Home Headlines Theft of an iPhone in SMA: Chronicle

Theft of an iPhone in SMA: Chronicle

by sanmigueltimes
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My iPhone is gone. So are my illusions about living in San Miguel.
If my wife and I are going to retire in Mexico, we have some things to learn first
In my head, I keep replaying the moment my iPhone was stolen. I see it in slow motion – the thief’s hand reaching over, grasping the phone but never touching me, a deft maneuver he’d obviously done before.

I think, but I’m not sure, that my hands followed the phone as it was lifted out of my shirt pocket. It might have been just my eyes that followed its motion up and out. My reflexes are fast, but they weren’t fast enough.

In a flash, my iPhone was gone, in the hand of a thief sprinting down Calle Brisas in the San Antonio colonia of San Miguel de Allende in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. With the phone was a detailed map of my life – passwords, photos, music, documents and the most personal of information.

Also gone: A sliver of my innocence. My wife and I have been considering San Miguel as a retirement destination. Now we’re not so sure – not because of the theft alone, but because of what followed and our feelings of vulnerability and helplessness. That we were strangers in a strange land became all too real.

The Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel is in the center of town on the Jardin. Photo: Dwight Silverman / Houston Chronicle

Photo: Dwight Silverman / Houston Chronicle

The Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel is in the center of town on the Jardin.


THIS WAS our second visit to San Miguel. Friends of ours who are almost two decades older retired there five years ago and love it. We first went to visit them in February, fell in love with the place and decided to return in September for a full week.

Since our friends were away for part of our visit, we had the chance to explore the place by ourselves. We figured it might give us an opportunity to see what it would be like to live there.


1. Use Find My iPhone to locate your phone, either the app-based version or the one found at iCloud.com.

2. Set your phone in Lost Mode, and which lets you lock it and put a message on the screen saying it’s stolen.

3. Contact the police. Don’t try to track down the phone yourself.

4. Have you added credit cards to Apple Pay? After logging in to iCloud.com, click on your name in the upper right corner and go to Settings > My Devices. Click on the stolen device and remove the credit cards from there.

5. If you are sure you won’t get your phone back anytime soon, use Find My iPhone to erase the device’s contents. If the phone is turned off or in Airplane Mode, this won’t happen until the next time it’s connected to the Internet.

6. You can also use Find My iPhone to remove the device from your iCloud account. This will prevent messages and alerts meant for you from showing up on the iPhone.

7. Contact your cellular carrier and report the phone stolen. You can do this by phone or online, and when you do, the phone won’t be allowed to connect to the carrier’s network.

8. If your iPhone connects to your employer’s network, talk to the IT department. If your employer owns the phone, they can initiate the erase command.

San Miguel de Allende is a popular destination for U.S. expatriates. It’s a haven for artists, writers and retirees who want their fixed incomes to go further. You can live in San Miguel for about half of what it would cost here. That makes it very attractive to American retirees, which we might become in the next five years or so.

As a result, a good part of the approximately 160,000 residents of San Miguel are from the U.S., with estimates ranging from 8,000 to 15,000.

It’s also a popular spot for tourists in Mexico. Earlier this year, Travel + Leisure named it the best city in the world to visit. Its charms are obvious – cobblestone streets, splashes of vivid colors on homes and businesses, soaring colonial-era churches and rolling hills. The climate outdoes even coastal California’s, with daytime highs usually in the 70s and evening temperatures dipping into the 50s most days of the year.

It’s generally considered one of the safest cities in Mexico, one relatively untouched by the cartel-related violence that bedevils other parts of the country. It’s not on the U.S. State Department’s list of places unsafe to visit. But crime is on the rise. Four taxi drivers were shot to death earlier this year in apparent retribution over drug deals gone wrong, and the head of a Mexican kidnapping ring was arrested in San Miguel in the spring.

Still, the majority of crime in San Miguel is of the petty type, including purse-snatching and  pickpocketing, a variant of which happened to me. It’s the kind of thing that could have happened in Houston, particularly given my habit of carrying my smartphone in my shirt pocket. I might as well have been walking around San Miguel’s cobblestone streets saying, “Here, have this iPhone 7 Plus!”

Someone took me up on it.


THE THEFT happened Friday, our last full day of a weeklong vacation that, so far, had gone wonderfully. We had been unable to purchase bus tickets for the start of our return trip to Mexico City for a Saturday return flight to Houston, so we decided to make the 15-minute talk to the bus station to buy tickets in person.

San Miguel is a very walkable city, and we’d been hiking all over it without incident all week. For the most part, I’d kept my phone in a front pants pocket, but we had not taken this particular route before, so I was glancing occasionally at Google Maps, then putting my phone back in my shirt pocket for quick retrieval.

We were coming down a very steep hill and stopped at an intersection while a pickup truck backed from the side street onto the main drag. A young man in his 20s was guiding the driver because the line 0f site was so bad.

“Nice guy,” I thought, as we stood and watched the process.

When the driver finally cleared the intersection, he pulled away, and the man who’d been helping remained on the corner, apparently waiting for us to pass. As we did, I made eye contact and nodded, as did he.

And then he reached out and took the iPhone out of my shirt pocket, turned and ran up the side street.

I initially launched after him, but I was still on the steep hill and its pitch and my momentum caused me to stumble rather than run. I took a few steps after I regained my balance, but it was quickly apparent that I, a 61-year-old overweight American, was not going to be able to catch an in-shape 20-something running at top speed.

Instead, I yelled at him to stop, in Spanish and in English, and then I yelled some choice epithets in frustrated English.

My wife, bless her, had pulled out her own phone and snapped a photo of the thief. He was pretty far down the street, but zooming in on the image lets you see his striped shirt, blue baseball cap and dark cargo pants.

Do you know this guy? He stole my iPhone.  Photo: Lisa Silverman

Photo: Lisa Silverman

A woman who lived in the house on the corner came out, as did a large number of children, drawn by my swearing. She spoke no English; we spoke almost no Spanish. But she told us how to call the police, which we did (911, just as in the U.S.), and she told them what happened and where we were located.

I pulled up Find My iPhone on my wife’s device and spotted my phone on its map. The thief had run two blocks and turned right into a dead-end side street. He apparently had turned the phone off, or possibly put it in Airplane Mode, because it was no longer online. I used Find My iPhone to put the device in Lost Mode, which locks the screen with a message. I set it to say the phone had been stolen, both in Spanish and English.

When the police came – rolling up in an intimidating black-and-white SUV, the officers dressed in full urban combat gear – I showed them the map and the photo. The woman who’d been helping us also pitched in, since neither of the officers spoke English. They hopped back in their vehicle and headed in the direction the thief had run. A few minutes later, two motorcycle cops followed, along with a more traditional police cruiser. Clearly, San Miguel’s finest were out in force on this crime.

The woman indicated the police wanted us to wait, and she brought out two stools for us to sit on and an umbrella to shade us from the sun. When the police returned about 20 minutes later, they had an officer who spoke a little English.

He told us they had gone down that street looking for the thief and had knocked on some doors. But they didn’t find him, nor did they find my phone.

We were advised to go to the “Ministeria Publico” to file a formal complaint and get a police report for insurance purposes.

Source: http://www.houstonchronicle.com

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