We have become a nation united by a single obsession – the smartphone. We take them with us everywhere, and they have become an integral part of our day to day lives. Far more than simply mobile telephones, smartphones have become our entertainment hubs, our daily diaries, and our most personal bit of workplace kit. In short, they have become invaluable. Unfortunately, they have also become a prime target for thieves. The black market for smartphones, and the data they contain, is insatiable. It’s true that smartphone thefts are down around the country, but they still comprise a significant portion of all street crime (particularly in major city centers). But there are steps we can all take to protect our smartphones, and the valuable personal data they contain.
The first step in protecting your mobile phone from thieves is to be more aware of your surroundings and your own behavior. Thieves follow a few basic routines, and once you understand these you can greatly reduce your risk.
• The Distraction – The most common method relies on distraction, and typically takes place in crowded pubs and restaurants. For example, you’ve casually placed your mobile on the table in front of you, thinking it’s safely within your reach. But it all it takes is a simple distraction (usually by a confederate) and a thief can scoop up your smartphone and be gone before you know what’s happened.
• The Sudden Snatch – We all have a tendency to stare down at our mobiles while ignoring our surroundings. This is a real boon to thieves. Let’s say you’re checking your messages while exiting the tube station. A quick thief can snatch the phone from your hand and be gone in an instant, all because you were staring at your phone and blissfully ignoring what was going on around you.
• Pickpockets – Leaving your mobile in a back pocket, or in an open handbag, is an invitation to a talented pickpocket. Again, a clever thief can lift your phone and be off down the high street before you even notice you’ve been robbed.
The best protection against all of these methods, is to keep your phone secure when not in use. That means keeping it in a front or breast pocket or, if you’re carrying a handbag or satchel, zipped up in an inner compartment.
Protecting Your Mobile
No matter how cautious you are, there is still the chance that your mobile will be lost or stolen. Should that happen, the security of your device and your data becomes paramount. Again, there are some steps you can take to help mitigate any loss, but these measures have to be in place before your smartphone falls into unscrupulous hands.
• Lock Codes – To protect your valuable personal data, you should always install and activate your mobiles lock code. This will prevent the thief from accessing your personal information, such as telephone numbers, address book, and social media accounts.
• Kill Switches – If your smartphone has a kill switch function, be sure to activate it as soon as possible. This will allow you to remotely wipe the phone of all important data should it be lost or stolen.
• Tracker Apps – Many new model mobiles now come with tracker apps installed. Be sure these are activated so that law enforcement can remotely track your mobile should it be lost or stolen. If your phone doesn’t have a tracking feature already installed, there are a number of third party apps available that will do the job.
• Block Expensive Calls – If your phone is stolen, you can be sure the thieves are going to use it to make some expensive calls. Depending on your insurance, and your mobile contract, you may be liable for these charges. To protect yourself, change the settings on your smartphone to block any long distance or premium numbers. This will help to protect you from any unwanted charges.
• Record Your Phone’s Details – Every mobile phone has a unique IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number. Law enforcement will need this number to identify your phone when it is recovered. You can access this number by pressing *#06# on your keypad. Make a note of the IMEI number, along with your mobile’s make and model, and keep it in a safe place.
What To Do If Your Mobile Is Stolen
If your mobile is lost or stolen, it is important to take immediate action. Notify the police, as well as your carrier, as soon as possible. Ideally, within 24 hours of the loss. Your carrier will be able to cancel your service, which will stop the thieves from racking up unwanted charges to your account. If you have gadget insurance, file a claim once you have notified law enforcement. If you don’t have gadget insurance, check the terms of your home and car insurance to see if you may be covered for the loss under those policies.
The advent of remote tracking apps and kill switches may have put a dent in smartphone thefts, but they have by no means put an end to the problem. The numbers may be down, but in the last twelve months more than 1 million smartphones were reported stolen in the UK. That is still a staggering statistic, and should only serve to reinforce the importance of protecting yourself against possible loss or theft. Your smartphone is as valuable to thieves as it is to you, and it is imperative that you take steps to protect yourself, your mobile, and your data from potential criminals.