If you’re reading this, chances are you own a smartphone, and you likely bring that sucker with you everywhere.
Problem is, thieves know this, too.
According to the FCC, 30 to 40 percent of robberies in several major U.S. cities now involve mobile phones.
In some cases, it’s even more. In 2012, nearly half of all robberies in San Francisco were phone-related, says the SFPD, with New York City trailing behind at “more than 40 percent.” Phone theft in Los Angeles is up 27 percent from a year ago.
"Apple products like the iPhone and iPad has inspired a new nickname for the crime: Apple picking,” says Stephen Ebbett, president of Protect Your Bubble, an insurance company that offers smartphone policies. “There’s a growing black market for stolen mobile devices, with crooks following supply and demand trends just as legitimate merchants do,” adds Ebbett.
Whether you own an iOS device, Android, Windows Phone or BlackBerry, Ebbett shares the following tips to safeguarding your investment – and more importantly, protecting the vital personal data stored on your device.
1. Don’t leave your smartphone unattended. “No one would leave $700 on the table while going to the coffee shop counter to pick up an order, but people leave their shiny new mobile devices unattended all the time, providing a golden opportunity for thieves,” says Ebbett. “Don’t make that mistake.”
2. Install a tracking app. Both Android and Apple smartphones offer free tracking apps you can install to help you recover your device if someone steals it. “The apps allow you to log onto another device like a laptop or tablet and track your missing device’s current location,” explains Ebbett. Apple users can set up Find My iPhone, while Android owners might opt for the free Mobile Defense tracking tool.
3. Be aware of your surroundings. “Treat your iPhone 5 or other smartphone like you would a wallet – chances are it is more valuable than the contents of your billfold,” says Ebbett. “Avoid handling it in unsafe areas, and keep both hands on the device to thwart thieves when you do have to display it in public.”
4. Make sure you set a passcode. You probably have a lot of personal data on your smartphone – including private messages, contact information and even mobile banking data. “This can be a bonanza for thieves, but you can stop them in their tracks with a simple passcode.” Android users might opt for a swiped pattern instead.
5. Ask your carrier for help. If your smartphone goes missing and you are unable to track it through a GPS app, your wireless carrier may be able to help. Contact customer service immediately and ask them to help you recover your phone and protect your personal data.