Thefts of iPhone smartphones are reportedly up 44 percent this year in New York City, according to a May 2012 report in the New York Post. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, during a city budget presentation, said iPhone owners are often at fault.
“We do live in a world where people carry around, treat cavalierly, pieces of technology that’s useful to somebody if they steal them,” Bloomberg said. “And they’re easy to steal.”
Even if you don’t live in New York, it’s shockingly easy to get your iPhone, iPad or iPod stolen. Here are five sure-fire ways to ensure you and your beloved iDevice are separated.
1. Sit near the door in a crowded café with your iPhone or iPad on the table.
Not long ago, I was in a busy café in downtown San Francisco. Seated at a table near the door were two women engaged in a conversation. One woman had placed her iPad on the table and turned her attention away from it and toward her friend. Within a matter of seconds, an iThief walked in the door, quickly sized up the situation, stealthily grabbed the woman’s iPad, and then ran across the street into an alley before anyone realized what happened.
Later, a clerk told me she’d witnessed several similar thefts—always of Apple mobile devices—in the few months she’d worked at the café.
2. Wear the white earbuds everywhere you go.
Want to tell the world you’re carrying an iPhone or iPod touch? Just wear the free white earbuds Apple includes in the box as you stroll around town. On the other hand, if you want to be left alone, wear a pair of BlackBerry-branded earbuds instead.
3. Leave the white earbuds visible in your car.
If you leave your iPhone, iPod, or iPad visible in your unattended car, you’re begging for a break-in. But the white earbuds will also do the trick. Two holiday seasons ago, I foolishly left a pair of white iPhone earbuds exposed on the passenger seat of my car. (I had my iPhone with me, fortunately.) When I returned, I discovered the driver-side window had been shattered and my car ransacked—no doubt by an iThief looking for his favorite target.
4. Talk while you walk.
Talking while walking is cool in an Aaron Sorkin/West Wing sort of way. And it’s something we all love doing with our smartphones. But think about it: When you’re talking on your iPhone while walking, you’re already distracted from what’s going on around you. Plus, you’ve got only one hand on the phone as opposed to the two hands you use for texting. In short: You’re an iTarget.
5. Position yourself near the exit door of a bus or train with your iPhone visible.
I’ve read reports that in some metro areas, iThieves look for bus (or subway) passengers who stand near an exit door while holding an iDevice. At the last minute, right before the door closes, the perp grabs the iDevice and runs off. (Read about CIO.com blogger Tom Kaneshige’s near-theft experience on mass transit in “Smartphone Theft Starts Early.”
Kidding Aside, iDevice Theft Is No Joke
While my tips are obviously tongue in cheek, the theft of portable electronics is no laughing matter. Apple’s devices are particularly attractive to thieves, as they tend to have a strong resale value. And with so many thefts occurring, it’s difficult for police to apprehend the crooks and often even harder to prosecute them.
Using a password lock on your iDevice as well as registering it with Apple’s Find My iPhone service can offer some protection. But don’t fool yourself. Experienced thieves know exactly what to do to quickly convert your iDevice into $200 (or more) before you even know what happened.
So what can you do to protect yourself? Keep your iDevice hidden as much as possible when in public. Don’t wear the telltale white earbuds. Pay attention to your surroundings at all times. If you need to take a call while walking, do it in a safe place whenever possible. Above all, never sit near a door in a public space with your iDevice clearly visible or, worse, unattended.
If someone grabs your device and runs off, don’t pursue them, especially if you’re alone. Sure, you might get your gadget back. But you might also get a punch in the face—or much worse. No piece of technology is worth that.
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.