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The Bottom Line: Apple Picking
ALBANY -- Many of us are guilty of it nowadays: Innocently using our smartphones in a public place.
But more and more, that innocent use is costing us.
Police have dubbed the growing trend of smartphone theft as "Apple-picking" - a trend that is happening here in the Capital Region.
CBS 6's Dori Marlin found out the hard way, when her iPhone was stolen right out of her hands in Albany - and now she's making it her missing to get The Bottom Line, to protect you, your phone and your wallet.
Police in Albany tell her, more than 200 smartphones have been reported stolen in the city since January 1st of this year.
"We've had the simple larcenies, where the cell phone has been ripped out of somebody's hand - we've also had robberies, where it's been forcible theft," says Albany Police Spokesman Steve Smith.
In Dori's case, she had just finished dinner outside at a table along a sidewalk. She was texting a friend at the time, when a guy on a bike whizzed by on the sidewalk - and literally plucked the phone out of her hands, while she was texting. By the time she realized what had happened, he was already gone.
Some other common ways the bad guys do it?
"These suspects have walked up to the victims and asked, 'May I use your cell phone? I need to call my mom.' Or 'I'm lost, can I use your GPS capabilities?'" Smith tells Dori.
Victims have also handed over their phones, for someone to take a picture - but the suspect then takes off, with phone in hand.
So what about finding the phone: Is it possible, once it's gone?
A good number of smartphones do have GPS tracking now, to help find them and wipe them clean - but the smart thieves know that, as well.
The phone stolen from Dori? Already had its GPS turned off, by the time police tried tracking it 10 minutes later - meaning her information couldn’t be wiped from it, and chances are good she'll never see that phone again.
"There's two businesses for the thief: There's the identity theft business, and what they want to do is get your information off if they can," says Liberteks owner, Larry Zimbler. "And then they will re-sell the phone for the second business."
Dori checked out Craigslist in Albany, just to see what the going rate was.
An iPhone 5 like hers - was listed for as much as $600.
And because she didn't have insurance on the phone, that's about how much it would cost her to replace her stolen phone.
"It's just the way we communicate nowadays, but we really do need to be more aware of our surroundings and more cognizant," warns Smith.
He adds that it’s a good idea to download a free app – like “Find My iPhone” or “Find My Droid” – to have the ability to try to track your phone.
Even though it’s an extra step for use, make sure your phone is passcode protected. If a stolen phone does not have a passcode lock, it means the bad guy could have unlimited access to everything on there.
And if that happens, you need to change all of your passwords to all accounts you have on the phone immediately – that way, you can keep the bad guy from getting in.
For more on how to protect yourself if you do fall victim, click here.