Smart phone criminals target dumb mobile users

More than 1,000 people falling victim to the crime every month


Over €5 million worth of smart phones have been stolen from people who have been careless with their handsets since last Christmas, new figures from the Garda have revealed.

The numbers of phone thefts has climbed dramatically since 2011 and more than 1,000 people are now falling victim to the crime every month.

Mobile phone theft has increased by more than one third in the last 12 months, the figures released at the launch of the Garda’s inaugural Crime Prevention Day of Action, indicated.

“Mobile phone theft is on the rise as gangs target high-value smart phones. These are expensive items and people should take the same care of them as they would any item that costs up to €500 and more,” advised Sgt Alan Roughneen of the National Crime Prevention Unit.

He called on phone owners “to be more vigilant, particularly when we are coming into a time of the year when they are more likely to be out socialising”.

He said that smart phones worth hundreds of euro were left on tables in bars, nightclubs, cafés and restaurant tables while people chat, which made it very easy for criminals to simply walk past and steal them.

“People should also avoid using their phones while walking on the street as it means you are distracted and won’t be able to react to prevent your device being taken from you in mid-sentence.”

He cautioned anyone who had fallen victim of mobile phone thieves against actively pursuing the criminals and warned people to take care using the tracking software commonly found on phones to venture into areas which may be unfamiliar to them. “In all cases, personal safety is paramount,” he said. “Phones can always be replaced so there is no point in putting yourself at risk for it.”

The Garda has introduced specific measures to target mobile phone theft in recent months and more than 1,000 people have been arrested in Dublin in connection with the crime in the last 12 months.

Sgt Roughneen said that the crime was much more prevalent in urban centres, though he did not have details of particular blackspots, and warned that thefts could take place anywhere.

Garda tips to beat the phone thieves

+ Register your phone with your Service Provider.
+ Take note of your unique IMEI number for your mobile/smart phone and store it in a location other than your phone. If your phone is stolen, the IMEI number is used to disable your phone. The IMEI number for your phone is located on the back of your phone underneath the battery or by dialling *#06# on your keypad.
+ Enable the PIN Security feature and keep your phone locked at all times.
+ When out and about, keep your phone out of public view, be streetwise and always be aware of your surroundings.
+ Never leave your phone behind in an unattended vehicle.
+ Properly mark your phone with unique letters or numbers.
+ Avoid making calls or texting while crossing the road.
+ If making or receiving a call in public, always do so with your back up against the wall or a shop window etc so that you can see around you and reduce the opportunity to be attacked from behind.
+ If you have a smart phone, consider downloading a location finder App.
+ If your phone is lost or stolen, immediately report it to the Garda and contact your Service Provider with your IMEI in order to have your number blocked.