Smartphone thefts on the rise

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Chances are you or someone you know has a smartphone.  If you own an iPhone, Android, or another smartphone device, you should know the number of smartphone thefts in the United States is on the rise.

The Federal Communication Commission reported the number of robberies involving cell phones comprises 30-40% of all robberies in many cities across the country.

At Coastal Carolina University, officials with the campus Department of Public Safety are dealing with a rise in cell phone thefts.

"Certainly cell phones is one of the targets of theft we definitely have to deal with around here," said Captain Tom Mezzapelle.

Mezzapelle added there has always been a problem with larceny and theft of phones, but said the invention of the newest smartphones created a spike in smartphone theft.

"About the time the iPhone got really popular in early 2008," said Mezzapelle.  "Since then as the number of cell phones have grown with the number of people having them we've seen the number of thefts with cell phones grow."

To help curb the spike in smartphone robberies, the FCC partnered with some of the major wireless carriers including AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint to create new initiatives to deter theft and keep smartphone users' data safe.

By the end of 2013, the FCC reported wireless carriers will implement a database to prevent the use of stolen smartphones.  If you have a smartphone stolen from you, the FCC said the database will allow your wireless carrier to block the phone from ever being used again.

Another initiative in the agreement is wireless carriers plan to place more emphasis on encouraging users to lock their phones with passwords.  The FCC said smartphone makers will give users messages and "Quick Start" user guides about how to use passwords to prevent theft and protect data.

Cameron Pearson, a student at CCU, said his phone was stolen from his locker at school.  He said people are stealing smartphones not for themselves, but to make a profit.

"The phones actually have some type of value so they aren't taking them for their actual personal use," added Pearson. "They'll sell it for more money or whatever ."

Mezzapelle wants people to go ahead and take precautions now to keep your personal data stored on your phone safe in the event your phone is stolen.  He said a simple way to do this is lock your phone with a good combination.

"Don't use the last four digits of your social security or your telephone number or your address," said Mezzapelle.  "Those things are pretty easy to figure out."

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