Mobile Phone Theft

In common with many other portable electronic devices, mobile phones have become attractive targets for the opportunistic thief. There are a number of precautions users of mobile phones can take to reduce the chance of their phone being stolen and to ensure that, in the event that the worse happens, the thief is unable to make any productive use of the phone or SIM card.

How can I reduce the chance of my phone being stolen?

  • Do not leave your mobile phone unattended or in open view in public places. Even if your phone is located close at hand, a bold thief may still be willing to grab it and run.
  • Do not leave your mobile phone on open display in an unattended car. If you do need to leave your phone in an unattended vehicle, lock it in the glove compartment or the boot.
  • When using your phone in a public place, consider your surroundings and, if appropriate, be discrete in the way in which you use your phone. Do not use your phone in areas where you might feel unsafe.
  • When using your phone in a public place, consider your surroundings and, if appropriate, be discrete in the way in which you use your phone. Do not use your phone in areas where you might feel unsafe.
  • Do not give your phone to strangers who ask to borrow it.

What should I do if my phone is stolen?

  • If your phone is stolen, you should inform your service provider’s customer service team immediately. This will allow them to block any further calls from being made using your SIM card. It is important that you take this step as soon as you realise that your phone has been stolen, as thieves often use stolen phones to make large numbers of high cost calls. In many cases, the owner of the phone is responsible for the charges that result from these calls up until the time at which the phone is reported stolen to the service provider.
  • Some service providers operate technology that allows them to add a stolen phone to a blacklist. Once added to the blacklist the stolen phone is no longer able to access the service provider’s network. If you are reporting a stolen phone, ask your service provider if they offer a blacklisting service for the phone itself as well as for the SIM card. If they do, they will require the IMEI number of your phone in order to add the phone to the blacklist. If you have a note of this number, you should provide this to your service provider at the same time as reporting the phone stolen. In some countries, all mobile service providers participate in blacklisting schemes and share the IMEI numbers of stolen phones with one another. This ensures that a phone reported as stolen by a customer of one service provider cannot be used on that network or any of the other networks in that country.
  • You should report the theft to the police. If your phone is covered by an insurance policy then you may need to obtain a reference number from the police in order to make an insurance claim.

What if my phone is stolen when I am in another country?

  • Even if you are in another country the theft of your phone and SIM card must be reported immediately to your service provider at home. By contacting them immediately, you ensure the prompt suspension of the service, which minimises the risk of somebody else running up expensive bills.
  • The theft should also be reported to the local police authorities and you should obtain a police report if you require it to make an insurance claim.
  • Before travelling to another country you should ensure you note, separate from your mobile phone, the international telephone number for your service provider’s customer service department. This will help in the event that you need to call the service provider from overseas. Alternatively, contact details can be obtained from your service provider’s website.

How can I ensure that a thief cannot make use of my phone and what can I do to increase the chances of recovering a stolen phone?

  • Ensure that you always use the PIN lock feature on your phone and SIM card. These features require that you enter a PIN code before you can begin using your phone or your SIM card. See your phone’s user manual to find out more about these features (note that not all models of phone may provide a PIN feature for locking access to the handset, however all SIM cards support a SIM lock PIN feature that can be accessed via the handset).
  • Keep a note of the make and model of your phone and any distinguishing features, for instance, clip on covers. In the event that your phone is stolen, having a note of these points will help you to provide an accurate and complete description of your phone to the police.
  • Consider marking your phone with your postal (zip) code together with your house or flat numbers using an ultra-violet security marker pen.
  • Keep a note of the IMEI number of your phone. You can find the IMEI number of your phone by entering ‘*#06#’ on the phone’s keyboard. If your phone is stolen, you may find that your service provider can use the IMEI to ‘blacklist’ the phone. Once blacklisted, the phone will be disabled on your service provider’s network and possibly on other networks too (note, this service is not currently offered by all service providers). You may also find that your local police will be able to make use of the IMEI, in particular to help them identify the phone as yours should they succeed in recovering it from the thief.

What else should I consider in regard to phone theft?

  • You may wish to insure your phone. In some cases, your household insurance policy may cover the theft of your phone, however in many cases phone theft will not be included in a household insurance policy and a specialist phone insurance policy may be required.
  • If your phone is lost or stolen, you may find it difficult to remember all the contact details you had stored in your phone and SIM card. Many service providers and other third parties offer services or tools to enable you to backup the contents of your SIM and your phone allowing you to easily recover this data should your phone or SIM be stolen.
  • If you store confidential personal or business data on your phone, you may wish to consider investing in security software that allows you to store this data in an encrypted format. This will help to ensure that a phone thief cannot access this data should your phone be stolen.