By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan:  If you’ve ever lost or had a smartphone stolen, you are not alone.  Smartphones are at risk of being lost or stolen in any major metropolitan area, but surprisingly, the risk is greater if you’re in the City of Brotherly Love.  And you could be at additional risk if you’re moving into college, or if you use mass transit.  Philadelphia, the nation’s fifth-largest city (population 1.5 million), is the top theft and loss hotspot for smartphones in the country, based on research by mobile security firm Lookout.

Phone theft is at epidemic levels.  Almost one out of three robberies nationwide involves the theft of a mobile phone, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is coordinating formation this fall of a national database system to track cellphones reported stolen.

The top 10 smartphone theft and loss hotspots around the U.S. (determined by the number of reported stolen smartphone cases per capita) are:

1. Philadelphia

2. Seattle

3. Oakland

4. Long Beach

5. Newark

6. Detroit

7. Cleveland

8. Baltimore

9. New York

10. Boston

Just a few months ago, Drexel students and others were robbed of their smartphones at gunpoint in three University City robberies.  And phone theft is an issue for transit riders – SEPTA Police recently needed to ramp up enforcement to help catch cell phone thieves who lurk on the transit system.  Thirty-nine cell phones, on average, were lost or stolen each month last year throughout SEPTA’s mass transit system according to the transit police.

In the United States, about 113 smartphones go missing each minute (that’s 160,000 a day and about 30 million a year). When an iPhone costs over $800, this becomes a very pricey problem.

“That iPhone is iCandy to thieves,” warns Jenny Robinson, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “AAA urges everyone to exercise caution when using smartphones in public.  Don’t let the fast fingers of pickpocketers get away with your high-tech devices.  Stay alert and secure such devices while walking around the city, parking in a garage, and waiting for and riding mass transit.”

AAA, has provided pick-pocketing prevention tips to travelers for more than a century. It emphasizes the importance of remaining aware and alert at all times, and protecting personal property while using public transportation, such as subways and buses, and offers the following tips:

  • Remain alert because and be aware of your surroundings where people are packed in close quarters on mass transit, on elevators and escalators.
  • Install a phone app (such as Apple’s “Find My iPhone”) which will allow you to log into a website to locate a stolen or lost phone, and wipe the phone clean of personal data.
  • Don’t doze off while riding on mass transit.
  • Carry your electronic device in your front pocket or a place where it is not easily seen or reachable.
  • Avoid using an electronic device on platforms.
  • If you must use an electronic device protect it by holding it with both hands at all times.
  • Change the color of your earphones. White or red wires can indicate expensive equipment.
  • Keep the volume low if you have headphones or earbuds on so you can hear what’s happening around you.

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