM as it could be used in another device. You can set a SIM lock passcode in the iPhone settings and this may be a good idea, although it does make powering on the phone a bit more tedious.

In the early days Find My has been used to track thieves who have not turned a stolen phone off but they are less likely to do this these days. In any case, it is dangerous to track and confront thieves and, as mentioned above, the police are unlikely to help you.

Best assume the phone is gone. It would be wise to quickly change crucial passwords such as AppleID and Paypal in case the thieves have access to some sophisticated hacking resources. Credit cards linked to Apple Pay should be secure but maybe change them anyway.

Just what you don’t need on a holiday!

BTW I do feel a little more secure using my Apple Watch for tap & pay since it is harder to steal (pickpocket) and needs a passcode if it is removed from my wrist. Using the Watch avoids exposing my credit card or iPhone to bystanders. I can also take it into the surf and so don’t leave valuables on the beach.

Find My is very, very far from useless, and it will prevent the vast majority of thieves from accessing personal data, a whole lot more than Android can do. However, it’s very risky to assume you will be be not among the smaller % of unlucky victims of identity theft, and Rome is known for its sophisticated phone theft and pickpocket rings. As I said before, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Thanks for that reminder. In case anyone else wants to do this, it’s in Settings > Cellular > SIM PIN, then enable SIM PIN, then Change PIN. The existing PIN was required to change the PIN; on my phone it was 1234, and once upon a time some phone tech told me that is the default for all SIMs.

Most iPhones now also have an eSIM. My usual practice is to have my carrier transfer the phone to the eSIM, allowing me to use the SIM slot for travel only. So, most of the time, there is not a live detachable SIM available, alleviating the worry of a stolen SIM if the phone is stolen in my home country. This is also convenient when returning from a trip as switching back to my home number involves only a Settings change, rather than manipulating tiny objects.

While irrelevant to this discussion, note that IOS 14.5 now allows the phone numbers on both the physical SIM and the eSIM to be active. This may be useful in some circumstances but could result in excess charges if you’re not careful.

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My sympathy to the OP. However, I’m glad for the learning opportunity of this thread.

Is that something the carrier must do? When I activated a new iPhone SE, the carrier (Boost Mobile) rep had no idea what I meant when I asked about an eSIM.

Is this the user’s choice? Meaning, the user can choose to have only one active?