This Nevada man doesn't have your lost cellphone

Cell phone owners believe lost devices are at his home, apparently due to inexact Sprint location tracking tools
  • Matt Hamblen (Computerworld (US))
  • — 15 January, 2013 17:50

A resident of North Las Vegas, Nev., says owners of lost cell phones have repeatedly shown up at his house incorrectly demanding phones that they tracked via software to his location.

Wayne Dobson, a 59-year-old retiree, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he's been awakened at night by people looking for their cell phones and has trouble explaining that he doesn't have them.

He has even posted a sign near his front door saying "No Lost Cell Phones!"

The problem involves the location -tracking software included with most cell phones that take advantage of both GPS tracking and triangulation between nearby cell towers.

When one woman came to his home and asked for her phone, she said she was only trying to retrieve it for the pictures of her grandchildren. Dobson invited her inside, from where she called police and Dobson called Sprint, her cell phone provider.

Dobson told the Review-Journal that a Sprint technician told him that her cellphone's GPS tracking capability was only approximate and indicates his home as a starting point.

In December, Dobson was awakened by four young men one night searching for their phone, and then by North Las Vegas police two weeks later. Apparently, all came to the house based on inexact location information.

Because the problem appeared to be related to some owners of Sprint phones, Sprint told Computerworld that it's investigating the problem and wouldn't comment further.

A similar problem with inexact tracking was reported by WDSU News in New Orleans in April 2011. At the time, Diane Pierre-Louis said that she got visits every weekend from people searching lost cell phones.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Read more about mobile/wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.

Tags: Mobile/Wireless, consumer electronics, security, Networking, smartphones, wireless, mobile

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