New Cell Phone? You’re a Target

by Diane Dimond on September 24, 2012

Want One? Be Prepared


Are you and your family among those who can’t wait to get their hands on one of the new Apple iPhone 5’s? Have you already gotten yours?

If so, well, congratulations! You’ve just added yourself to a growing number of potential robbery victims being targeted in sprees sprouting up nationwide. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but there are those out there who see your new communications toy – be it an iPhone, i-Pad, Smartphone or other type of mobile device – as a way to make a fast buck. Steal it, sell it, make some dishonest money.

Gaggles of Cell Phone Yakkers Everywhere

The bad guys don’t bother trying to steal car radios or stereo equipment anymore. Why should they bother when on every street corner, in every coffee shop, convenience store, public park and fast food restaurant there are crowds of people distractedly texting or talking on mobile devices? Watch them closely. They often hold the item out and away from their body as they talk into the speaker phone, take a picture or punch in a message. To a determined thief it’s like an engraved party invitation to crash-and-grab. Because people are so preoccupied with their gadgets (at the expense of realizing who might be stalking them) they make themselves near perfect prey. And, it’s not just the device they stand to lose but all the personal information stored within that could be exploited. Bank account and credit card numbers, maybe even private medical information.

Focused on the Screen Not the Surroundings

Police in Houston, Las Vegas, North Miami and Chicago report rings of cell phone and iPad thieves have been brazenly operating lately. Several other major cities, including New York and Washington D.C. report up to 40% of all the robberies committed involve criminals trying to snatch these expensive toys – right out of the hands of distracted victims.

Equonne Howard is Now in Custody

Since Apple products seem to be the most popular target this type of crime has now been dubbed, “Apple Picking.”

One California man recently took it to extremes. At 5 a.m. one morning he and a couple of accomplices rammed his BMW into the plate glass doors of an Apple store in Temecula, CA. Surveillance cameras captured the hooded thieves grabbing up thousands of dollars in merchandise. They apparently didn’t know that the brand new phones they were stealing would be worth a lot less when the new iPhone 5 was introduced just a few days later. They also didn’t plan on a security gate automatically closing and temporarily blocking their escape. The cameras caught the dramatic action as the car repeatedly rammed the gate from the inside, tearing off the back license plate in the process and leaving it behind as a key piece of evidence.

The car’s owner Equonne Howard, 22, was arrested within hours and now sits in jail.

Sally Katona-King Was Murdered For a Phone

These thefts are usually not so comical. In fact, they sometimes injure and even kill people. Hwangbum Yang, 26, a chef in New York was shot and killed earlier this year during a cell phone robbery as he headed home from his job at Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art. Last year in Chicago, 68 year old Sally Katona-King was shoved down a flight of stairs at a train station by a 17 year old robber who tried to steal her iPhone. He was a repeat cell phone robber and is now charged with murder.

The Federal Communications Commission is working on a plan to make stealing these gadgets a lot less profitable. Last spring it was announced the FCC would create a database where victims could report their device as stolen. Their carrier would then automatically block service to the item making it difficult to re-sell. Once this registry is fully operational law enforcement officials think the number of cell phone thefts should drop almost immediately.

Discussing Phone, iPad Safety is Smart

It’s probably a good idea to have a family meeting to talk about ways to be more cautious when using these communication devices we just can’t seem to live without. Let the young people in the house know that one of the more frequent ploys is for the youngest looking member of a gang to approach student-aged kids outside a school or in a mall and politely ask to use their phone. They will likely claim their battery has run down or that they left it at home but once the loan is made the thief runs off with their prize. Sounds so stunningly simple and predicable that you wouldn’t think anyone old enough to carry a cell phone would fall for it. The reality is – this kind of crime happens multiple times every day in every major city in America.

Stealing From Baby Easiest of All

Also, be aware of your surroundings and who might be watching you while you’re busy watching the digital screen. Don’t hold the device in such a way that it would be easy for a crook to run by you and grab it. Don’t leave the item in your vehicle and for goodness sakes, don’t leave one of these tempting gizmos on a café table while you step away to grab a quick drink re-fill!

As any police officer would caution if confronted by a robber give it up, don’t fight back to save a measly piece of electronics. It can always be replaced.





{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond October 7, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Facebook Friend Tracy Petry writes:

“A good reminder for everyone. It’s easy to get careless when your not paying close attention to your surroundings.”


Diane Dimond October 7, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Facebook Friend Darryl DuPont writes:

“My iPhone was stolen a few weeks ago in a Staples, when I layed it next to a copier and a guy ran up and snatched it and ran. They have to activate these stolen phones somewhere and every phone has a device ID, why aren’t these phone companies checking to see if the phone is stolen when someone comes in with one to activate it?”


Diane Dimond October 7, 2012 at 6:18 pm

I still operate in the dinosaur world of BlackBerry. But when I tried to figure out how to activate an old one, until I could get a new one, the person on the phone told me, “Oh, you can activate it with me right now over the phone.” But to do so I had to supply all sorts of personal information, open the inoperable phone and read them a small code number and wait until they checked to see who I was. In short, I think there ARE safeguards in place but as you know – criminals can figure out all sorts of ways to get around the rules. Besides, for some people having a working phone – even for just a few hours – is worth the money they pay to buy the stolen property. ~ DD


Diane Dimond October 7, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Facebook Friend Linda Ray writes:

“I also had mine stolen. It was immediately turned off so the GPS didn’t work Anyone that thinks this is not big business should look on the auction sites to see how many “useless” bad ESN, jailbroken iphones are for sale.”


Diane Dimond October 7, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Facebook Friend Pat Melchionno writes:

“I think the fact that I can wipe it clean and inoperable if stolen, is sweet! Granted I’d be out some good money but just knowing I made it a brick would be satisfying! … If you registered it, they cannot register it so they sell it fast and cheap to people who can jailbreak them overriding the IMEI #. So remember that and turn on the Find My iPhone App and at best you can find GPS location or at least render it useless.”


Diane Dimond October 22, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Noozhawk Reader padrebaker writes:

“This is all very true. Just last week our daughter in Brooklyn had her iPhone snatched from her hands as she texted her boyfriend.”


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