Robbery for Mobile Devices Increasing

By: Absolute Team | 12/10/2012

Mobile device loss falls into several categories: theft (loss without owner's knowledge), burglary (breaking into a residence, a vehicle, or a business) and robbery (taking something of value by force or threat of force). There recently have been a number of stories in the news about people being robbed by force for laptops, tablets or other mobile devices highlighting the disturbing increase in the frequency of these crimes.

A Troubling Trend

One teen was threatened with rape in order to hand over her laptop. One man was shot in his foot for his laptop while walking on the street. A woman was robbed by knifepoint for her laptop. Another man was recently convicted of robbery and assault with a deadly weapon when he stole an iPhone in a rather violent manner.

  • Nearly half of all robberies in San Francisco and more than 40% of all robberies in New York City are cell phone-related (AP)
  • 30-40% of all robberies are cell-phone related (FTC)
  • Cellphone theft increased 32% in LA in 2012 (LA Times)
  • Lost and stolen cell phones could cost US consumers more than $30 billion in 2012  (AP)
  • 113 cell phones are lost every minute in the US (Plateau)
  • 90% of theft on the Parisian Metro (of which half concern smartphones) leads to or ends with violence (Trade2Save)
  • 300,000 mobile phones are reported to UK police as stolen in a year (MET)

There are a number of factors contributing to cell phone theft:

  • Smartphones have become more ubiquitous and desirable
  • Devices are costly with a high resale value
  • People store more personal information on their devices, giving thieves a secondary item to sell (personal information)
  • Cell phones can't (yet) be disabled once they are reported stolen
  • SIM cards can easily be swapped out of stolen phones
  • Most people keep their smartphones out, an obvious cue for opportunistic thieves
  • Busy areas, particularly transit, offer opportunistic thieves the distraction and quick getaways they need to steal devices

How to Protect Yourself

Robbery is a crime of opportunity, one you can't entirely prevent. Nonetheless, you can take steps to protect yourself as best you can from becoming a victim:

  • Keep your iPhone or mobile device in your pocket or bag when walking or in public (not in your hand)
  • Consider using alternatives to earbuds, which can be a dead giveaway for Apple products
  • Use a laptop bag that looks more like a backpack, so its contents are not as obvious
  • Don't sit and use your laptop in your car on the street or in a parking lot

If you do find yourself being threatened for your laptops or mobile devices, don't struggle: give up your devices and call local law enforcement agencies for help at your first opportunity. Don't attempt to recovery your own stolen technology - leave it to the professionals.

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