Whatever else happens in the U.S. economy, the smartphone theft industry is booming. A new report from security
firm Lookout found that 10 percent of smartphone owners in the U.S. have been victims of phone theft, and nearly 70 percent could not recover their device.
Regardless of the color of the phone, the "Phone Theft in America" report said, a smartphone "is now nearly 30 times more valuable per ounce than a block of solid silver -- and almost as easy to convert discreetly into cash."
The report, conducted for Lookout by IDG Research, also found that a large percentage -- 44 percent -- of the victims have themselves partly to blame, because they left their phone in a public place where it was taken. Most common location: a restaurant in the afternoon, and it frequently took an hour before the victim realized the mistake.
It's the Data
But the faster it is noticed missing, the more likely it is you will get it back. One reason is that thieves will, not long after stealing the phone, power it down, put it into airplane mode, or take out the SIM card, thus preventing the owner from tracking it. Nine out of ten victims do try to recover their device.
Fourteen percent of the devices were stolen from a car or house that had been burglarized, and 11 percent were grabbed from a person -- from their hands, pockets, purses or bags.
While the most common location was a restaurant (16 percent), 11 percent were taken in a bar or nightclub, 11 percent at work, 6 percent on public transportation, and 5 percent on the street. Nearly 50 percent of victims said the theft resulted in a loss of productivity or time, 10 percent said it caused a loss of confidential company data , 9 percent had their identity stolen, and 12 percent later received fraudulent charges on their account.
Victims are prepared to pay substantial money to get their smartphone back, but, unsurprisingly, it's not for the actual hardware -- it's for the data on it.
Would Pay $1,000
The report said half the victims would be "somewhat likely to extremely likely to pay $500" to get back their photos, videos music, apps and private information, and a third would be prepared to spend as much as $1,000. And 68 percent would be ready to "put themselves into some amount of danger" to get the device and its data back.
How do people react to the loss of a phone? According to the report, the most common reactions are what you might expect: anger, stress, frustration and worry. Lookout said women were more likely than men to express those emotions.
The most common reaction is to use an app to find the device, to lock it or to remotely wipe the data. More than half the thefts are in cities, but one-third take place in the suburbs. The peak time for thefts: not the dead of night, but between noon and 5 p.m.