Pam Rainey: Phone ‘pocketing’ robs you of more than money

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Senior Connections

When I wrote February’s column about senior bullying, it was written with a sincere desire to begin conversations about the subject. Enthusiastic feedback tells me the subject interests many.

Yet we have a long way to go as we edge this topic to the forefront. No senior deserves to be abused.

While I have not been a target of senior bullying, recently I was the target of what law enforcement calls “pocketing.”

Some might call what I experienced petty theft. Others may see it as “finder’s keepers.” But those of us who use sophisticated cellphones — often containing not only debit and credit card information and confidential business e-mails and texts — might agree with me. Smartphone theft — or “pocketing” — is serious.

My iPhone went missing in a local big-box store. I left it on a shelf after using it to decide how an electronic system sounded. It took less than one minute for someone to notice my unattended phone and take it.

I have a saying: “Seniors have power.” I am a senior, but I did not feel my power wholeheartedly when I realized I had been personally violated. When I learned my fashionable phone with the animal-print cover had been turned off minutes after it had left my side, my tears learned to anger.

It’s simply not in my makeup to roll over and play dead. Whatever it took, I had work to do. I can’t remember where I learned the phrase “Always know where you are,” but I thankfully remembered in the unusual non-blond moment that followed.

I jotted down the aisle where my phone went missing and the time of the crime. Nancy Drew instincts were kicking in. The store manager listened as I hastily explained my dilemma to him, only giving time for him to jot down notes.

Next, I scurried as fast as I could out of the store and across the parking lot to my phone carrier’s store. It had been 10 minutes since the crime and my phone was now safely dismantled. I was making progress.

Next I got in touch with the loss prevention department at the store where my phone went missing. “Where” and “what time” information was important to them.

Fortunately, store cameras easily caught the “pocketing” of my phone.

I had landed on first base, but don’t get too excited. I had a long way to go to make it to home plate.

Next, I called the Denton Police Department and completed a crime report over the phone. Did I mention this incident occurred on a Friday afternoon? I’ll not bore you with all the details, but I will say this: Detective Wade Laughlin at the Denton Police Department rocks! He located my phone the next week.

And those, my friends, are the simple facts.

I made some mistakes that made it easier for the thief to take my iPhone and use it. I hadn’t activated a nifty little program available to iPhone users called Find My Phone. Nor had I set up a “lock code” on my phone.

Here’s why you should do both:

For iPhone users: The Find My Phone program allows you to locate your iPhone by activating a signal search through your free Apple account at You simply open your iCloud account and click on Find My Phone from the home menu. If your phone is “asleep” and locked, or turned off, you’re out of luck. If it isn’t turned off and is in use, the program will locate it on a map.

If you know your telephone is somewhere close by, you can click “play sound” through Find My Phone, and the phone will sound off with a loud tone that you can silence once you’ve retrieved it. If you discover that your phone is on the other side of town, you can select “lost mode,” which will send a telephone number where you can be reached to the lost phone. If you don’t hear from anyone, you can erase your phone within the program. (A warning: If you erase your phone, you will no longer be able to locate it — it’s an option to use if you have to replace the phone.)

People who have Android smartphones should contact their carrier to learn how to recover lost or “pocketed” phones, either by installing an anti-theft or tracking application, or through the Android Device Manager app, available on Google Play. Those who have lost a Windows phone should immediately contact their carrier.

If you haven’t set up a screen lock code on your phone, the search can find it and show you where it is on a map. Now, what is a lock code? Most smartphone users who have a touchscreen smartphone can launch their “settings” app and select a code that is much like a personal identification number — a four-number code that locks the device as soon as the phone goes into “sleep” mode. You know your phone is “asleep” when the screen goes dark.

I’ll admit I did walk away from my phone, even if for just less than a minute.

But let’s look at the other side of this incident: If a small child were left on a shelf for a minute, would it be right for someone to take the child home? What about a credit card or a pet? For a growing number of seniors, smartphones are a telephone, a personal directory and even a wallet.

Word to the wise: Until laws are on the books heavily punishing those who take your stuff, be careful. I know it becomes cumbersome for us seniors to juggle eyeglasses, sales guides, shopping buggies, wallets or purses and phones. But guard your phones and valuables as you guard your hearts.

And don’t be shy when it comes to learning more about your smartphone. If you have a smartphone but don’t know how to lock it, or how to find it — ask your children or your grandchildren, or take your smartphone to your cellular company. Employees at Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile and other carriers are trained to help you get the most out of your smartphone — and how to best protect it from those who might mine your phone for everything from personal information, including your identity, to financial information.

You can also learn a lot about how to use your smartphone simply by typing a question about the phone and its applications into any Internet search engine.

One last word: I have a choice. I can stay angry and bitter about the incident that disrupted my life.

Or I can work hard to bring the need to change laws involving cellphones to the forefront. And I can be grateful for competent and kind folks who helped me, like Detective Laughlin.

I choose the latter, with a question: Where can I find a chain that goes around my neck to connect to my phone?

PAM RAINEY is a longtime Denton resident and a real estate agent who has helped many seniors make decisions about living arrangements. You can reach her with suggestions at or 940-293-3117.

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