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November 12, 2013

Miller Urges Major Smartphone Manufacturers to Help Curb Smartphone Thefts

31 state and territorial attorneys general urge manufacturers to employ technology to thwart "Apple picking"

(DES MOINES, Iowa)  Attorney General Tom Miller today urged three leading smartphone manufacturers to more aggressively employ electronic safeguards to thwart smartphone thefts.

In a letter to Google/Motorola, Samsung and Microsoft, Miller joined a bipartisan group of 31 state and territorial attorneys general in urging the companies to provide a “more robust” response to help protect smartphone owners from theft, often called “Apple picking.”

“We think these companies have the technology and the means to use it to help protect smartphone owners,” Miller said.  “Something as simple as an undefeatable remote ‘kill switch,’ to disable a stolen device and render it useless, would dramatically help deter these thefts.”

The letter urged the companies to develop more effective tools to protect smartphone users.  Miller and state attorneys general assert that the technology would help reduce secondary markets for stolen devices and the economic incentive for theft.

“I’m concerned that the industry isn’t doing enough to fight this problem, perhaps because smartphone theft victims are currently paying for replacement phones,” Miller said.

Miller Joins Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S Initiative)
Miller is now part of the Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S.) Initiative, to encourage the smartphone industry to implement meaningful solutions to end a disturbing trend of mobile communication device thefts and robberies.

Launched earlier this year and led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and London Mayor Boris Johnson, the S.O.S. Initiative is an international coalition of prosecutors, police chiefs, state attorneys general, state and city comptrollers, and public safety activists.

Smartphone Thefts Rising Worldwide
Even as most types of property crime are falling, in communities worldwide, the theft of smartphones has risen dramatically.  Consumer Reports estimates that in 2012, smartphone thieves victimized 1.6 million Americans.  In the United States, one in three thefts involves a mobile communications device.

Street-level thieves feed a massive global marketplace for stolen phones that is too large or lucrative for any single community to stop. Mobile devices that are reported stolen in the United States and are no longer able to access domestic cell networks can be reactivated to work in foreign countries. In Hong Kong, for example, stolen iPhones are worth an estimated $2,000.

Tips to Protect Your Smartphone from Loss or Theft

  • Use a password.  Passwords can help slow or prevent others from accessing your phone, including personal information, emails and contacts.
  • Make sure your phone stays with you, as you lessen the chance of leaving it behind.  If you leave it in a vehicle, make sure it’s not in plain sight.
  • Use a security app.  Security apps, many which are free, help protect your smartphone or mobile device.  Some apps enable you to remotely sound an alarm, track, lock, and even erase the device.

Report a Loss or Theft Immediately

  • Call your service provider, which can suspend your account, turn off your phone service, and flag your phone as stolen.  Even if you are not sure your phone has been stolen it's better to err on the side of caution than risk allowing unauthorized access to your personal data or allow unauthorized calls.
  • If you purchased phone insurance through your service provider, report the loss and ask about the claims process.
  • If someone stole your phone from your car or house, your car or homeowner’s insurance provider may cover the theft, though a claim could impact future premiums.


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