Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Don't Let Your Cellphone Get Snatched!

We all know that smartphones are far more than just phones and have become a fixture in our daily routines; so much so that we often use them as a personal computer even more than we use them for communication.  That said, it's no surprise that the more we use our cellphones and the more valuable they become, the bigger a target they become for the criminal set.

Cellphones can be quickly and easily swiped and resold for a quick buck.  How profitable is cell phone theft?  Selling a stolen phone – to a store or online – can net a thief up to $200.  It’s so profitable, in fact, that cell phone snatching has become a very serious and prominent crime.

The problem is so prevalent that the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.) is working with law enforcement, lawmakers, and wireless carriers to create a database to track – and shut down – stolen phones, preventing them from being used.

The F.C.C. reports that nearly one out of three robberies in the last year involved the theft of a cell phone.  According to this NY Times piece:
The thefts have grown most rapidly in urban areas; cellphones are stolen in more than 40 percent of all robberies in New York City and 38 percent of robberies in the District of Columbia…
This is certainly something to be aware of and obviously is affecting big cities such as New York, but is it such a problem here locally?  You might be surprised – and concerned – to learn it is!

Greg Meriwether over at WAFB reported on this growing problem right here in Baton Rouge recently: "Cell phone snatching problem sweeping Baton Rouge area".  I highly recommend giving it a read.

It’s very important to not set your phone down when out in public, and be wary of people asking to borrow your phone, as happens in the Pop-A-Lock scam mentioned by WAFB:
Some thieves have gotten clever with a so-called Pop-A-Lock scam; and they have targeted coffee shops here in Baton Rouge. A man recently approached a woman sitting at a coffee shop on Perkins. He asked the woman to borrow her phone to call pop-a-lock; the company that unlocks car doors. The woman says the man even sat at her table for about three minutes, supposedly on the phone with the company. All of a sudden, the man acted as if he needed to go and get his VIN off his car. He walked out to the parking lot with her phone, and she never saw him again.
Because of this it is important to be aware of your phone – how you use it and where you set it down – in public.  Also, be sure to register your phone with your network operator so that they can put a block or shut the phone down if it is stolen.  Keep your phone locked with a security pin, as well.  WAFB also has a list of anti-theft and security apps that you can download to further protect your cell phone.

In case this does happen to you, be prepared.  Keep a record of this important information about your cell phone in a secure place:
  • Your phone number
  • The make and model
  • Color and appearance details
  • The pin or security lock code
The most important thing to do is be prepared and be alert.  Some people have had cell phones snatched away from them while they were walking down the street talking into them.  Be aware of your surroundings and take proper precautions.  Register your phone and have anti-theft or security apps installed and functioning.  In the event your phone is stolen, have your phone’s information in a secure place and call the police immediately and follow up with a call to your service provider.

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