You’re A Victim Of Cell Phone Theft. Now What?

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Cell phone theft on B.A.R.T. in the Bay Area jumped 110 percent since January, compared to last year. BART police officers are responding by handing out cards on the trains with tips on how to avoid becoming a victim. The cards warn transit riders to protect their phones near train doors and while waiting on platforms. They also ask riders to put away or secure phones when approaching stops.

Why Is Phone Theft Still A Thing?

Police say phones on the black market go for $300 to $400 and they are getting more and more expensive. In the U.S. alone, the trade organization, Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), estimates over 4 million devices a year are trafficked. This is costing upwards of $900 million. BART police arrested 29 suspects out of 402 reports. However, the chances of getting your phone back are slim to none. 

Stolen phones often end up on the secondary market like OfferUp and Ebay. Cell phone store employees say people often buy used phones before realizing they’re being ripped off. We have heard as many as 1 in 4 phones brought in for activation were actually stolen and unable to be used with the carrier. 

What Is Being Done To Stop Theft?

We’ve all fantasized about a phone that could be set to explode by remote control if a thief snatches it. But that probably crosses some kind of moral boundary. What’s needed is a taskforce. They would work with mobile phone networks and the Wi-Fi service providers to spot stolen phones. Mobile carriers are also utilizing several different tools to lock down devices and prevent theft. Yet, the problem persists.

Software “Kill Switches”

This anti-theft software allows the consumer to remotely deactivate their device if stolen, rendering it useless. Some states, including California and New York, are mandating this technology. This method only helps once the device is registered to a consumer, leaving the devices vulnerable up to that point. A kill switch could be misused by hackers who could gain unauthorized access to the device. Many carriers were opposed to the technology as it was expected to have an impact on innovation and revenue.

Manual Unlock Codes

Manual unlock codes are easy for a hacker to get past, and can even be bought in bulk on the web. They’re also expensive to administer and maintain. They don’t protect devices pre-activation (such as those in transit or in storage).

Layering tools to deter smartphone theft

The best approach for carriers looking to stop theft is to adopt a layered approach to cover all the bases. First, embed secure unlock/lock technology into the device during the manufacturing process. This will protect the device from the production line and throughout the device’s lifecycle. It deters thieves from trafficking those devices. Customers should also be empowered with a software kill switch, should they lose their phone or be subject to individual phone theft.

Thieves look for the path of least resistance. Carriers can protect themselves and their customers by utilizing a strong, multi-layered anti-theft strategy, forcing thieves to turn their attention elsewhere.

What Should You Do To Protect Your Phone/Data In Case Of Theft?

  1. Set a passcode – using a number, faceID or fingerprint or combination. 
  2. Make sure Find My iPhone is enabled in settings. It’s Find My Device in the Play Store for Androids. If your iPhone is stolen, use or borrow a computer, phone or tablet and sign in to Find My iPhone on iCloud.  Select Actions at the bottom of the screen followed by Lost Mode. You’ll be asked to enter a phone number and a message that will be displayed on the lock screen for whoever has your device to get it back to you. Any credit and debit cards added to Apple Pay, along with student IDs and transit cards stored in the Wallet app, will be disabled until you regain access to the phone and log into your iCloud account. 
  3. Back up your data – If your device tragically vanishes, that doesn’t mean you have lost your data. To retrieve photos, files, and other items when it counts, you need to put a solid backup procedure in place right now. If you don’t have a plan or don’t want to be bothered, ClickAway can do this for you.
  4. Insure for theft – As always, check the small print before you sign. Many insurance packages, including AppleCare, don’t cover theft, or they require that you pay extra for that protection. According to insurer SquareTrade, you’re four times more likely to break your phone than lose it or have someone steal it. So bear that in mind as you make your calculations.
  5. Don’t confront a thief – If you’re able to track your phone to a house or apartment building, don’t confront the potential thief on your own. Call the cops and ask for their help. Sure, you want to get your phone back, but getting into a confrontation and potentially getting hurt isn’t ideal.
  6. Contact your carrier –If you’re unable to get your phone back, contact your carrier and let them know your phone has been lost or stolen. They will flag your device’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number and, in most cases, will prevent that number from working on the network, rendering the device useless to whoever has it. If you have AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss or pay monthly for device insurancethrough your carrier, start the claim process as soon as possible. You’ll need to fill out some paperwork and pay a deductible in order to get a replacement device. Contact your carrier directly to begin the claim process.
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