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Mobile phone theft up 25% in three years

8th November 2012 Print

The rising value of smartphones and the sophisticated tactics of modern thieves have fuelled a 25% increase in mobile phone theft over the past three years. 

According to official figures obtained by LV= home insurance, street muggings and pick pocketing where mobile phones were stolen has risen year-on-year since 2010. In the first eight months of this year, 264 mobile phone thefts were reported each day - an increase of 7% compared with 2011 figures.

Over half of perpetrators arrested are aged 19 or under according to the Metropolitan Police, with close to 16,500 teens arrested in the past three years nationwide. Leicestershire Constabulary arrested the UK's youngest perpetrator who was just nine years old and the Metropolitan Police and Suffolk Constabulary have both arrested ten year old phone thieves.

Pickpocketing is the most common form of mobile phone theft. One in six (17%) of those who have had a phone stolen say it was taken from their bag or pocket. A smaller number (8%) have even had their phone snatched from their hand as they were using it and a further 6% were mugged for it.

Once a phone is stolen, it is rarely recovered. Police forces in England, Wales and Scotland have dealt with 230,000 street crimes where a mobile phone was stolen since 2010, but recovered just 1% of those stolen. The true scale of the crime may be far higher than the official figures as many thefts go unreported. LV= estimates that the overall number of stolen mobiles is more likely to be 400,000 for this period, as four in ten mobile theft victims say they never reported the crime to the police.

Thieves usually target crowded areas where there is a high concentration of people to steal from. According to the police, the UK mobile phone theft hotspots include Hyde Park in London where 163 thefts were reported between May and August alone and Greyfriars Road in Cardiff where 125 thefts have been reported so far this year. Other larger areas identified by the Police include Sheffield City Centre (1,309 thefts so far this year), Leicester City (Castle Ward, 742 reported) and Bristol City Centre (399 reported).

The problem is being exacerbated by the soaring value of modern smartphones and the ease with which they can be sold on. The average smartphone now has a black-market value of over £400 for the handset, downloaded content and paid-for apps. Stolen mobiles are usually sold on to recycling companies, to unsuspecting buyers through online auction sites or exported for sale in Africa, Asia and Europe.

In addition to the handset value, the potential value of a smartphone to a hacker is considerably higher. As people use their phones as mini-computers to check their bank accounts and update personal information on social networking sites, phones have a wealth of valuable information for fraudsters. Despite this, 59% of adults do not have password protection on their phone and few take the time to log out of banking or social networking apps, making it very easy for criminals to steal their details and use them fraudulently.

John O'Roarke, Managing Director of LV= home insurance comments: "We have seen a real shift in theft claims over the past decade with thieves preferring to target small, easily portable items such as mobile phones and gadgets. The latest smartphones are worth hundreds of pounds on the black market and can be easily sold on, making them particularly attractive to opportunistic thieves. The best way to protect yourself from theft is to use a password on your phone, keep it hidden away when you're not using it, and ensure your phone is properly insured."

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