When smartphones were first introduced, they were an expensive, hot commodity. The price for some models and their newest product launches is still prohibitively expensive for a number of consumers. But improvements to smartphone technology and the increasing numbers of manufacturers who produce them has meant the price is dropping and the numbers of smartphone users is increasing.
So if smartphones are pretty much everywhere these days and are not the high-priced gadget they once were, why are they still stolen with such frequency? Some reports have shown that in several major US cities smartphone theft accounts for about forty percent of all robberies. What makes that phone so alluring that a thief would risk penalty and casualty to get it?
In many cases, the phone itself is the intended object, mostly because it’s an easily pawnable item that people are often happy to buy second-hand, especially if it’s a newer or more sought-after model. Guard your phone when using it in public to avoid being an easy victim of someone who will go to great lengths just to take it from you. You can also buy phone insurance against damage or loss, if you feel like it’s worth the expense.
But a greater threat than just wanting an easy pawn item is someone who wants the information stored in your phone. A thief with the right capabilities can download very important information from many of your apps, often making off with what he wanted before you can get to a computer and stop the damage from spreading. The best course of action is to treat your phone exactly like you would treat a laptop computer…one that you were going to leave unattended on a park bench somewhere.
There’s good news and bad news about this kind of crime. The good news is that someone who would take the physical risk of actually robbing you is probably not after your personally identifiable information. More than likely, he just wants the phone itself and will reset it back to factory default in order to sell it. A thief with the right knowledge needed to benefit from your data probably has more sophisticated ways of accessing that data. That’s small comfort if you’re ever robbed, but it’s a tiny bit of comfort.
If your smartphone is ever lost or stolen, you have some steps that you can take to minimize further damage. First is to password protect your phone. Almost every brand comes with the feature to let the user enter a four-digit passcode every time you wish to use it. It’s tedious, but it can really save you from unauthorized access of your phone. Also, cellular service providers now have the ability to disable your phone if it’s stolen and if you report it immediately. This step is known as “bricking” the phone, referring to the fact that it’s now as useful as a brick. The phone will be permanently disabled, even if the thief tries to reactivate it under a new account identity. This is obviously not a step you want to take if you just can’t find your phone, but have reason to believe it’s gone; the phone and its data will be irretrievable, but you’ll be in the market for a new phone if you do find it later.
Remember to keep your phone safe at all times and safeguard the information that you choose to make retrievable through your phone. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep your phone tucked away when you don’t need it. Be watchful of people who are noticing you or your appearance, and remember to trust your instincts when it comes to your safety. Of course, bear in mind that if someone approaches you intent on stealing your phone, the smart course of action is to remember that it’s a replaceable object and you are not.
If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center's Anyone3 fundraising campaign. For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/anyone-3.