Wireless Device Theft: Protect your data, recover your device

A $500 smartphone snatched from an unsuspecting diner. A tablet taken from a teen at gunpoint. A bank account drained—the identity theft victim left to pick up the pieces.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, 42% of all property crimes in New York involve cell phones—and some of those crimes involve violence.


In New York's subways, half of thefts involve mobile devices.

But what if we could reduce stolen wireless devices to nothing more than sleek metal skipping rocks? Would they present such a desirable target to thieves?

Probably not.

This is a strategy wireless carriers are working to put into motion. And you can go a long way toward “bricking” your stolen phone, too.

Let’s take a look…


Carriers are teaming together to reduce wireless device theft
AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile, in partnership with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), are developing a database that will store unique identification numbers for every smartphone and tablet sold in the marketplace.

If those wireless devices are reported stolen, carriers will be able to immediately and permanently disable them—rendering them useless. That means, no more swapping out a SIM card to take advantage of an expensive, stolen high-tech mobile device. And if the devices are useless, they’re no longer worth the trouble to steal.

The system is expected to be up and running in six months, and it is hoped this will reduce wireless device-related crime.


What can you do to protect your wireless device?

Password protect your personal data
These days, wireless devices often hold much more than a simple address book. If you store a lot of personal information on your device—especially if you use banking and shopping apps—keeping that data locked safely behind a password can be a great first line of defense.

If you haven’t done it before, password protecting your wireless device is a snap! Check out these simple video tutorials from CTIA – The Wireless Association™’s YouTube Channel for a simple step-by-step to protecting your data:

•    Android

•    Apple iOS

•    BlackBerry  


Track your stolen phone and remotely wipe your data–there’s an app for that!
If your wireless device is missing or stolen, your personal data is at risk. And even if thieves aren’t sophisticated enough to retrieve your personal data, you’re still out what was most likely an expensive device.

But if you’re proactive, you can potentially track and recover your missing phone. And worst-case scenario, you can wipe your data from the device remotely, containing the damage done.


Check out these great apps:

SeekDroid for Android


o    After installation, the app hides itself to avoid detection from ne’er-do-wells
o    Track the location of your missing device by logging into the SeekDroid website
o    Determine who your smartphone thief has been calling with remotely accessible call logs
o    Lock your device remotely to prevent unauthorized access
o    If you can’t recover your phone, wipe your device remotely to prevent theft of your valuable personal data

Review: “When I lost my tablet I was able to use SeekDroid to track down where I left it and get it back. Without SeekDroid on there I would never have gotten it back! Always works smoothly on both my phone and tablet and gives me a peace of mind that is worth the cost.”—Jigsaw hc

Price: $2.99

Find my iPhone for Apple iOS


o    Locate Apple iOS devices online or by using the free Find My iPhone app installed on a second iOS device
o    Using the app, play a sound on your misplaced device to locate it
o    Remotely lock your device or erase your personal data to keep it from prying eyes

Review: “I’m a police officer, we just used this app to recover 2 stolen iPhones within 30 min of being stolen! Great app!” —Scpd755

Price: Free

BlackBerry Protect for BlackBerry


o    Back up your settings and personal data to the cloud
o    Make your phone ring to locate it if misplaced or find it’s location on a map
o    Lock your device remotely or wipe your data to prevent theft of your personal information

Review: “This app is excellent you can track your phone and you can change your password if you forget it from a website and if it gets stolen you can lock it or wipe it !!!!” —Alij123

Price: Free

File a report
If your wireless device has been stolen, notify your carrier to turn it off immediately and file a report with the police. That way, you won’t be responsible for charges incurred by the thief and police may be able to recover your device—especially if you’ve installed one of the apps above.

A cautionary note: We’ve all heard stories of senseless, violent crime involving the theft of a few dollars, a jacket or an iPod. So, if your wireless device is stolen, we urge you to use the apps above to track it’s location and work with the authorities to recover it. Don’t confront the thief yourself.

Tell us—has someone ever swiped your wireless device? Were you able to get it back? How?

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