Smartphone Thefts Lead to Fraudulent Charges, Identity Theft

A survey also found 10 percent of  theft victims made no effort at all to recover their phone, primarily because they didn’t know where to start.

More than two-thirds (68 percent) of American smartphone theft victims are likely to put their personal safety at risk if it might lead to recovering their photos, videos, music and other personal data, according to a survey conducted online by IDG Research on behalf of mobile security specialist Lookout.

The research also found that half of victims are somewhat to extremely likely to pay $500 just to retrieve the personal data on their stolen phone, and one-third say they would pay $1,000 for this.

The most severe consequences of phone theft included fraudulent charges (12 percent) and even identity theft (9 percent).

As a result, about 90 percent of smartphone theft victims said they tried to get their phone back, including 60 percent who said they filed a police report.

However, 10 percent of these theft victims made no effort at all to recover their phone, primarily because they just didn’t know where to start.

"The reality is that one in 10 U.S. smartphone owners are victims of phone theft, and 68 percent of those victims are unable to ever recover their device after the theft occurred. This is an issue that is bound to keep growing," Kevin Mahaffey, co-founder and chief technology officer of Lookout, said in a statement. "While there isn’t one single solution that is going to alleviate phone theft, the problem can be stifled with industry collaboration, technology and widespread awareness for how to stay safe."

Forty-four percent of thefts happen because the victim left their phone on a table or bar or walked away from it in some capacity.

The survey also found 14 percent of smartphones were stolen from a car or house that was burglarized, while 11 percent of phones were stolen off the victim’s person, such as out of their hands, pockets, purses or bags.

A significant number of smartphone theft victims said their device disappeared in the middle of the day, not late at night. For example, 40 percent of victims said their smartphone was stolen between lunch time and the end of the work day (between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m.), compared to 18 percent of victims whose phones were stolen between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The research revealed that the top places to have a phone stolen are in a restaurant (16 percent), at a bar or nightclub (11 percent), at work (11 percent), on public transportation (6 percent) and on the street (5 percent).

While 55 percent of thefts happen in an urban environment, one-third of phone theft incidents occurred in suburbia. Still, 15 percent of urbanites reported that they had two smartphones stolen.