Teacher's stolen iPhone ends up in Mongolia

Teacher who lost device in Lan Kwai Fong saw photos in iCloud from 2,800 kilometres away

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 October, 2012, 4:13am

Annie Sewell has never been to Mongolia. But her iPhone has.

When the 24-year-old English teacher accessed her iCloud storage area, she found photos of complete strangers enjoying themselves - courtesy of her stolen phone.

Last month Sewell and her friends were having a drink outside Al's Diner in Lan Kwai Fong when she realised someone had stolen her iPhone 3. Her friends lost their wallets.

Sewell's boyfriend arrived and used the GPS tracker "find my friend" app on his iPhone to locate her device.

After only an hour it had already made it to Temple Street, Mong Kok.

Sewell cancelled the stolen iPhone the next morning, but by then more than HK$1,000 of calls had been made to the mainland.

The phone was already on the move.

One week and 2,766 kilometres later, it was being used to take snaps in Mongolia.

Sewell discovered that her iCloud service, which stores personal data such as photos, was set on automatic.

It meant all photos being taken on her old iPhone were still being streamed and uploaded.

In the corner of each screen shot was a Mongolian network name and, just to confirm the location, one of the photographs was of a man dressed in a uniform with Mongolian insignia on the shoulder.

"I looked through the photos and I had no idea who these people were," Sewell said.

"Then I realised they were taken by the people who had my iPhone. In the space of a week it had ended up in Mongolia."

Sewell reported the theft to the police, but they could not get the exact location of the iPhone in Mongolia as the phone's location settings were turned off.

"If I'd had my location settings on, I'd have been able to find exactly where in Mongolia they were," Sewell said.

"The iPhone obviously passed through a number of hands before getting there."

Police figures show the theft of mobile phones has risen sharply in recent years.

A total of 4,087 were stolen in 2010, 4,691 last year and 3,708 already between January and August of this year.