'Apple picking:' police expect surge in cell phone thefts

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Updated: 10/12/2012 10:00 am Published: 10/11/2012 8:36 pm

A crime called Apple picking: Thieves are not just stealing iPhones, but any smartphone, and putting it on the black market. Thieves are targeting homes, cars, and stores to steal smartphones.

With the iPhone5 on the market some officers suspect there will be a surge of cell phone thefts.  Cheap, unlocked smartphones are popping up for sale online.

"Cell phones are just a high ticket item,” said Tulsa Police Department Burglary Detective Brandon Bennett.

In Tulsa, detectives work smartphone burglary rings.   Detectives said cell phone thieves will clean out a store.

"That's unusual. We don't get grocery stores broken into and all of our food taken. We don't get electronic stores and all electronics taken. Cell phones are just a hot item,” said Bennett.

The Federal Communication Commission is working on a PROTECT initiative that works against cell phone thefts. One of the requirements included a national database on stolen cell phones so a thief can’t walk into the nearest cell phone store and activate the phone.

"’Hey I locked myself out of my settings. I'll unlock that. Will you reset my settings for me?’” said Bennett.

AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile are the four major carriers who are part of the
CTIA Wireless Association who support the FCC recommendations. Many of the companies have their own system that is like a ‘kill switch’ for your stolen phone.

However, the FCC wants a national blacklist registry by November 2013.

iPhone provides the iCloud, which allows users to ‘find my phone’. However, officers told FOX23 News the tracker does not give an exact location, so if the phone is in an apartment complex it would be difficult to find the cell phone.

Other wireless carries have a package that allows you check your location but it comes with a fee.

Some users are concerned but do know how to track their phone.

"I wouldn't be able to track it. It would be gone with all of my pictures," said Karrie McKain.

With more than 324 million cell phone users in the United States, a cell phone is not easy or cheap to replace.  

"It is my lifeline,” said Jami Fernandez.

Under the FCC’s anti-smartphone theft initiative, it recommends carriers send e-mails and text messages about securing your phone with a password and other settings.

Those recommendations should be complete by December 2012.

CTIA reports AT&T and T-Mobile are ready to be a part of the blacklist smartphone registry by October 31st, 2012. Sprint will be ready by the November 2013 rollout.

There are some apps such as GadgetTrak that allows you to wipe your data and take pictures of the person using your phone. According to its website Mobile Security costs $19.95.

The app may help protect your personal information but police warn it is not foolproof. It may be taking a photo of someone who unknowingly bought a stolen cell phone.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

Mayor Maynot - 10/13/2012 10:37 PM
0 Votes
That's nice Gladys Some carriers are really in it for the consumer. One gives away the iphone4 for $30.00 (outdated equipment) and a dollar a month service charge probably with a guarantee tax break for their corporation because they are aiding the financially disadvantaged/handicapped (themselves) :-) getit google intuits getit as geek

Gladys Crump - 10/12/2012 11:05 PM
0 Votes
LOL I don't have to worry about this one, I have a cheap pay as you go phone, worthless to anyone. I would feel like a fool paying that much for a stupid phone.
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