68% of smartphone theft victims never recover device, report says


Only 10% of U.S. smartphone owners have their devices stolen, but once the gadgets are taken, 68% of victims are unable to get them back, a report Wednesday said.

In 2013, 3.1 million Americans had their smartphones stolen, and most of those thefts -- 44% of them -- occurred when owners left their gadgets behind at a public place, said the report by Lookout, a firm that makes security apps for mobile devices.

The top spots for smartphone thefts were restaurants (16%), followed by thefts at bars and nightclubs (11%) and in the workplace (also 11%). The majority of thefts occur between 12 and 5 p.m., the report said.


“According to our data, the typical victim was most likely at a restaurant in the afternoon, and it took the victim an hour to realize the phone had been nabbed,” the report said.

The sooner smartphone owners realize their phones have been stolen, the higher their chances are of getting them back. This is because once thieves grab a gadget, they often are quick to shut if off, put it in airplane mode or remove its SIM card.

“This prevents the owner from calling or tracking it,” the report said.

Although the report found that 68% of smartphone theft victims said they’d be willing to put themselves in danger to recover their phones, Lookout strongly advises that victims not pursue phone thieves on their own.

Instead, victims should immediately file a police report as well as a report with their wireless carrier, Lookout said.

It is also recommended that users put a passcode on their devices and an app that will let them track their device if it is stolen, including the Lookout app or Apple’s Find My iPhone. With those kinds of apps, owners can remotely lock their phones and track them using their GPS coordinates.


And of course, Lookout also recommends that owners simply be cognizant of where they keep their personal belongings.

“The reality is that whether your smartphone is white, black, or gold, it is now almost 30 times more valuable per ounce than a block of solid silver -- and almost as easy to convert discreetly into cash,” Lookout said.

Fortunately for smartphone owners, earlier this year several top phone manufacturers -- including Apple and Samsung -- agreed to equip their devices with anti-theft tools going forward. This commitment to anti-theft tools will apply to all smartphones made after July 2015 for sale in the U.S.

To gather information for the Lookout report, IDG Research surveyed approximately 5,000 U.S. smartphone owners -- 500 of which had had their smartphones stolen -- in March. The survey has a 5% margin of error, Lookout said.