Imagine walking down the street talking on your smart phone and suddenly your phone is snatched out of your hand and the perpetrator takes off running. According to Consumer Reports, 3.1 million Americans were victimized by smart phone theft in 2013. The theft of smart phones, called “apple picking,” could be essentially stopped with the use of a kill switch installed and enabled on all phones. A kill switch renders the phone inoperable and as such useless to anyone but the owner.
Thieves steal smart phones, not only for resale, but to gain access to people’s personal information opening up opportunities for miscreants to steal identities. Many times the act of stealing or snatching someone’s smart phone turns violent. Perpetrators have physically assaulted and killed in the act of stealing smart phones. Of course, much of such theft is done simply by picking up smart phones lying around for some reason or being charged and left unattended by their owners.
Law enforcement believes that having installed and enabled kill switches on all phones will virtually stop phone theft. Many states and the federal government have introduced bills in favor of the use of kill switches. Americans like choices and such legislation may include an opt out option for those inclined not to protect themselves and their property.
Until legislation forces the cell phone industry to universally install and enable kill switches there are a few practices you can consider in the meantime. Be aware of your surroundings while using your smart phone as you are vulnerable due to your focus and the fact that you have at least one hand on your phone. Do not recharge your phone unattended in a public setting. Do not let your guard down while seated as thefts have occurred in restaurants and on public transportation both while the victim was seated. Overall, it is a great idea to be aware of your local environment regardless of where you are and whether or not you are on your phone.
It is time to make smart phones smarter with a kill switch. In the meantime, stay alert but not paranoid. You just may prevent a crime and possibly save your life.