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Lost your phone? Yeah, there’s an app for that

After accidentally leaving her iPhone behind Ballydoyle Irish Pub AurorAmie Langus used an app thtracked its locatiallowed her recover it

After accidentally leaving her iPhone behind at Ballydoyle Irish Pub in Aurora, Amie Langus used an app that tracked its location and allowed her to recover it in Chicago. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

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Guardian Angels get back iPhone

The Guardian Angels used an app to help police capture a group of men and teens who allegedly stole an iPhone from a woman in Chicago early Tuesday on a CTA Red Line train.

Members of the Guardian Angels boarded a southbound Red Line train at the Grand Avenue station about 12:30 a.m. and met a woman who said her iPhone 5 had been stolen, according to the group.

The woman exited the train to call police and told the Angels that four teenagers attacked her from behind and stole her phone.

The Guardian Angels and police used an iPhone app to track the stolen phone to a southbound Brown Line train. Officers then took the suspects into custody and recovered the stolen phone.

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Updated: November 19, 2012 2:13PM

Odds are, you know the feeling. You go to reach for your phone — that fancy one you just spent hundreds on — and it’s gone. It’s not in your purse, or in your car, or in your pocket.

If you’re Oswego resident Amie Langus, this scenario has happened more than once, and it happened again last week after a night out in downtown Aurora. Only this time, Langus turned her panic into persistence, and using a little detective work ended up with phone back in hand.

How? Well, there’s an app for that.

“I tell everyone now that this (phone application) is a lifesaver,” she said of the Find My iPhone application that helped track her iPhone 4 to the South Side of Chicago where it was eventually recovered. “I wish I knew about it right away.”

Here’s how it works. If, like Langus, you misplace your iPhone, the app will let you to use another device to locate the exact location of your missing equipment. The best part, the application doesn’t even need to be installed on the lost or stolen device for it to work.

As soon as the lost phone connects to Wi-Fi, the phone’s exact location is sent to the owner in an e-mail. In this case, Langus’ phone had traveled from Aurora to Chicago, where it pinged the following morning when it was turned on.

“The second it connects to Wi-Fi, it e-mails you with a satellite image of the location. I saw the house, the color of the cars,” Langus said.

The following day, the phone pinged again, this time at a different Chicago residence. On Monday, she struck gold.

At 7 a.m., the phone was tracked to a warehouse on Harlem Avenue.

“It was obviously someone’s work,” Langus said. “I was nervous and antsy, but determined to get it back.”

Langus and boyfriend Adam Vukelich knew showing up at a random home wouldn’t be the safest route to take. Showing up at an office, they said, was a different story.

“Luckily it pinged in a location we felt safe to go,” she said.

From that point on, the couple was on a mission.

“All of our vacation photos were on that phone and hadn’t been uploaded yet. It was our first trip together, and it was epic,” she said.

The duo did a little research about missing phones trying to decide whether Chicago police would even entertain the idea of helping them recover the property.

“They said if I get close and call 311, they’ll come out and do what they can,” she said. “But there was still a chance we wouldn’t be able to get it back.”

Luckily, they had more than just the police on their side when they showed up to the Harlem Avenue location. Langus decided to head to Human Resources where someone might be able to match employee records to the address her phone pinged at the previous day.

The HR manager was more than helpful, Langus said. He saw the phone pinging from the warehouse and couldn’t deny that it was there. With a leopard print case, the iPhone was easily detectable, and had been seen that morning by a floor manager.

The HR manager did contact the police at this point, Langus said. With the cops on hand, they called the suspected employee in, and she promptly turned the phone over with no fight.

“She just handed me the phone,” Langus said. “She said her friend found it in the bathroom and had given it to her.”

The cops said the offense was a petty one, and aside from making a report of the incident could do little about the alleged theft.

“This wasn’t vigilante justice. I just wanted my phone back,” Langus said. “I’m so grateful I actually found it.”

According to local authorities, “under no circumstance would the Aurora police encourage someone who traced their stolen or lost phone to an exact address to retrieve it themselves due to safety concerns.”

If the phone is traced to an Aurora location, the owner could contact Aurora police who will send an officer in an attempt to retrieve the property.

“If the phone in question were stolen, we would launch an investigation since it would be a crime,” said police spokesman Dan Ferrelli.

If the phone is located outside of Aurora police jurisdiction, Ferrelli advised owners to contact the proper police agency so they could handle the situation.

Had Langus been on her toes immediately, she could have potentially rectified the situation as soon as she realized her phone was gone. Assuming the device is still on, the Find My iPhone application can be used to set off an alarm on the missing phone that will play loudly for two minutes — even if the phone is on silent. The thief — or person who found the phone — could be sitting across the room and be thwarted before even leaving the scene.

The application can also be used to display a custom message on the screen, remotely lock your device, or wipe your device to erase your personal data.

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