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Why are “Find my phone” apps wrongly directing people to this house in Atlanta?


If you’ve ever lost your phone before and immediately tried to locate it using some GPS-tracker app like “find my iPhone”, you’d probably know that a wild goose chase ensues. The chase begins and you’ll have to act fast if you want to catch the culprit that has stolen your smartphone.

Now, what if you’re on the receiving end of these searches multiple times. Does it make you a thief? Or is your house just bringing bad GPS-related luck? We dig deeper into this mysterious case that has a couple in Atlanta constantly having find my phone-like apps bring people to their house.


Make no mistake, this duo is not the Bonnie and Clyde of the smartphone industry. They’ve just bought the wrong house. This all began when Christina Lee and Michael Saba moved in together. The following months they started getting odd “visits” from people looking for their smartphones, stating that their phone-tracking apps lead them to this geolocation.

So put yourself in their shoes. At every time of day having people bang on your door sometimes accompanied by policemen, asking to search your house for their missing smartphone. Yikes, after the third time we’d move out immediately if it was us.


They’ve been through about a dozen accusations and every time they need to explain that “I’m sorry you came all this way. This happens a lot”. Often people take their word but there are times where the accusers fail to believe them.

The couple has tried to understand why they keep facing this but their attempts to connect the dots have been in vain. These stolen phones have no real commonality between them. They’re on different cellular networks. While some are Androids and some are iPhones. An official complaint has been filed to their local police department too but it’s all the same.


A case as interesting as this isn’t the first time that “Find my phone” apps have failed to give the correct location of where these stolen phones are. Some experts claim that it’s associated with cell tower triangulation – a problem that has been exhibited before in another state.

A commentator on Ars Technica points out a reasonable explanation below:

“Our utility maps things by GPS, but the fallback is to plug the address into something like Microsoft Streets and Trips or even Google Maps. If the mapping program can’t find it, typically it will default to throwing the coordinates to wherever the geographical center of the zip code is. Sometimes it’s the middle of nowhere and obviously wrong, sometimes it’s a similar street in the same city, sometimes it’s a similar street on the other side of the US.

When we encounter errors like this, we have to manually update our database with the proper GPS data, which we get with a handheld. We are supposed to do this when we install new meters and equipment, to map their locations accurately, but most of the time they forget or don’t bother and the person entering the information into the database has to “best guess” where it is.

What’s probably happening is that GPS coordinates for these “lost” phones is bad, and the mapping program is throwing up its hands and pointing them to the default location for that zip code, which is unfortunately on top of this address.”

Will it ever end for the couple? Who knows but shifting houses should probably be on their minds by now.

For those who’ve lost their phones before, do share with us your experiences with the apps you’ve used to locate them. Have you ever managed to locate your devices? Share with us in the comments below.