Thieves increasingly target smartphones, a trend some law enforcement officials call the modern equivalent of purse-snatching. Approximately 40 percent of robberies in New York City involve cell phones. In SanFrancisco, cell phone theft accounted for half of all robberies in 2012. Personally, I have had my cell phone stolen twice. Once in college, and the other ended up at one of the local alcohol rehab treatment centers.
Small, Expensive and in Demand
It’s not surprise thieves target smartphones. The phones themselves are expensive, with high-end models going for over $500. In addition, smartphones include detailed information on people’s lives, allowing thieves to access and sell sensitive personal and financial information.
Thieves use different tactics to steal phones. “Table surfers” swipe the devices from public places while owners are distracted. Others take a hit-and-run approach, snatching them out of user’s hands and running. In a small number of tragic cases, thieves have murdered.
Will Disabling Help?
Owners can disable their smartphones’ SIM cards after a theft. SIM cards are memory chips containing the user’s personal information. While this reduces the risk of identity theft, replacing the disabled card with a new one allows otherpeople to use thestolen phone.
To try and curb the growing market for hot phones, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association suggests creating industry-wide stolen phone databases to permanently disable stolen cell phones, which would remove the incentive to steal the device. Australia has used a similar system for over ten years, with excellent results.
Cell Phone Safety Tips
You can’t find cell phone traps for sale, but you can take some steps to protect your phone. Write down the serial number, so police have a means of identifying it. Stay aware of your phone in public places, and minimize the amount of personal information stored on it.
Most importantly, if someone threatens you with force, surrender your phone. Despite how important it is to you, a smartphone is replaceable.