When phone tracking goes wrong: Wayne Dobson DOESN’T have your cellphone. Really.

I usually confine blog subjects to Europe, but it’s Friday, and it was too surreal to pass on. Apparently, a glitch with a Sprint system is robbing Las Vegas resident Wayne Dobson of his sleep: at all hours of the night and day, strangers show up at his door, demanding that he return their phones because their phone tracking solution shows without a doubt that their phone is somewhere in his house.

It isn’t. But it’s hard to convince people of that, he says: once, one of his visitors showed him his tablet with a phone tracking app – showing the blip of their phone right inside his house. “He was proving to me that his phone was in my house!” said Dobson to the LVRJ.

Some of them don’t bother to politely knock, but bring friends to bang on the door, or prowl around his garden to find a point of entry. The glitch also once sent the police over at for a domestic violence call – Dobson was taken outside on his lawn and searched, before the police realised their mistake.

The problems arose first in 2011, and while he hasn’t been the victim of aggression yet, Dobson is worried that his luck might be running out.

One one of the occasions when Dobson was arguing with someone over their phone, he called Sprint, who explained him that cellphone GPS systems that don’t provide exact locations. They give a general location of where to start searching. For some reason Dobson’s house is that location for his area.

Some experts think that the problem may originate at Sprint’s switchboard: they think a bug in Sprint’s software incorrectly translates some coordinates to those of Dobson’s house. While the telco tries to address the problem, Dobson put up this sign next to his bell: NO LOST CELL PHONES (you can see it here).

Photo: daquellamanera; spotted by GetJini

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About the author

Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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