Cell owners beware of a rise in phone thefts [Springfield News-Sun, Ohio :: ]
(Springfield News-Sun (Ohio) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 12--SPRINGFIELD -- Authorities in Southwest Ohio are warning residents that thieves are increasingly targeting cell phones as valuable currency.
Cell phone thefts seem to be commonplace, happening in bars and restaurants, at gyms and even in schools across the county, said David Fulgham, manager of the Preferred Wireless store at 2035 N. Bechtle Ave.
"What people are doing around here is they're getting the phones, stealing them from people ... and they'll just take it down to this machine here in the mall, drop it in and it just spits out cash," Fulgham said.
Stolen phones can also be taken to prepaid wireless stores that buy the phones in order to re-sell them, or they use the parts of the phone to fix other phones. Used phones, which are in many cases stolen, are also sold on websites such as Craigslist or EBay, Fulgham said.
That "steal to sell" tactic might be behind the arrest of eight Dayton-area people last week, who are suspected of stealing more than $300,000 in electronics, including cell phones. The two separate theft rings -- which targeted stores around in the Columbus, Troy, Sidney and Greene and Montgomery counties -- are believed to have resold the stolen devices, said the Ohio Attorney General's Office.
Not only are stolen or lost cell phones expensive to replace, but the amount of personal information stored in smartphones could mean a stolen or lost phone will give the thief or the person who finds the phone access to credit card information, email accounts and much more.
Given the information loaded on her iPhone, Kettering resident Bee Person said her cell phone is one of the most valuable things in her purse. That's why she was so distraught when she went her local phone store to report her phone had been hacked.
"They hacked into my system and they stole my information and they stole money right off my card," she said.
Although it is hard to take steps to prevent a theft other than not setting your phone down, Fulgham suggested phone owners set up a plan in case their phone is taken.
"As many phones as I've ever had come up stolen, we've had one success story and that only reason why is because she took her precautions," Fulgham said.
Smartphone owners should remember or write down their Apple ID's for their iPhones, Gmail account info for Androids, or Live Recovery usernames and passwords for Windows phones -- all are key to shutting down a phone from after it is lost or stolen.
Fulgham also suggests putting a lock screen on the phone, which requires a code to access the phone.
Apps programed into many smartphones sold today can help locate a phone. Find My iPhone allows users to track their iPhone for free and remotely erase data if it has been stolen. Android has a similar option called Lookout.
Users can also download Lockwatch, which will take a photo of the thief and can shut down a phone remotely.
Cell phone owners should always be vigilant, cautious and aware to the fact that a theft of their phone can take place at any time. Fulgham warns to never keep other valuables tucked away inside a phone cover or case.
"iPhones are the No. 1 most stolen product in the world," he said. "Why would you also put your credit card and driver's license in there?"
(c)2014 Springfield News-Sun, Ohio
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