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The Real Deal: Cell Phone Thefts on the Rise
TROY – Most of us don’t go anywhere without our cell phone. If you’ve ever had your device stolen, you know the chances of getting it back are slim to none. Cell phone theft is the fastest growing crime in the nation.
Locally, most Police Departments say smart phones are now the main target of thieves. In most cases, the criminals aren’t physically attack people just for their phones but they look for unsuspecting victims who aren’t paying attention and quietly take a purse with a phone in it, smash a car window when they can see one or swipe a device that has been left sitting by itself.
If your iPhone or Droid is stolen, chances are, you’re out of luck. “The reality of it is, if the phone is stolen in Troy and ends up in Philadelphia, there's not going to be an awful lot that your local police department can do to get down there and recover the item,” says Captain John Cooney of the Troy Police Department. Chances are the other police department isn’t going to go bust down a door for it either, “when you're talking to a Police Department 500 miles away, hoping they can give you a hand, they'll help to a point but for them it's criminal possession of stolen property, an arrest that probably isn't going to make a heck of a difference in their crime rate,” Cooney adds.
So, what’s likely to happen to your stolen device? “There's two businesses for the thief, there's the identity theft business and what they want to do is get your information off of it if they can and then they will resell the phone for the second business and they'll often sell the phone overseas,” says Larry Zimbler of Liberteks. That’s why it’s important to protect your phone and the information on it as best as you can. If you’ve got an Apple device, there is tracking technology on it that should give you an indication where the phone is so long as the device is still turned on and connected to the internet. That software will also allow you to remotely erase data on the device. If you another brand phone, there are free tracking apps available that will offer the same services. “You may see it (your phone) on the map driving up Central Avenue, you press the button called “wipe” and it sends a signal to just kill it all…it basically just turns the phone into a piece of iron,” Zimbler says.
If your phone is
stolen and there is no tracking technology on it, call your provider right away
to report the theft and file a police report.
You’ll also want to make sure to change the username and passwords on
any accounts that you have that had an app connected to them.
There is currently pending legislation that would criminalize tampering with a mobile device’s identification number. Senator Chuck Schumer introduced the legislation in an attempt to crack down on the stolen cell phone market.
Local police departments say the issue with the current tracking technology is that too many people are taking it upon themselves to try and reclaim their phones and they’re putting themselves in danger. “We do not encourage the owners of these phones to go out and try to find the perpetrator and address them at that level. If they can get the local police in the jurisdiction where they find the phone to help, that's great but to walk into a bad neighborhood and be looking for your phone is a recipe for disaster,” Cooney says.