Spike in robbers targeting smartphones: Burnaby RCMP
A recent spike in personal robberies has Burnaby RCMP warning people to be wary while using their smartphones in public.
Since October, there has been a seven-per-cent jump in personal robberies. Of those, 75 per cent have been incidents where victims have been targeted for their smartphones, said Burnaby RCMP Cpl. Brenda Gresiuk.
"It's an easy, opportunistic type of crime."
Burnaby Mounties believe victims are being targeted by suspects who watch for people talking, texting or listening to music on the devices, often in public places like malls and SkyTrain stations, she said. When they leave those places, the culprits follow them and rob them of the smartphones.
Their methods vary. In some cases, suspects claim to have an emergency and need to borrow the victim's cellphone. When it's handed over, the suspect runs off with it. Other cases have included victims being pushed from behind or simply having the smartphones grabbed out of their hand.
The devices are very expensive and easily sold and disposed of, Gresiuk said, noting all it takes is a new SIM (subscriber identity module) card, available at any cellphone store, for someone else to use it as their own.
Gresiuk said Burnaby RCMP actually have three cases in which they've confirmed a crime has been committed, they have the person responsible and even the smartphone, but no victim.
She urged people to report such crimes, even if they took place a few months ago.
It's also important to record the three serial numbers associated with a smartphone—the one for the phone itself, the one for the SIM card and the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number, which are usually recorded on the box the devices came in.
Gresiuk also warned of online shopping scams involving smartphones either being bought or sold using Internet classified ads, with robbers using them to lure people to a location where they either steal money or the devices.
Never meet people contacted through venues such as Craigslist at your home or their home. Meet them in very public places, and not alone.
When using smartphones in public, be aware of your surroundings, particularly if using headphones. Never leave them in a vehicle to tempt thieves, and don't record valuable information such as passwords and social insurance numbers in them.
If you do, "it's not just a theft of a cellphone, it could become a theft of identity," Gresiuk said.
Telus spokesman Shawn Hall advised people to use password protection on their smartphones so in the event they are stolen, thieves can't access the information stored on it.
After reporting such a theft to police, people should report it to their cellphone service provider so the device can be disconnected, protecting their accounts from charges.
Smartphones should be treated like any other valuable, like a laptop or camera, Hall said. "Keep it close."