Press Article: Lost in the world, found in cyberspace

Lost in the world, found in cyberspace

Reprinted From: Reuters - June 11, 2003

By Gunna Dickson

NEW YORK — Found: A gold charm bracelet on rain-washed pavement at a busy intersection in midtown Manhattan, near Grand Central Station.

Clearly not junk jewelry, it is a 14-karat collection of memories that include a pet, a birthday and a wedding anniversary, each engraved with a meaningful date.

Its owner, while probably not a local resident, I was sure, lived somewhere in cyberspace.

I decided to see how wide the Web would reach from the corner of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, where the bracelet was found.

An Internet search for "Lost and Found" yields an abundance of results as vast and varied as the sidewalks of New York, with sites to help you report the loss of a class ring, a computer or a kitten — or find old Army buddies, ancestors, lost lovers and even missing Irish folk.

The most comprehensive is LostAndFound.com (lostandfound.com), described as "the largest free lost and found resource on the Web."

The site allows you to select a country and search or report lost and found property by clicking on one of four icons — Report Lost Item, Report Found Item, Search For Lost Items and Search for Found Items — with a separate link for Lost and Found Pets.

Specific information required includes category (luggage, jewelry, literature, clothing and so on), color, description, and date and place the item was found. Entering your own contact information facilitates a response.

The Inspice site (inspice.com) specializes in recovery of lost mobile devices and laptops, but also will help trace and recover items such as cameras, luggage and pets.

The more specific an area the item was lost in — library, zoo, theater, sports stadium or taxi — the easier the search.

Transportation hubs such as airports and train stations usually have their own Web links to register missing or mislaid property. Travelers to Washington, D.C., for instance, can report items left on aircraft or in jetways to the Web site for Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (mwaa.com), or submit a claim to Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (wmata.com) for items lost while riding the Metro. Note, however, that WMATA holds items for only 30 days.

In England, The Transport for London Lost Property Office handles nearly 150,000 items a year — among them urns with cremated ashes, a wedding dress, stuffed eagle, lawyer's robes and a grandfather clock — with a relatively respectable rate of return. According to its Web site (londontransport.co.uk), "Approximately 2 out of every 3 value items, about 1 in 3 bags, 1 in 4 mobile phones and 1 in 5 books are reunited with their owners."

The online quest gets even more interesting when you enter the cyber world of "lost" persons.

Lost touch with a former schoolmate or colleague in New Zealand? That country's Oldfriends site (oldfriends.co.nz) lists 162,337 members. Be warned, however, that the more generically labeled oldfriends.com is strictly a matchmaking/dating site.

Things really heat up at LostLovers.com (lostlovers.com), where psychology professor and author Dr. Nancy Kalish asks pertinent questions such as, "Do you often think about your first love and wonder why?" and "Has a reunion with your lost lover disrupted your life?" Links include a Consultation and Message Board and a limited-time offer of a free copy of the book "Lost and Found Lovers."

The Vietnam Veterans Home Page (vietvet.org) helps war buddies keep in touch. Its link, Veterans Organizations and Support Groups, includes the Lost & Found World Wide Web Locator for Veterans and Friends of Veterans as well as Lost and Found listings for U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Navy, where a search can be conducted based on a name or unit.

Among the much-publicized genealogy research sites, Ancestors Lost and Found (ancestorsfound.com) specializes in U.S., German and British research for ancestors born in 1920 or before. And the Missing Irish People site (missing.ws) has photos and names of missing Hibernians who "for their own reasons have lost contact or have lost the addresses of family members," along with personal details such as date and place of birth and last known address.

Obviously, the more specific the available information, the better the chance for success in finding a person or object.

Had the gold bracelet been lost in a New York hotel lobby, restaurant or the Empire State Building, it would be easier to trace. So, while awaiting a response to my "Found Item" posting on LostAndFound.com, I also sought advice locally by calling 311, the round-the-clock, non-emergency Citizen Service Center set up by the mayor of New York to assist callers in 170 languages.

An operator explained how I should proceed and transferred me directly to the community affairs office of the nearest police precinct, where I will go to fill out another form.

But if all else fails, said a friend, "You don't have to be Catholic to say a prayer to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost objects. It works every time."


Copyright 2003 Reuters Limited.

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Statistics
United States
Lost Items: 175387
Found Items: 56010
Worldwide
Lost Items: 206326
Found Items: 62055