Mobile Device Theft

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

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

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

What should I do if my device is stolen?

  • If your device 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 device has been stolen, as thieves often use stolen devices to make large numbers of high cost calls. In many cases, the owner of the device is responsible for the charges that result from these calls up until the time at which the device is reported stolen to the service provider.
  • Some service providers operate technology that allows them to add a stolen device to a blacklist. Once added to the blacklist the stolen device is no longer able to access the service provider’s network. If you are reporting a stolen device, ask your service provider if they offer a blacklisting service for the device itself as well as for the SIM card. If they do, they will require the IMEI number of your device in order to add the device 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 device stolen. In some countries, all mobile service providers participate in blacklisting schemes and share the IMEI numbers of stolen devices with one another. This ensures that a device 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 device 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 device is stolen when I am in another country?

  • Even if you are in another country the theft of your device 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 device, 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 device and what can I do to increase the chances of recovering a stolen device?

  • Ensure you have enabled and switched on the security features that are available on your device to prevent unauthorised parties from using the device should it be stolen. The relevant functions include the ability to track your device and to remotely lock and wipe it from another connected device. Not all of these features exists on every device and you should check the capabilities of your device by referring to the device user manual.
  • Ensure that you always use the PIN lock or biometric authentication feature on your device and SIM card. These features require that you enter a PIN code or satisfy some form of biometric authentication before you can begin using your device or your SIM card. See your device’s user manual to find out more about these features (note that not all models of device may provide a PIN or biometric authentication feature for locking access to the device, 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 device and any distinguishing features, for instance, clip on covers. In the event that your device is stolen, having a note of these points will help you to provide an accurate and complete description of your device to the police.
  • Consider marking your device 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 device. You can find the IMEI number of your device by entering ‘*#06#’ on the device’s keyboard. If your device is stolen, you may find that your service provider can use the IMEI to ‘blacklist’ the device. Once blacklisted, the device 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 device as yours should they succeed in recovering it from the thief.

What else should I consider in regard to device theft?

  • You may wish to insure your device. In some cases, your household insurance policy may cover the theft of your device, however in many cases device theft will not be included in a household insurance policy and a specialist device insurance policy may be required.
  • If your device is lost or stolen, you may find it difficult to remember all the contact details you had stored in your device 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 device allowing you to easily recover this data should your device or SIM be stolen.
  • If you store confidential personal or business data on your device, 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 thief cannot access this data should your device be stolen.
  • If your device supports the feature, you may want to create and send to the device a message that can be displayed on the home/lock screen to someone, including police, who may find your handset and this may help to help you recover it.