More Than Two Thirds Of Stolen Smartphones Are Never Recovered
May 8, 2014

More Than Two Thirds Of Stolen Smartphones Are Never Recovered

Enid Burns for - Your Universe Online

In America one in 10 smartphone owners are the victims of phone theft. Of those, 68 percent were unable to recover their device. That's the findings of a report released by Lookout, a UK-based mobile security firm. The survey was conducted by IDG Research, and examines smartphone theft in the US.

In 2013 roughly 3.1 million American consumers became victims of smartphone theft, according to the report. This figure is nearly double the reported smartphone thefts in 2012, according to data from Consumer Reports.

The largest number of phone thefts (40 percent) occurs in the afternoon, between noon and 5 pm. During the evening hours of 6 pm and 9 pm, 29 percent of phone thefts occur, and 18 percent overnight between 10 pm and 5 am. Most often phone owners are too casual with their smartphones, and should exercise a little more caution when leaving it on a table at a café or coffee shop.

"Simply being a little too forgetful plays a huge role in the growing phone theft trend. Most phone theft victims, 44 percent, accidentally left their phone behind in a public setting where it was later snatched up by a thief. According to our data, the typical victim was most likely at a restaurant in the afternoon, and it took the victim an hour to realize the phone had been nabbed," the report said.

It is important to act quickly, according to the report.

"Chances are, the sooner you discover your phone is missing, the higher likelihood you’ll get it back. The golden hour after the theft occurs is key because, let’s face it, thieves are sneaky! To avoid being tracked, thieves take common actions seconds after stealing a phone, like immediately powering it down, putting it on airplane mode, or removing the SIM card. This prevents the owner from calling or tracking it. While 90 percent of phone theft victims take steps to recover their phone, only 32 percent of all theft victims are successful in recovering it," said the report.

Smartphones are valuable on the black market; Lookout estimates that a smartphone is worth 30-times the per ounce price for silver. The data stored on a phone is just as important to many thieves.

"Most likely, your attachment isn’t to just the physical phone, but also to the contacts, photos, videos, apps, and data it stores. And when that information goes missing, you can experience anything from personal or confidential company data loss to fraudulent charges and even identity theft. That’s precisely why 50 percent of smartphone owners would be somewhat likely to extremely likely to pay $500 --  excluding the cost of the physical device -- to retrieve their stolen phone’s data, while one third of Americans would be somewhat likely to extremely likely to pay $1,000.  Even then, only 13 percent of respondents actually wiped the data off of their phone remotely," the report said.

The US government, as well as a number of state governments, are working on legislation to implement a smartphone kill switch, which would allow smartphone owners to make their phone unable to operate remotely if a phone is stolen. It is likely that smartphones will have a kill switch built into the software of the phone as early as next year.

To protect a smartphone, Lookout recommends taking a few measures. One useful action is to place a pin or passcode on the device. This would make a thief unable to access data or use the phone without breaking the code. Lookout also recommends that smartphone owners be alert and remain aware of personal belongings including their smartphone.

"A distracted person texting, listening to music, or talking on their phone is a prime target for thieves. Also, be cautious about leaving your phone out when you’re in a public place -- even if you’re just running to the cafe counter to grab your coffee!" the report said.

Additionally, apps can help users lock down and also locate a lost or stolen phone, but only if the app is installed and set up prior to the incident.