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'Secure our Smartphones' initiative issues safety tips for holiday shoppers

by jmaloni


Tue, Nov 26th 2013 07:00 am

With millions expected to purchase smartphones and tablets this holiday season, consumers are encouraged to take steps to ensure their safety 

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón - co-chairs of the international "Secure Our Smartphones" initiative - issued tips Monday to help consumers protect themselves from the growing risk of violent smartphone theft, known as "Apple Picking." Over the upcoming holiday season, consumers are expected to spend millions of dollars on new smartphones for themselves and their loved ones. Communities across the country continue to report violent and often deadly thefts of smartphones. The extent of the epidemic is significant, with roughly 113 smartphones stolen or lost each minute in the U.S.

"This holiday season, as people across the country consider buying smartphones and tablets for their loved ones, they should have confidence that their gifts won't put family and friends at risk," Schneiderman said. "While we will continue to do everything we can to pressure the smartphone industry to adopt universally effective theft deterrents in their products, there are simple steps that consumers can take today to protect themselves. Working together, we can end the dangerous epidemic of violent smartphone theft." 

"We've reached a tipping point," Gascón said. "Some manufacturers have made safeguarding their customers from violent theft a priority, while others have not. With the holidays approaching, and with many looking to buy smartphones as gifts, I would urge consumers to take theft-deterrence features into account that may make your loved ones less of a target."

The A.G.'s camp said members of the "Secure Our Smartphones" initiative continue to pressure the manufacturers and carriers to implement features that will safeguard their customers, but the safety of Americans cannot wait. There are steps smartphone users can take right now to reduce their risk of being a victim. 

In an effort to help consumers avoid falling victim to smartphone theft, the "Secure our Smartphones" initiative issued the following tips:

Take advantage of security applications. Consumers should take advantage of apps designed to deter theft:

  • Apple users should upgrade to the latest operating system, iOS 7, and confirm "Find My iPhone" is enabled. This allows you to remotely track, lock and erase your data in the event your phone is stolen. It also renders your device useless to thieves, further deterring theft.
  • Android users, the operating system on the bulk of non-Apple smartphones, should consider activating the "Android Device Manager," which allows you to remotely track, lock and erase your data in the even your phone is stolen. 
  • There are many third-party security apps for Apple and Android smartphones to consider as well.

Password protect your phone.

Write down your model number, serial number and unique device ID, especially the international mobile equipment identifier. Known as the "IMEI" number, this can be discovered by dialing *#06# or checking the battery compartment.

Be aware of your surroundings. Smartphone thieves look for easy targets. 

  • Do not walk and text, and avoid engaging in cell phone conversations while on transit.
  • Keep your cell phone and other device(s) in a pocket, purse or backpack.
  • Never lend your phone to a stranger.
  • Don't leave your phone out on a table in public.
  • Try to keep your phone out of sight and in a place not readily accessible, even if that means a slight inconvenience in accessing it yourself.

React quickly if your phone is stolen. Much as you would immediately report a stolen credit card to your credit card company, there are steps you should take immediately if your smartphone has been stolen. 

  • Report the theft to the local police department. This will allow law-enforcement to monitor popular resale (SITES) for your device. Having a police report will also help you should you choose to file an insurance claim for stolen property.
  • Report the theft to your wireless carrier. This allows your carrier to deactivate the service and add your phone's unique identifying information to a database that may prevent it from being used again.
  • Activate any security apps that you have installed.
  • If you own an iPhone, log in to your iCloud account, go to "Find My iPhone," and put your phone in "Lost Mode."

Launched earlier this year, the S.O.S. initiative is an international coalition of prosecutors, police chiefs, state and city comptrollers, and public safety activists co-chaired by Schneiderman, Gascón and London Mayor Boris Johnson. Members of the initiative are committed to pressing the industry to find an effective way to combat the rise of often violent robberies involving smartphones.

Even as most types of property crime are falling, in communities worldwide, the theft of smartphones has spiked dramatically. In the U.S., one in three thefts involves a mobile communications device, making it the No. 1 property crime in America. Consumer Reports estimates smartphone thieves victimized 1.6 million Americans in 2012.

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