Has anyone heard of "Apple Picking" yet? I heard about this on the news last week. Both the Today show and ABC News has covered this new kind of theft. "Apple Picking" is the theft of Apple devices such as iPhones, iPods, and iPads and the illegal acts associated with the theft, which have included assault and murder. Here's the kicker - Apple Picking is the theft of smart devices while you are using them. Thieves are now stealing smart phones while people are talking on them! It makes for an easy theft because they can catch the owner completely off guard. Stealing the devices while they are active means they are not currently password protected, making it easy for these robbers to gain access to your personal information or completely wipe it clean to sell it second hand for a profit. A second-hand iPhone can yield $400!
Most incidents involve a quick grab and a clean get-away. Here's a common example: A thief approaches a device user sitting by the door of a subway car, snatches the device and exits just before the doors close. A lot of these thefts also involve violence. The Wall Street Journal ran a story of a victim who chased a thief who had grabbed his date's iPad. The perpetrator got away and left him lying on the subway platform with a broken jaw. There was also a story about a 17-year-old boy in Toronto who was attacked with a machete when he refused to hand over his device. In New York, a chef named Hwang Yang was walking home from a subway stop when he was shot and killed for his iPhone. In a letter to major U.S. wireless carriers, a coalition of police chiefs from 70 metropolitan areas described Apple Picking as an epidemic and requested the companies take action.
Wireless providers in the U.S. are now creating databases so that when a device is reported stolen it can be identified and refused service. However, devices sold outside of the U.S. still cannot be tracked. In June Apple announced that they will equip its new iPhones with a "kill switch" that will render the devices useless if stolen. The switch will enable a user to deactivate a stolen cell phone via a website. It will prevent a thief from erasing the owner's data from the phone, even if the SIM card is removed. Once a user throws the kill switch, which Apple is calling an "activation lock," only the person who has the registered username and password will be able to unlock it or turn off a homing feature that allows the owner to find it via GPS.
Here are some helpful hints I came across to help deal with Apple Picking:
- Make sure that you’ve set up an iCloud account. If you have iTunes, you probably already have one. All Apple device owners can set one up. To check whether you already have one, go to iCloud.com. iCloud stores all your information – it will be there even if your devices are stolen. You can also access your information on all your devices.
- Turn on the “Find my iPhone” feature on your phone. If your phone is stolen or lost, you can track the location on the iCloud website. You can also use this feature to put a message and a phone number onto your phone if it was lost, so that the finder can contact you. (This is called “Lost Mode.”)
- Through the “Lost Mode” you can also “lock” your phone once it’s lost or stolen. You do this by adding a passcode (or locking code) if there wasn’t one already on your device.
- If you know your phone/iPad was stolen, alert police to the general location of the device. Police departments are becoming accustomed to dealing with this.
- Put a passcode onto your phone as soon as you get it. If you don’t, the thief can wipe your phone clean immediately (by plugging into their computer and restoring factory settings). The passcode won’t stop more sophisticated criminals, but it will prevent many of them from being able to re-sell (making it more likely that you’ll get the phone back).
- Register your serial number somewhere as soon as you get the device. If it’s stolen you can report it to the carrier, and the carrier will block that device from getting back on the network.
- If you have data on the device that you’re worried about, you can go to iCloud and do a “remote clean” where you wipe all the data off the device.