As cell phone capabilities increase, so does smart phone theft. Pickpocketers are finding it increasingly easy and beneficial to steal smart phones, often choosing them over wallets. In addition to the wealth of information that can be found on smart phones, they’re also easy to resell, resulting in quick cash for the thief. Cell phone thieves have it easy when it comes to stealing because they take advantage of potential victims by capitalizing on the distraction caused by talking on the phone. Cell phone distraction occurs as users focus on the call rather than on their surroundings. According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, two teens used a BB gun to rob a Chicago woman of her iPhone at gunpoint. A quick response on the part of police and thorough description from the victim resulted in the iPhone being recovered, but most victims of cell phone theft are not as fortunate.
Cell phone theft has risen between 80 and 200 percent, depending upon what part of the world you live in, states Time Magazine. In the United States, several cities face a higher risk of cell phone theft, including Miami. More than 50 percent of those living in Miami have been victims of cell phone theft, but anyone carrying a cell phone, and especially a smart phone, is at-risk of theft. The safety measures you take in advance can help you avoid theft and protect your identity and information in the event one occurs.
- Password Protection. More than 54 percent of smart phone users do not protect their phones with a password. This means that thieves need only to press or slide the unlock button to gain access to all the information stored on the phone. It takes less than 30 seconds to enter your password, but can take days or weeks to recover from information theft. Which is more inconvenient?
- Keep SIM (subscriber identification module) Card Information in a Separate Place. Write down all the identifying numbers on your cell phone’s SIM card, along with your operating network’s contact information, and keep it in a separate location. In the event of cell phone theft you can call your network, provide them with the SIM card information and have it disabled so personal and financial information cannot be accessed. There are also applications that help you protect your SIM card and other cell phone components. mAdvLock is an iPhone app that keeps your SIM card password protected if you use the full version, which costs $14.99.
- Backup Your Smart Phone Information. Backup your contact list and any other vital information weekly. Whether you use an online storage program, such as the iCloud backup system, or physically write phone numbers down, this is an important step to take on a regular basis.
- Install Tracking Software. Tracking apps are an effective way to help recover a lost or stolen smart phone. They can also be used to remotely get rid of personal information on your cell phone. Plan B is an excellent tracking app for Android users because it can be loaded onto your smart phone after it’s been lost or stolen. The free application is loaded via your Google gmail account, which most Android users must have anyway, and causes your phone to ring loudly whether the phone is silenced, on the vibration setting or not. Apple offers a similar application, which is now a standard app offered on all devices with IOS 5. The app, Find My iPhone, can be loaded to all other iPhones and iPads remotely and allows the user to lock down a stolen cell phone or wipe it clean of all data. Find My iPhone also emits a loud ringing sound and the app functions even if a sophisticated cell phone thief has already removed the SIM card.
- Notify the Police. You might be inclined not to call the police because you feel they have bigger thieves to catch than the one who swiped your smart phone. But police departments rely on this type of information to help them establish crime patterns, which can lead them to catching individuals and groups involved in cell phone theft.
As we become more reliant on cell phones to hold vital pieces of financial and personal information for us like a mobile filing cabinet, it’s increasingly important to be proactive instead of reactive. Keep your phone and your information as secure as possible, and protect yourself in case of theft with the steps outlined above. Doing so can make the difference between dealing with major inconvenience and full-blown identity theft.