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Lost Phones Cost Americans $30 Billion a Year

Every 3.5 seconds, someone in America loses a cell phone. And more often than not, it happens in a coffee shop, a new study says.

All those absentminded moments add up to $30 billion in annual losses, the report, from mobile security company LookOut claims. And after cafes, the most common places people abandon their handsets are bars and offices.


Night time seems to be the hours most phones get misplaced, the study found, given that some 67% of handsets are located between of 9pm and 2am. Chicago may be the exception, where church is the third most popular place to lose a phone (behind coffee shops and drugstores). Thomson Nguyen, data scientist at Lookout, says the trail of lost phones gives an insight into the social activities in various cities: New Yorkers, for example, lose most of their phones in fast-food restaurants. (In Dublin, it’s the pub.)

There are apps to help people locate their phones via GPS, and which allow data to be erased remotely. LookOut has free and premium services apps for iPhone and Android which can set off an alarm on the lost device, while Apple has a free Find My iPhone — but the lost device must have the iCloud settings enabled. Another app, the iHound costs $3.99 a year for Android and iPhone; it allows users to share their location on Facebook, but otherwise this app does much the same as the others.

Others say there are less scientific ways to look after your phones that won’t cost $3.99 or time and worry. Vicki G. Morwitz, the Harvey Golub Professor of Business Leadership and Professor of Marketing at New York University Stern School of Business, suggests refraining from texting during church services. “You can teach yourself to be more mindful,” she says. “After losing my favorite hat in a taxi, I now mindfully check the taxi seat every time after I get up and before I close the door.”

The top 10 places for lost or stolen phones:

  1. Coffee Shop
  2. Bar
  3. Office
  4. Restaurant
  5. Apartment & condo
  6. Grocery store
  7. Gas station
  8. Residential homes
  9. Pharmacy or drug store
  10. Park

The top 10 cities for phone loss:

  1. Philadelphia
  2. Seattle
  3. Oakland
  4. Long Beach
  5. Newark
  6. Detroit
  7. Cleveland
  8. Baltimore
  9. New York
  10. Boston

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Comments (5 of 16)

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    • And people wonder why print media is dying, because “great” publications like the WSJ post this garbage. I knew it was shoddy in my head and wanted to see if they would support the calculation. Really great article WSJ…impressed.

    • wrong! its a zero-sum game. someone loses his phone, someone else finds it! loser pays, winner ends up saving.

    • Does anyone bother to do the math on these ‘articles’. $30B divided by $300 for a typical phone means that 100 million phones are lost a year….I find that VERY hard to believe.

    • my friend’s mom earned $19804 the prior month. she been making cash on the computer and bought a $511700 home. All she did was get lucky and put to work the information exposed on this site lazycash33.cøm

    • The study is a complete fabrication, the company that provided this data counts a found phone as when someone logs in to activate tracking for their phone. Guess what you do when you install tracking software on your phone? You test it. Surprised reporters do not look into the numbers or source of the study.

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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.