How do I stop my phone from being stolen?

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1. When phones go mobile

Phones now do much more than just make calls. They have become part of our daily lives.

It is worth remembering that phones are one of the most common things to have pinched. Phone thefts account for around half of all street crime according to the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit.

Thieves are opportunists and won’t hesitate to mug you for your mobile, whenever and wherever you are. Once the phone is in their hands they can be sold on, used to rack up huge costs to your bills or even worse be used to steal your personal data. There are things you can do to protect your phone and your data.

2. The types of phone theft

Phone thefts are common but they follow a pattern. The more you understand them the more you can protect yourself.

Martin Bayfield interviews DI Louise Drinkwater of the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit about the types of phone theft and ways to keep your phone safe in areas like bus stops, streets and train stations.

3. Protecting your phone

This is what you could do to protect your phone and help police recover it, if it gets stolen:

Lock it

It may seem obvious but activate your phone security lock code or PIN feature. You can usually do this in your phone settings. It will prevent any thief getting access to your telephone numbers, diary or social media accounts. It also means that the thief can't find out where you live.

Bar expensive calls

You can limit the usefulness of your phone to any thief by baring calls to international and premium rate phone numbers. You can usually do this in your phone settings.

Switch on tracker applications

Activate or install an application on your smartphone which can track your phone's location if stolen. This could help police if it's stolen. Some phones have this feature built in.

Note your phone's details

Each phone has a unique identity number. You can find your IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number by typing * # 0 6 # into your keypad. This is one of the first things police can use to trace a phone's owner when they recover stolen property.

Also make a note of your phone number, make, model, colour and appearance details. Keep all these details in a safe place.

Register your phone for free on

This is a national database which the Police can access. It will help them identify you as the owner if your phone has been found or recovered from suspected criminals.

4. What if your phone has been stolen?

If your phone is stolen, on average, you'll get a £65 bill from the cost of calls and data that have been made, according to Ofcom.

Report it

If your phone is stolen, report it to your network operator and the Police as soon as possible. It can then be cancelled quickly, in the same way as a stolen credit card.

Check your insurance

It is worth checking the terms and conditions of your home or car insurance as you might be covered for theft or any calls that are made on your phone without your knowledge.

If you have a monthly mobile phone contract your network can send you a replacement SIM card, but they may charge an administration fee.

If your phone is not insured you need to buy a new phone yourself or start a new contract.

Who pays for unauthorised calls?

You may be covered for the cost of fraudulent calls made by the thief between the time of you losing your phone and reporting it missing, as long as you report the phone missing within a certain time period – often 24 hours.

Check the conditions of your contract with your network provider.

If you are charged for unauthorised calls, try and negotiate with the network to see if they will reduce the bill. Sometimes they will reduce the cost of unauthorised calls as a gesture of good will but they don’t have to do this.

5. Keeping your phone safe

What should you be aware of when using your phone in these places?

Streets during the day

Streets in the day

Ask yourself...

...if you are carrying your phone where thieves can see it? Good practice is placing it in your front pockets or zip up hand and shoulder bags.

Public transport areas

Public transport

Ask yourself...

...if you need to check your phone as soon as you leave or enter places like bus stops and train stations? Leave it a while if you do have to use your phone.

Bars, clubs or restaurants

Public Bars or Clubs

Ask yourself...

...if you should leave it on a table or in your bag under a table? You could be distracted by a thief and before you know it your phone has been stolen.

Streets during night time

Streets at night

Ask yourself...

...if you have to use your phone? Your phone will light up and this could make it a target. If you have to use it, turn down the brightness settings.