Smartphones a magnet for thieves as 6,000 mobiles stolen in year to July

Mon, Sep 3, 2012, 01:00

MOBILE PHONE theft has escalated partly due to the proliferation of high-value smartphones, with one insurance company saying 91 per cent of theft claims made by its customers in the past year related to mobile phones.

Garda figures show that 5,989 incidents of mobile phone theft were recorded in the first seven months of 2012, a 20 per cent jump on the same period last year.

The Garda reported the median value of the phones was €250, indicating thieves are targeting higher-end smartphones – many of which are touchscreen devices that allow users to easily browse the internet and make video calls.

According to a spokeswoman for one Irish insurance company, GadgetInsurance.ie, which also covers other devices including mp3 players, digital cameras and laptops, 91 per cent of theft claims in the past year were for mobile phone devices.

Of those claims, 82 per cent were specifically for iPhones, with the rest for thefts of other mobiles and smartphones. The high percentage of iPhone theft is particularly stark in the context of just 42 per cent of all phones insured by the company being iPhones.

However, when it comes to higher-end smartphones, a spokesman for another Irish online insurance company, Chill.ie, which provides gadget insurance as well as other forms of cover, said there was a “50/50 split between iPhone theft and other high-end smartphones”. These include the Samsung Galaxy S III, which he said was gaining popularity.

The spokesman said one-quarter of all the company’s mobile phone insurance claims resulted from “direct theft”.

Direct theft claims related to incidents where a device was stolen directly from the individual, taken from a vehicle or stolen while the owner was in a public place such as a bar or restaurant.

The theft of mobile phones in public is often carried out by thieves on push bikes who snatch the devices from unsuspecting mobile phone users, often while they are mid-call.

The phones are then wiped of their contents, making them very difficult to recover.

The Garda National Crime Prevention Unit has issued guidelines to mobile phone users to help them prevent and reduce mobile phone theft. It advises users to keep the devices out of view when in public and to avoid making calls or texting while crossing the road.

It suggests that, when making or receiving a call in public, users should do so with their back to a wall or shop window to reduce the opportunity for thieves to rob them from behind.

The unit also advises mobile phone users to register the device with their service provider; to take note of their 15-digit international mobile equipment identity number; and to mark the device with unique personal letters or numbers.

For smartphones, the Garda advises downloading a location-finder app.