Bad news for the once-thriving phone theft community. Thanks to the ‘kill switch’, they can no longer do their jobs properly.  Tim Green celebrates as he locks away his jewellery…

Wanna stolen iPhone?

You’ll be lucky. Apparently, thieves have gone right off them.

Recently I met up with my cousin-in-law (sort of, it’s complicated) who is a police officer. He told me no one nicks phones and tablets any more.

But it isn’t amazing at all. It’s normal. Apparently, thieves ignore the electronics and go for jewellery and car keys.

  When I was a kid, the highest value item you could carry with you was a conker that had won 12 fights. But now you can happily walk round with an iPhone 6s and Apple Watch worth £1198 in the shops.

I was surprised by this. I had assumed the high value and extreme portability of gadgetry was custom-made for the robbery community (everyone has a community these days).

When I was a kid, the highest value item you could carry with you was a conker that had won 12 fights. But now you can happily walk round with an iPhone 6s and Apple Watch worth £1198 in the shops.

For a golden period muggers basked in this era of bounty. Why bother with high-risk household break-ins when you could simply walk up to your target and tell him to empty his pockets of anything powered by ARM processing (maybe not in those words).

Sadly, opportunistic mugging was overwhelmingly perpetrated by teenage boys on other teenage boys. I have two teen daughters, neither of whom has been mugged. But pretty much all their male friends have.

So it’s immensely gratifying to learning that all those greedy idiots are on the retreat. In the US 2.1 million people had their phones stolen in 2015, down from 3.1 million in 2013. In London thefts decreased by 50 per cent last year.

So why is this? Interestingly, it’s technology. The lock screen and then the ‘kill switch’ have combined to make it extremely hard to break into a phone, clean it and sell it on.

Apple introduced the kill switch in 2013, letting users clear their data and disable their iPhones remotely. Google followed with the launch of the Lollipop OS. And what a success they’ve been. Thieves have been reduced to selling phones for parts or passing locked phones off as unlocked – which doesn’t do your eBay seller ratings much good.

But before we celebrate too much, we should be mindful of all the other ways in which criminals can use wonderful mobile technology for their malign ends. I recently read about a rise in bicycle thefts prompted by tracking apps, for example. Police think thieves are logging onto sites that cyclists use to broadcast their journeys to deduce where their high-end bikes are kept. Then they nick them.

There’s also phishing and identity theft, which relies less on technology and more on the old-fashioned vulnerability of people to fake communications.

tim-greenTim Green

Features Editor

MEF Minute

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But the most brazen phone thievery of all must simply walking into a shop and then walking out with an arm full of iPhones. How do you do this? Well, you just wear an Apple Store staffer t-shirt and take your pick.

But for the dwindling band of old-school criminals the news is getting worse. Apple recently upped the ante again. It filed a patent to enable Touch ID to detect and store an incorrect fingerprint. In the event of a theft attempt, it could help catch the perpetrator.

Quite literally, fingered.

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