Stalking my stolen phone with Tailscale

Here’s an interesting use case for a VPN. My phone was stolen a few days ago.

I know, can hear you thinking: “Why, Ben, admit you just lost it…” – you cynic. To which I counter I noticed it was missing within a few minutes, and by that time the “Find my Phone” service couldn’t find it. So I merely dropped it, we can be sure that something turned the phone entirely off during that few minutes. Ok, ok, maybe I dropped it that then a car ran over it, or something. That something needs to have been in the walk from the gate at the airport to the shuttle bus into town.

So back to the VPN. The next morning, it occurred to me that I have Tailscale installed on all my devices. The Admin console in tailscale reports the last time the device was part of the VPN. Sadly, my phone was last seen, shortly after my plane’s arrival at the gate.

The phone is new and expensive, I’m sad. And I’ve been checking to see if it shows up with the find my phone service, no luck. But Tailscale’s admin console updated the last seen around 4pm yesterday. Frustratingly, I noticed that 20 minutes later. Too late to get the phone’s location.

I’ve rigged up a script that’s polling the stable Tailscale VPN IP address of the phone. If it reappears, that script will send me a text message. I’m not clever enough to have puzzled out how to invoke the Android find my phone service at that point. If I’m lucky, I can capture that, manually, before the phone gets turned off.

Meanwhile, I discovered my credit card has purchase protection for this. So I’m getting schooled in the subcontractor’s policies and procedures for that benefit. And, I’m now learning all kinds of things about “filing a police report” and the policies and procedures of the Massachusetts State Police Records Center. So much learning! Oh, and TextBelt has an affordable API for posting SMS messages over HTTP

2 thoughts on “Stalking my stolen phone with Tailscale

  1. bhyde Post author

    yup, tis a bummer.

    Update on the story – the phone connected to the VPN for a short while yesterday afternoon. I was able to get some info from “find my android.” it was connected to the airport’s public wifi. it was in the terminal where it went missing. I was able to “secure” it, which includes leaving a message on the screen. It was very close to fully discharged. I’ve attempted to contact various lost and found … so we wait. The TSA has a very -ah- developed lost and found 🙂

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