Apple thinks this house is the Bermuda Triangle of lost iPhones

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Dozens of people have been told their lost iPhones are this house. But they're not.
Dozens of people have been told their lost iPhones are this house. But they're not.
Photo: Fusion

Find my iPhone is a fantastic way to recover your iPhone when it is lost or stolen. Most of the time. If you’re Christina Lee and Michael Saba, though, you hate Find my iPhone, because it has ruined your life.

For some reason, Apple constantly reports stolen or lost iPhones as coming from Saba and Lee’s small suburban Atlanta house… even though they are nowhere near by.

Fusion has the story, which is just too bizarre. Here’s a snippet:

It started the first month that Christina Lee and Michael Saba started living together. An angry family came knocking at their door demanding the return of a stolen phone. Two months later, a group of friends came with the same request. One month, it happened four times. The visitors, who show up in the morning, afternoon, and in the middle of the night, sometimes accompanied by police officers, always say the same thing: their phone-tracking apps are telling them that their smartphones are in this house in a suburb of Atlanta.

But the phones aren’t there, Lee and Saba always protest, mystified at being fingered by these apps more than a dozen times since February 2015. “I’m sorry you came all this way. This happens a lot,” they’d explain. Most of the people believe them, but about a quarter of them remain suspicious, convinced that the technology is reliable and that Lee and Saba are lying.

Saba and Lee say they are terrified that altercations with people who believe the have their iPhones will get violent, or that police will kick down their front door some day… something that has, indeed, actually happened before due to faulty Find My iPhone tracking.

No one knows what’s going on. All the stolen phones are from different carriers, so that isn’t it: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Boost Mobile. Apple claims the issue has nothing to do with them. As near as anyone can figure, the problem may have to do with a strange triangulation issue between three cell towers around Saba and Lee’s home, but even then, it’s hard to understand why Find my iPhone keeps directing people to the wrong house.

Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any immediate solution in sight for Saba and Lee. If they want Find My iPhone to stop telling people to come to their house, they may very well just have to move.

Source: Fusion.net

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  • TrueNorth_Steve

    Apple should compensate for moving costs.

  • JVB

    Yeah, that’s the ticket have them move. Really Cult of Mac?

  • Mario Gaucher

    it’s probably a problem with Tower triangulation and an combination of wifi signals that may have move or change in any way that is pinpointing to this specific house.

    Some time ago, I’ve moved one wireless access point from my home to my work office which is 50km away. When inside my work facility, cell signal is not present… buy wifi is now working because of the access point taken from my and installed at work. For a few weeks, both Android devices and iPhones where thinking that they were in my home instead of work. after a couples of days/weeks, both changed the location to my work office automatically without me doing anything to fix it.
    I suppose that when outside and using the “real” GPS, phones also saw the wifi signal… and somewhat sent the new location of the wifi signal back to Google/Apple servers.

    • OMGWTFZPMBBQ

      Sounds plausible if the person moving their router happened to move at the same time as someone else, in a major city. This is one weakness of WiFi triangulation, it assumes no changes if the MAC address is the same. I came up with a workaround which hashes together their broadband username/email with an arbitrary constant and compacts it down to 6 bytes, in a broadly similar fashion to wavelet transform compression.

  • narg

    This is a VERY old story. The problem was fixed a long long time ago.

    • nwcs

      Uh, no. This story was put out yesterday. Just google their names.

      • bock

        Sort of, google Wayne Dobson from Vegas. 3 years ago he had the same problem.

  • Grayson Mixon

    If you read the whole article, you get a piece of information that was intentionally left out of CoM’s write up.

    Android phones are doing the same thing.

    So, it really has nothing to do with Apple.

    • bdkennedy11

      Cult of Mac

      • :)

        So what? They should not omit information relevant to the article.

    • blanco112

      That would explain why Apple thinks it’s not their fault. Because otherwise it makes no sense. If your software is sending people to the same place incorrectly then you have to fix it.

  • halibut_ter

    Sounds like a great place for a Apple Store. groan

  • Rob Alfonso

    Apple could include a marker with text in the map people see in find my iPhone at this house cautioning people that there have been numerious GPS signal / triangulation mis-calculations at this location showing lost or stolen iPhones and to take extra care and caution when going to this location in search of ones iPhone.

    • Albert8184

      Sensible idea. But… but dumb the message down a little. I could see people getting the wrong idea.

  • dcj001

    “Dozens of people have been told their lost iPhones are this house.”

    How can an iPhone be a house, John?

  • OMGWTFZPMBBQ

    Thats actually plausible, we have a similar issue here in the Channel Isles. I found that signal reliably drops out at a certain point in the Green Lanes while walking, even had to restart my phone to fix it.
    Interestingly my GM counters all register two very large (4* background) spikes in this area near the granite walls that might possibly be related.
    People in the area have noticed WiFi also is affected, also have had electrical systems damaged from not one but two C-G lightning strikes in the last year.