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Top tips to protect your phone from theft

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Most people in the UK own at least one mobile phone, and with the value of these devices increasing all the time so are the number of mobile phone thefts. Around 300,000 thefts were reported in the UK last year alone, so what can you do to keep your phone safe from sticky fingered thieves?

Understand the true value of your phone

One of the reasons that phone theft is so common is that people aren't nearly careful enough when out and about. That's largely due to a lack of appreciation for how much their device is actually worth to them.

How much would it cost to replace your phone?

If you got your phone as part of a 24 month mobile contract then it might not be obvious how much it's actually worth. Many networks advertise "free" phones - but really the cost is hidden in the monthly tariff fee. An iPhone 6 64GB would cost you £619 to replace if you lost it, and a top of the range iPhone 6 Plus 128GB would be a whopping £789!

Your personal information

Having to pay to replace your mobile phone is bad enough, but letting your personal information fall into the wrong hands could be even worse. One of the reasons that mobile theft is so common is that more and more people are storing sensitive personal and financial information about themsleves on their phone. Just think how many passwords and pin numbers you've saved in notes on your phone - not to mention all the emails and text messages that could be used to steal your identity. This information could be much more valuable to a thief than the phone hardware itself.

The sentimental value

We all take photos and videos on our mobile phones, and these can have real sentimental value. Losing your phone can mean losing a record of very special moments, and this can sometimes be more painful than the financial cost of losing your phone. You can't insure against this, but there are a number of things you can do to make sure you don't lose your content when you lose your phone - like automatically backing it up on a daily basis.

 

Identify risks early to avoid being a victim

Even if you have phone insurance, you're going to want to do all you can to avoid falling victim to thieves - and the best way to do this is to be aware of the most comon types of theft and risky locations.

Most common places to have your phone stolen

A UK governement report last year identified the most common places to have your mobile phone stolen:

Reducing Mobile Phone Theft and Improving Security - September 2014

This report showed that the most common location to have your phone stolen is whilst on public transport or in another public place. The most common tricks that phone thieves use are:

  • Distraction - many people leave their phones lying on a table when in bars and pubs, but this makes it vulnerable. It's common for one thief to ditract you while the other one nabs your phone. You won't know about this until it's too late.
  • The element of surprise - More and more thieves are using bicycles to steal phones from unsuspecting victims. They can come and go in seconds and you're unlikely to be able to recover it.
  • Public transport - lots of phone thefts occur as people are getting on and off busses and trains, where you're more likley to be distracted and there are significant obstacles to you recovering your phone - like automatic doors and barriers.

 

So what can you do to keep your phone safe?

There are a few key things that you can do to reduce the risk of your phone being stolen:

Don't leave your phone lying around

Particularly if it's out of sight. This doesn't just apply to public places. The data above suggests that it's just as important when you're at work - a place you would expect to be safe. This is really important, even if you have mobile insurance, as most providers won't cover you if your phone was left unattended.

Be aware of your surroundings

If you're sitting by a train door or standing in the middle of the street with your phone out then you're more likely to attract the attention of thieves. If you must use your phone in public, be alert to any potential dangers and hold your phone tightly to avoid it being nabbed.

Store your phone out of sight and securely

When you aren't using your phone it should always be concealed on your person. Back pockets and open bags are easy pickings for pickpockets - so make sure that you keep your phone in a front pocket or zipped up bag.

 

How can you limit the damage if your phone is taken?

In the unfortunate even that your phone is stolen, there are a few things you can do before and after the event to limit the financial impact:

Lock your phone

Making sure that your phone has a passcode means that you're far less likley to expose your personal (and valuable) infomation to a thief. Unfortunately this won't help you if you phone is snatched from you while using it, but as long as your phone locks automatically after a short period of no use you stand a good chance of limiting the damage they can do.

Bar expensive calls

Most phones allow you to block calls to premium rate and international numbers - a common way for thieves to rack up huge bills for you and make money off the back of it.

Enable a tracker

Most phones come with tracking apps pre-installed. Enable this and you'll be able to locate you phone when it's being used by a thief. This information should be passed to the police to give them a better chance of recovering it for you.

Register your phone for free on immobilise.com

This is a database that the police use frequently - so if they recover your phone and you're registered here they'll know who to return it to.

Wipe your phone remotely

Most phones come with the ability to wipe all of your personal data from it remotely - but you might need to enable this first. Doing this as soon as possible after your phone is stolen will help protect your personal data.

Report it stolen to the police and your mobile network

This will allow them to block your mobile, to prevent a thief calling premium rate numbers, and it will also make it much more difficult for them to sell the phone on illegally.

Backup your data regularly

If you have mobile insurance then hopefully you will get a replacement phone quickly - and backing up your phone regularly will allow you to restore all your content and contacts to your new device as soon as you get it.