You probably have a friend who got his or her smartphone stolen. Or you might have experienced it yourself. It is not a pleasant experience for sure, but take solace in the fact that you are not alone. In fact, according to a report released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), there are more than 1 million cases of smartphone theft in the United States every year.
It is easy to see why smartphone thefts are increasing year after year. More and more people are carrying handsets every year, and smartphones are easily the most valuable thing most of us have in our pockets all day, which means they are the most obvious things thieves will likely target.
It is definitely a growing problem in the US and nobody knows the full extent of the problem because no official national statistics for smartphone thefts exist in the country. So how did FCC come up with its estimate?
It collected data from 21 different police departments serving almost 20 million people in the US. It then extrapolated the data gathered to get a reasonable figure for the rest of the country.
And according to FCC, the data seem to suggest that 1 out of 10 robber cases involve stolen smartphones. And there are certain cities that have it worse. In San Francisco for instance, 59 percent of all reported robberies last year involved smartphones. In the Big Apple, the ratio is about 55 percent.
FCC further estimates that during last year, 3.1 million Americans had reported their smartphones stolen. But this figure could easily have been higher -- there is just no accounting for the number of smartphone thefts that go unreported.
But where do those millions of stolen smartphones go? The answer is not always simple. If the stolen handset is equipped with anti-theft features, there is a decent chance that the thief will get rid of the smartphone, perhaps by throwing it away. But if the phone does not have any anti-theft features, or if the user does not activate the security features, the handset may be going overseas.
According to FCC, fixing this problem will require some team effort. FCC is suggesting that mobile companies overseas begin blocking smartphones that have been reported stolen to the GSM Association's database.
Also, FCC suggests that phone makers all over the world start including anti-theft feature integration into their devices' activation process. Also, states would do well to follow California's lead -- California recently passed a law that requires phone makers to incorporate anti-theft features in their devices by default.
As for the users, they will just have to make full use of the Activation Lock and Find my iPhone features (for iPhone owners), or the Factory Reset Protection feature (for owners of devices that run on Android 5.0 Lollipop). Or, they will just have to take extra care in carrying their smartphones.
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