Good news: Your wallet or pocketbook may no longer be the primary target for thieves.
Bad news: Increasingly it’s your cell phone they’re after.
Nationwide, cell phone theft has soared. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, in New York alone there were more than 26,000 incidents of electronic theft in the first 10 months of 2011, 81% of these thefts involved mobile phones.
Stolen cell phones are a hot commodity. Thieves can easily fetch hundreds for a stolen phone on the second-hand market. Many of these phones are shipped overseas where consumers scoop them up.
And, public transportation is a breeding ground for thieves who grab cell phones from unsuspecting passengers and then make a run for it just before the subway doors close. San Francisco police report that half of the city’s thefts involve cell phones. New York City has even begun staging undercover cops on subways acting as decoys to catch cell phone thieves.
According to the Chicago Tribune:
Police attribute the increase in robberies to crimes of opportunity involving youths ages 11 to 19 stealing smartphones from CTA passengers. Most of the phones taken are Apple iPhones, said authorities, who urged CTA riders to keep their smartphones out of sight.
“The smartphone vendors are almost giving away $600 phones at $49.99 and a two-year data plan. It is really working against us,” said police Cmdr. John Graeber, of the department’s public transportation section. “These kids can sell the phones for $200 to pawn shops and cellphone stores.”
But, it’s not just thieves you have to worry about. Misplace your phone and you may never get it back. Worse yet, our phones are loaded with information that could expose us to financial loss or identity theft.
In one study, technology security firm Symantec purposefully “lost” cell phones in public locations around several major US cities. The phones contained special software that allowed Symantec to determine exactly what people did when they found one of the “lost” phones.
Surprisingly, forty-three percent of the people who came across a Symantc phone attempted to access the phone’s online banking app. Fifty-seven precent tried to open a file on the phones labeled “saved passwords,” while sixty percent of people tried to check the phone’s personal email. Worst of all, just 50% of people who happened upon a “lost” cell phone attempted to return it, even though owner information was readily accessible.
What can you do to protect your cell phone and minimize the loss if it is stolen or misplaced?
- Password protect your cell phone information so that prying eyes can’t get into your personal information. If your phone is lost or stolen change any password to bank accounts, social media, or any other accounts that may have been on your listed on your phone. Remember to record your phone’s unique ID some place safe. This will make it easier to identify and track your phone.
- When riding public transportation, be aware of your surroundings. You don’t want to become a victim of a grab-and-dash. Police suggest that you look up every single time the bus or subway comes to a stop and doors open.
- And if your phone is stolen call your carrier immediately to have your account disabled so you don’t rack up charges for excessive text messaging, international calls, or app purchases. It’s also a smart idea to file a police report which is required by many cell phone replacement insurance policies.
- Finally, consider downloading apps like Find My iPhone It uses GPS signaling, allowing users to locate their phone, using a computer or other electronic device. The app also locks the phone remotely so its information can not be accessed. Lookout is a similar app available for Android phones.
Remember, in today’s digital society, your cell phone is just as valuable as you wallet.
BMWK family – Have you ever had a phone stole? Did the thieves access valuable information? Do you know of any other apps that provide phone tracking and security?
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