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The increase in cell phone thefts, especially in metropolitan regions, has become a trending topic. In general, the criminals use the same technique, quick actions, at night, taking advantage of traffic jams or red lights, through the open window of a vehicle and against passengers in the back seat, usually alone. Normally, the person is using the smartphone in the back seat and out of nowhere a hand appears that quickly pulls the device and immediately begins to carry out financial transactions, withdrawing all the money available.

These abrupt approaches bring new risks beyond the shock and loss of a phone. That is because as the phone was in use at the time of the theft, thus unlocked, criminals have an easier time accessing banking apps to carry out financial operations.

This way, robbers also have access to social networks and other sensitive information from the victims, stealing them for other crimes, such as scams. The theft of information also allows criminals to blackmail the cell phone owner. After obtaining sensitive data, a payment can be demanded so that the information is not made public.

Large events that generate agglomerations such as the Carnival parades also attract this type of criminals, some with the ability to take cell phones, wallets and other small items out of pockets without being noticed.

Cell phones are the item the most target by criminals during thefts and robberies. This is also explained by the prices of these devices, some can cost up to R$ 15,000. Even if the robbers cannot unlock and resell them, or access the apps and information in them, they can trade the parts on the parallel market.

Cell phones are frequently targeted by criminals, who seek them due to its high value or due to the information they contain. Photo Credit: São Paulo Civil Police.

To protect yourself against this, the focus is prevention. The consumer needs to be careful and adopt measures that reduce the possibility of having the device stolen. Specialists separate the protective measures between those that you can follow before being stolen and after being stolen:

27/06/2022 – An ex-military was shot dead inside a SuperVia train car. The crime took place near the Deodoro station, West Zone. According to witnesses, when the train stopped at the station, the man got up and shot the victim, who was sitting.

BEFORE – Develop a strong security system:

  • Avoid using the cell phone in transit, either in the car or on the street
  • Insid vehicles, try to keep windows closed and sit away from them
  • Be prepared for an incident. What bank phone numbers do you have to call? When you’re nervous, it’s important to have this script in a place of easy access, so you can follow the procedures
  • Do not have simple or easily deductible passwords. Keep different passwords for different accounts. The passwords must be made up of numbers, letters and symbols
  • It is almost impossible to manage all of them, thus, use a password manager to make the process easier
  • Do not leave personal information on the device: data from credit cards images, IDs, address and passwords
  • Always set a password system to protect the phone: PIN, complex password, and fingerprint are preferred
  • Set a short time limit for the automatic screen lock to be activated
  • When available, enable the password to access an app. In this case, even if the device is stolen while unlocked, it will be possible to avoid exposing sensitive information. This is essential for e-mail and bank apps
  • Activate the SIM card password. When this function is on, it is necessary to enter the password every time the user turns on the phone or puts the SIM in another device. However, it is also essential to remove the standard password set by the phone carrier, otherwise the criminals will be able to figure out the password by removing the SIM and verifying the company’s name.
  • Store apps with sensitive information in secure folders or leave them hidden, or do both
  • Store in a safe place and/or memorize Google (Android)/iCloud (iOS) account login and password so you can access devices remotely. This option allows users to track the stolen device or logout from their accounts remotely, preventing criminals to access the apps
  • Enable a second factor of authentication on all available services, but do not have the password recovery email registered in the mobile app
  • Disable the content of SMS and email notifications on the lock screen so that password recovery information, tokens and validation codes are not displayed
  • Share your cell phone’s remote lock system with someone you trust for her or him to support you in case of theft or robbery
  • If possible, set a daily limit of your financial transactions
  • Some people have started to adopt the “landline smartphone”, which remains at home logged into bank applications
  • Keep backups and apps up to date

AFTER – Contain the damage:

  • Either erase your cell phone data remotely or disconnect your accounts. Therefore, the device will be unusable, and all information will be gone the next time it is connected to the internet. It is possible to do that either through a mobile device or a desktop pc
  • To disconnect the Google account from any device: 1) Access the phones google account at google; 2) Click on your profile image on the browser’s upper right side; 3) Click on “Manage your google account”, then “Security”, on the left 4) Inside the section “Your devices” – here you can also locate your phone on “Find device” –, select the cell phone 5) Click on the arrow and then “Sign out”
  • To erase data from Android phones: 1) Once inside the “Find device” section, select “Erase device” to remove all the content from the phone. After that stage is done, it is not possible to locate the phone
  • To erase data from Apple phones: 1) Access; 2) Login; 3) Select all devices; 4) Choose to “Clear device”
  • Contact your carrier to have your SIM blocked
  • Contact bank support to block access to accounts and cards. Inform yourself in advance with the bank about the contacts and the necessary steps, and record the information in an accessible place
  • Register a crime report so that the IMEI is blocked. The International Mobile Equipment Identification or IMEI is a kind of ID number of the device, which consists of a 15-digit number. To do this, check your device’s Imei beforehand and register it in an accessible place. This number is informed on the cell phone box, or you can type the following code on the telephone keypad, as if you were making a call, to find it: *#06#. Finally, call the phone carrier and request the phone to be blocked. At this stage it might be necessary to inform the number of a “Boletim de Ocorrência”, which is the number of a crime report provided by the police. It is possible to report the crime online to complete this phase as quick as possible
  • Change passwords and recovery emails for social networks
  • Notify friends and family
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