Wednesday, May 14, 2014

CELL PHONES– “Find My Phone”

Recently, the New York Times published an article about victims of smartphone theft using find my phone apps to find their phones and the phone thieves (“When Hitting ‘Find My Phone’ Takes You to a Thief’s Doorstep”:

The article observes that many victims use the find my phone apps to find the location of their stolen phone then try to retrieve it from the person who stole it. Often the victim does not bother to notify police of the theft. While the victim may be successful in recovering their phone, they do risk the danger of a violent encounter.

Police frequently recommend that victims do not take matters into their own hands. Police would rather that victims report the theft and let the police handle the recovery and potential arrest.

Some people might point out that police do not always seem to jump on reports of such thefts. That their smartphone has important and sensitive information that they want to recover or at least not allow a stranger to see.

But police point out that citizens who might confront a phone thief could endanger themselves physically. Even if they get their phone back, there is a real risk of assault.

A check with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office revealed that there is not a rising trend of smartphone thefts in Snohomish County. Places that might be more susceptible to phone theft, however, could be:

  1. Where young people congregate, schools, community colleges, universities, etc.
  2. Where tourists congregate, such as any downtown (like Seattle), or other tourist areas.
  3. If the phone is left in view in your car or truck.

In each of the areas, phones can be easy targets for theft.

If you are in an area where there are a lot of people such as restaurants, bars, schools, concerts, museums, etc. try to keep your phone on your person where it is not easily taken by strangers. Do not leave it on a table in front of you, especially in a busy location. Even if you are right there, it can be easily snatched from the table fast enough that you have no time to react.

Be sure to take your cell phone with you when you leave your parked car. Theft of phones is common from parked cars, happening frequently in the county.

If your smartphone is stolen, report it to 911. Information that would be helpful to police to recover it includes:

  • A picture of the phone.
  • The phone’s serial number.
  • Location of the phone using a Find My Phone app or similar technology.

Ask your cell phone salesman, cell phone manufacturer, or cell phone service provider how you can use a find my phone capability, and how you can wipe out information located on your phone.

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