/ Technology

Smartphones could be more valuable to thieves than our wallets

Smartphones cause knife crime. That might sound a little extreme, but it could be true. Robberies at knifepoint are apparently up by 7% since last year, and smartphones were implicated as one of the major causes.

According to chief constable Jon Murphy from the Association of Chief Police Officers, a general rise in robberies in England and Wales was partly driven by the demand for smartphones.

In fact, 29% of all thefts in 2010 involved mobiles.

Handsets can apparently be sold for more than double their value on the black market abroad, due to the potential personal data stored on them. In a statement Murphy said:

‘Worryingly, a large proportion of phone owners still do not have passcodes on their phones, leaving them vulnerable to possible ID theft and fraud’.

It’s true, stealing a mobile these days gives thieves much more than the ability to sell it or just make a few phone calls for free. Phones are much more valuable than they once where, both in their resale value and the fact that we keep so much personal information on them.

Can they really be used to steal our identities? It’s a scary thought and one that might make you set the passcode on your smartphone if you haven’t already.

Contactless payments and crime

Something else to consider is the arrival of technology that lets us pay for goods with our phones. Back in May this year, Orange and Barclays teamed up to offer a smartphone with a contactless payment system that lets you “tap and pay” for anything under £15.

I met with the Forum for Innovation in Crime Prevention last week who highlighted their concern that this form of payment could lead to an increase in mobile theft. It’s not a problem yet, as this tech isn’t widely available or used. But if it were to take off, would it lead to a rise in crime? A question worth thinking about, particularly if the current £15 spending limit was raised.

Are these trends something we should seriously worry about, or are we just being a bit lax? Speaking to a colleague this morning, he suggested that perhaps we simply aren’t careful enough with our mobiles.

You wouldn’t leave your wallet or purse lying on a table in the pub, or carry it around on your walk home late at night – yet, most of us would do this with our smartphones.


Considering that an iphone I looked at buying this week would cost £599, I am not really surprised.

I’ll stick to my £50 Nokia for the time being. Instead, I worry about carrying around an expensive laptop.

I think there is a real risk hear with the personal info on the phone being used for identity theft. Also using the beast in areas that it might be sloen is a bit foolish. Maybe a way out is to have a cheap phone to give to the guy with the knife.