Smartphones targeted by thieves

Isabelle Pinard & Rebecca Lee

Dozens of passengers travel by Muni or BART with earbuds in and smartphones out, but in a matter of seconds their cell phones could be whisked out of their grips and into a thief’s hands.

San Francisco is one of the top 20 cities for cell phone loss or theft, with a record of 35 percent of its population experiencing cell phone robberies over one week according to a survey done by Norton Mobile Security.

“I put my phone away in my pocket but then [muggers] pulled me down to the ground by my backpack and started kicking me,” senior Emily O’Reilly, whose iPhone was stolen while riding M Judah over the summer, said. “At first I didn’t know what they wanted, but then they just continued to say, ‘cell phone, cell phone.’”

O’Reilly says she was on her phone playing games before the mugging happened and that she did not report the incident.“The conductor told me there was no point on reporting it because they were long gone by then,” O’Reilly said.

Although an estimated 36 percent of people call their cell phone company first to try and locate a lost phone, which helps more times than not, according to

Ninety-six percent of the U.S. population use cellphones and often store valuable information like contacts, texts, personal photos or banking information on it, according to gear and gadget advisor Matador Goods. Users should always have passwords for their phone, but 54 percent of all smartphone users do not password-protect their phones, according to Lookout Mobile Security.

Smartphone owners can protect their devices by having a mobile phone security service such as Lookout or McAfee WaveSecure or Apple’s free iCloud that have the ability to back up and restore lost data as well as a tool to try and find lost or stolen electronics.

Thieves can easily gain access to information stored on cell phones easily by using a specially-written software available on the Internet.

The lack of security on many phones is an advantage to hackers because they can abuse a user’s service or gain access to account information according to United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team.

Victims of theft or loss should immediately contact their cell phone phone company to cancel their account. Owners of lost or stolen cell phones incur an average cost of $125 to resolve the issue and replace their phone, according to Lookout Mobile Security.

“I didn’t really scan my surroundings on the bus,” O’Reilly said. “Now I try to be fully aware of who’s on the bus with me now.”