Michael Saba and Christina Lee, a couple which has been living in an Atlanta home for more than one year, recently said that they get unexpected visits from people looking for their smartphones and even the police. Though experts do not yet know why exactly phone-tracking apps mistakenly redirect users to Atlanta couple’s home, there are some hypotheses.
The couple said that phone-tracking apps brought desperate Android and iOS users to their doorstep multiple times. Even law enforcement officers looking for missing persons paid them surprise visits.
Christina noted that most visits occurred later at night, after the couple had had dinner. Both Michael and Christina are concerned that the phone-finding apps might redirect some violent people over, who may not believe the awkward explanation.
Experts cautioned that phone-tracking apps are not 100 percent accurate, though the apps which allow users find their handsets online are quite handy.
Sadly for the couple, the visits are not always free of incidents. For instance, once the couple had to sit outside their house after cops paid them a visit, while in the last three weeks three men came to their house desperately looking for a missing child.
But things could get even worse, the couple believes. Michael doesn’t think that any polite explanation would do him and his partner justice if a violent or dangerous person happens to pass by.
A similar case occurred in 2011, when a home owner in Las Vegas reported a similar problem. That person said that he received visits from regular mobile phone users, police, and emergency crews trying to locate 911 calls from handsets.
These cases prove that phone trackers are not as reliable as one may think. People usually believe that the trackers cannot err because they rely on GPS technology. Still, experts explained that the GPS network is not available all the time. So, phone trackers resort to a small trick to find missing handsets.
But this trick, which is pretentiously called ‘triangulation,’ can lead to errors. Experts explained that during triangulation, a tracker tries to identify three nearest mobile phone base stations and draws an imaginary line between those points.
“[…] if your house is on that line you’ll get visits,”
said Alan Woodward, a cybersecurity professor at Surrey University, in the U.K.
Moreover, if triangulation is not available, phone trackers will look for the last wi-fi signal from the missing phone. But as wi-fi databases are not always up-to-date, the apps could indicate false sources for the signal.
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