Philadelphia is No. 1 for lost or stolen cellphones, study says

What You Should Know

  • Philadelphia is No. 1 among U.S. cities for attempts to locate misplaced or stolen cellphones.
  • About 40 cell phones a month are reported lost or stolen just on mass transit.
  • More than one in three people experience a lost or stolen phone.

Philadelphia is No. 1 among U.S. cities for attempts to locate misplaced or stolen cellphones, according to a mobile-device security company.

While the ranking from Lookout may not be definitive, it points to an increasingly serious problem.

"With 1.6 million Americans falling victim to smartphone theft in 2012, this has become a national epidemic," San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said before a June “Smartphone Summit” in New York City.

The Big Apple had a 40 percent rise in cellphone thefts last year, according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

In Philadelphia, about 40 cell phones a month are reported lost or stolen just on mass transit, according to SEPTA police, which has stepped up its focus on thieves, as noted in a AAA news release calling attention to the growing problem.

“That iPhone is iCandy to thieves,” said Jenny Robinson, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “…Don’t let the fast fingers of pickpocketers get away with your high-tech devices.  Stay alert and secure.”

AAA tips:

  • Install an app that lets you go online to locate a missing phone, and wipe its data.
  • Avoid using an electronic device on platforms.
  • If you must use a device publically, grip it, turn down the volume, and stay aware of your surroundings.
  • Keep devices (and wallets) in safer places, such a front pocket or tightly closed bags or briefcases kept as close to you as possible.
  • “Change the color of your earphones. White or red wires can indicate expensive equipment.”
  • “Don’t doze off while riding on mass transit. “

Lookout’s Top 5 includes three West Coast cities – Seattle, Oakland and Long Beach – plus Newark, N.J. Rounding out the Top 10: Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore, New York and Boston. (Go to Lookout.com and click "What Are the Odds?" to see Top 30.)

The data was limited to Lookout’s customer base of about 40 million users worldwide, so it’s tough to tell how true it is for all cellphone users.

Two years ago, a study by security software maker Norton put Miami, New York and Los Angeles at the top, with Philadelphia tied at No. 9 with Tampa and Cleveland.

More than one in three people experience a lost or stolen phone, Norton found.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

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