Cell phone theft is regrettably common, and as phones grow more sophisticated they become ever more desirable to thieves. Phones may be stolen to sell, or used to run up hefty bills on phone lines run by the thieves. So how can you protect yourself and your phone? Try these tips to reduce your chances of falling victim to cell phone theft …
Call your cell phone company and ask them to set a limit on your bill. Then if your phone is stolen, the thieves cannot run up a bill beyond that limit. This will also be handy to stop you yourself from running up large bills. It's also useful to block overseas calls (if you never need to make them yourself) and calls to premium numbers (see below).
It's annoying having to remember a PIN, but if you don't use a PIN on your phone, set one up. This way thieves won't be able to use it once the battery runs out. Remember not to choose a really obvious one like your date of birth or '1234'.
Smart phones can certainly be very useful when you're out and about, for example checking a street map if you're in a strange city. But it also draws attention to the fact that you're in possession of an expensive (and resellable) piece of electronic equipment. So be discreet about when and where you pull out your phone, and avoid using it where thieves are known to operate.
If the worst comes to the worst and your phone is stolen (or lost), contact your cell phone company as soon as possible and report the theft. You shouldn't be held liable for any calls made after the phone is reported stolen. Make a note of the IMEI number, and your provider may be able to block the phone.
If you receive an upgrade, you may decide to sell your previous phone on the internet. But be cautious, as there are many scams with online sales of phones. Thieves may use a stolen card to pay for a phone, or ask for it to be sent to an address other than the one on their Paypal account. You may then lose your phone, or be hit with a chargeback.
The latest scam is for phones to be stolen not for their resale value, but for use in the phone line scam. The thieves set up a premium rate line, steal a phone, and use the phone to call their own line - thus running up an enormous bill for the unsuspecting owner of the phone. Ask your provider to block all calls to premium numbers from your phone, so that you can't fall victim to this particular scam if your phone is stolen.
There are all kinds of apps that can help if your phone is stolen. They can help you identify your phone's location, lock it remotely, and even take a photo of the thief using it. Look for an app that works with your particular phone; there are many for the iPhone, for example.
While you can't safeguard your phone completely, there are steps you can take to reduce the problems and avoid the thief running up huge bills on your phone. But always know where your phone is, and don't keep it somewhere it could easily fall out. Have you ever lost or damaged a phone, or had one stolen?