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Captain’s View

The time for crime prevention is now

Protect your smartphone and your data on it
Phone Security

As I have written before, I read a lot of police reports, and I find that in crimes where things are stolen, the number one item desired by criminals is still the Apple iPhone. It has a street resale value of over $100. They are plentiful out there – whether you are riding Muni or walking around on any given day, you can see many people engrossed in their phones.

I have always thought that Apple should take a more proactive approach and somehow render the phone useless upon report of a theft. I still do, but recently I read that AT&T has taken the initiative and is planning to launch a new service for blocking stolen handsets. Instead of a full SIM block, the service would allow customers to block any voice, data or SMS access to a specific phone or tablet without affecting their service.

The intention is that AT&T will keep a list of stolen handsets, and service will automatically be cut off if any attempt is made to use a device that is stored in the blocked list. Users will have to contact customer service directly to add a handset to the list, and if a phone does have remote wipe/lock capabilities, those must be activated to protect against the loss of any personal information. The plan for the new service came as a followup to a story that said all four major wireless carriers in the United States were working with the FCC to create a central database of stolen handsets.

I would encourage you to call or e-mail Apple and/or your provider to demand that they do more to render the phone useless if it is stolen. If this blocking system were to be implemented, the street criminals will desire it less, because the street buyers won’t purchase it for that very reason.

As we wait for the service providers’ help, there are things we can do to protect our belongings. As I always write, be aware of your surroundings and conceal your valuables. When out and about, don’t get “lost” in some phone app. When riding Muni, don’t sit near the exit with your iPhone in your hand. What I derive from the reports is (generally) the fact that the criminal already knows what you have, and what they want from you before they rob you (so they have seen it, or you using it).

A common inquiry written in reports is that the suspect asked, “What time is it” before he robbed the victim. The victim pulled out their phone, because very few people still wear wristwatches, and the suspect took it, never to be seen again. Many times it happens so quickly that the victim cannot identify the suspect. And the savvy thugs turn your phone off right away so it cannot be traced via the “find my phone” app.

When I write these crime prevention articles, I am generalizing, because the vast majority of iPhone owners are never victimized. The information I provide is just the trend I am seeing within the reports that I read, and I find we can always be a little more careful when out and about with our valuables. It is all about education, so pass this information on, and until next month, be safe out there.

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