1.6 million smartphones were stolen in the US in 2012, a crime figure mirrored around the world; figures have begun trickling in, showing that mobile theft figures were even higher for 2013. Despite the ongoing efforts of police and the launch of new blacklists, these crimes are escalating - and so is the associated violence. With devices worth hundreds of dollars on the black market, criminals are finding creative - and often more violent - ways to steal devices and circumvent device security. Smartphone theft has hit pandemic levels.
The first line of defence in preventing mobile theft doesn't start with blacklists or laws or locks, it starts with YOU.
How YOU Can Prevent Mobile Theft
With so many discussions on mobile theft in the past year, we wanted to re-iterate some of the best ways you can prevent mobile theft, paying close attention to some of the newer threats and most risky situations:
- Eyes Off Your Phone – If you aren’t aware of your surroundings, you may not see someone waiting for an opportunity to grab your phone. That text, tweet, email or news article can wait until you’re somewhere safer to read it.
- Keep It Hidden - keep that phone out of sight in public areas (particularly near exits in cafes, at bus or subway stops or in transit). If you do need to use your phone, go somewhere discreet (in a store or cafe)
- Never Leave Your Phone - Never leave your phone unattended, not even for a second. That means taking it to the bathroom, taking it to the cafe counter while you get some sugar, etc.
- Tables Are Like Display Cases - if you’re at a cafe or restaurant, put your phone in your pocket or in your purse between your feet (not on the chair back). Leaving your phone on the table is like displaying a wad of cash in an open display case - it's too easy to snatch it and run.
- Earbuds? No way - if you’re hiding your device but still using earbuds, you’re still advertising that it's in your pocket. Aside from that, you'll also be less aware of your surroundings.
- Beware Distraction Techniques - some criminals use distraction to get you to show them a phone or to stealthily steal it during conversation. If someone asks you for the time: beware it may be a trick to get you to pull out your phone. If you are approached by a group, they may be trying to distract you. If someone sits between you and your phone, another person may be angling to take it.
- Know High Risk Areas - the times when you're most tempted to use your phone are probably the most risky times to do so! Thieves look for areas where there are lots of people, lots of noise or distractions, and easy exits. Transit (on and at stations), bars / concerts, cafes / restaurants are all top locations for theft. Read up more on: Smartphone Safety on Transit, Smartphone Safety in Restaurants / Cafes, Smartphone Safety at Concerts
- Vibration is Good - Turn off your ringer, so you can avoid answering your phone in some of those high risk areas.
- Know You're Higher Risk Abroad - being a tourist makes you a target. Know what added precautions to take when you're abroad, including how to keep your smartphones safe in your hotel and in the airport.
- What they can’t see, they usually can’t steal - a common theme among many of the best practices described above is not to let the thief see or know you have a smartphone... but we all know that you do need to use your phone. How and where you use it, however, can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a victim. For instance, use your phone’s hands-free capability rather than holding it up to your ear. This is especially true when you are in your car. A thief can smash your car window and snatch the phone from your hand in an instant, but if you are using it hands free, it is "out of sight" and likely to be out of the thief's reach at least, if not out of the thief's mind altogether.
Whenever you're using your phone, listen to your instincts and go somewhere safe if you feel uneasy. If you're approached by robbers, give up your valuables readily - your life is worth far more. Fighting back often escalates violence.
Doing your part to prevent theft also means preparing for it - because even the most cautious of us makes mistakes or are targeted by thieves anyway. Being prepared means securing your device and ensuring you have smartphone tracking & recovery software installed… just remember to hand over that information to police, don't use it yourself. For more on what to do post-theft, read here.