How my iPhone was stolen out from my nose, again!

what to bring to Ecuador

If you have ever had something stolen, it really makes you think twice – be more careful, change your habits, and watch your back. Walking around Quito one day, I was the victim of iPhone theft. Luckily I was able to recover the phone, but nonetheless I was extremely cautious from then on. I don’t take my phone with me to the gym, for example. I keep my purse on my lap at restaurants. Here’s how a thief stole my iPhone (again!!!) despite my careful habits…. Please share this post to let the gringo community to be on alert for this devious trick:

What happened

what to bring to Ecuador

Keep your eye on your iPhone in Ecuador

I was at an internet cafe on Padre Aguirre in el Centro Historico de Cuenca. I sat down to a computer near the door and sat down to blog. I placed my purse directly in front of my face, below the computer screen. No problem right?

A street vendor walks into the internet cafe. Trapitos, trapitos, a un dolarito! He was selling “trapitos” – or rags, which is rather odd for a street vendor here, but not unheard of. (I have purchased toilet paper, tooth brushes, and leggings from street vendors.) Businesses also usually tell vendors to leave if they try to sell inside of stores, restaurants, etc. I ignore him, but he shoves the rags in my face. As I have become very accustomed to ignoring street vendors, I keep ignoring him.

Big mistake.

He finally leaves the store, and 20 seconds later I notice that my purse is open. He had shoved the rags in my face so that he could unzip my purse under the rags. My iPhone was missing. I ran out the door and down the block but he was gone.

Trying to recover the phone

I first tried the “Find My iPhone app” but it didn’t work – the phone was not connected to Wifi.

I then tried t

he bold move of calling the thief using Skype, but he didn’t pick up. I sent him a text message in Spanish, offering to buy back my own phone, no questions asked, because I had a lot of photos of sentimental value on it. No answer.

I had the shop owner call the police, who came in about 15 minutes. We circled downtown in their car for 20 minutes, looking to see if I could recognize the thief. I couldn’t describe him, except that he was 40ish, male, short, and looked dirty and unkempt (a description of many of the street vendors). No luck.

I filed an official police report, out of civic duty, but it felt like a formality with no chance or hope of recovering the phone.


I hesitated to post this. I don’t want to complain. I love Ecuador, I have lived here 2 years, and I feel that overall the city is beautiful. There is petty theft galore, but most of the time you are safe as long as you are very careful and have the right habits (NOTE to readers: Purse in the lap from now on!).

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6 Responses to "How my iPhone was stolen out from my nose, again!"
  1. Burt says:

    Better yet, stop carrying a purse. That is an invitation for a thief. My wife and I both wear leather “fanny packs” worn in the front, just a bit to the side (which makes it easy to sit with the pack in place). We had wallets custom made with chains with leather straps that clip over our belt. That goes in the front pocket under the pack, which provides yet another protection.

    We have used that approach since being pick-pocketed in Amsterdam in 1991. The only hint of trouble since then was a daylight knife attack on a bridge in Venezuela. Ain’t nothing going to stop an open outright armed attack, but our pack plus chained wallet pretty much prevents sneak attacks. My belief is that a thief looks at us, and just figures there is an easier target elsewhere, and thus leaves us alone…

  2. Paul Acee says:

    Ouch Lisa. I had a mountain bike stolen in front of my sisters $500K house in Napa, California last week. It wasn’t locked up, my bad. Crime is everywhere, live and learn. I’ll be in Cuenca next week (To retire) with a fake wallet and cheapo throw away cell phone for just such an occasion. lol
    Love your blog!
    Paul Acee

  3. RoamingLisa says:

    Man, that sucks. Haha, fake wallet – not a bad idea. I think the only reason the thief didn’t get my cash, IDs, and credit cards is that I have no wallet – my purse has a built in inner zipper compartment which he probably didn’t feel like fumbling with once he already had my phone.

  4. You have my full empathy and sympathy. My week old Nexus 5 was stolen out of my hand while I was waiting for a Thunderstorm to pass over. My big mistake was that I had a blindside. The 16 year old punk yanked it out of my hand and ran. Lesson learned. When taking out a phone be aware of all 4 sides.

  5. mark leon says:

    Being overly safe is always an asset with international travel regardless of the area or culture visiting, but that still even applies at home locally as well . Appreciate your blog and updates “Roaming Lisa”.

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