Nov 17th, 2017

Are you the victim of theft? There’s a good chance that if you came across this post, someone has already stolen your Android phone. If that’s the case, we’ve got a guide on How to Find a Lost or Stolen Android Phone. Here are just a few of the precautions you can take before your phone ever gets stolen:

  • Enable a strong lock-screen pattern, password, or fingerprint and lock down your Android phone.
  • Enable Find My Device so you can remotely locate and reset your device if it ever gets stolen: Settings > Device admin apps > Find My Device (check the box).
  • Get a smartwatch – Most smartwatches can alert you when you’re no longer in the immediate vicinity of your phone.

More tips in our full guide: What to do with a lost or stolen Android phone

With that out of the way, we can now focus on preventing your Android phone from being stolen in the first place. Pickpocketing is a common way for thieves to steal valuable items and even the most complicated lockscreen pattern, pass code, or face lock can’t protect against someone physically stealing your phone.

The best way to protect your yourself is to know the techniques being used against you. These are the seven most common tricks pickpocketers use to swipe your phone or wallet.

How they steal your phone

The best way to prevent your phone from being stolen, is by knowing how thieves operate. Here we’ll go into the mind of a pickpocket and explore the various ways they go about stealing your phone.

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The Diversion

The most common technique for pickpockets is The Diversion. As the name implies, this technique is all about distracting you and it usually requires a tag team. Thief 1 will drop something in front of you in hopes that you help them pick it up, then thief 2 will come from behind and swipe your phone as they walk by. With all of your attention on Thief 1’s diversion, you have no idea what just happened.

The Stall

This technique is similar to The Diversion. Thief 1 will try to stall you by asking for help or telling you there is something on your coat or shirt. While this is happening Thief 2 will walk by and swipe your phone. This technique works because it is usually used on people in a hurry. Your mind is on the place you need to be and the annoying stranger who is slowing you down.

Concealed Hand

The Concealed Hand is a popular pickpocketing technique to show on TV. The thief will use something like a newspaper or magazine to hide their hand movement. This technique is commonly used in congested areas of people standing still, such as subway cars and bus stops. The thief is trying to hide their actions from other people so as to not alert the victim.

Runners

This technique is probably the laziest. The thieves using this trick are not worried about being discrete or undiscovered. It’s all about getting the goods and making a break for it. The thief will simply ask to use your phone to make a call or look something up. It seems harmless, but after they get their hands on your device — they run. Unless you happen to be Usain Bolt, you’re going to have a hard time catching them.

The Bump

Another technique that is commonly used in congested areas is The Bump. We’ve all been walking around and been bumped into by passing strangers. It happens a lot. Thieves will use this to their advantage by purposefully bumping into you so they can snag your phone. The act of being bumped puts all of your attention on the stranger and the area of your body that was hit. You don’t feel the phone being lifted from your pocket or bag. This is also particularly effective with a second perp who does the lifting, since most folks will mistake the first bump as the person who stole their goods while the second person hands off the device to a third.

The Fake-out

This technique is one of the more complex on this list. Thief 1 will purposefully let you catch them “pickpocketing” you. What they are really doing is trying to be caught so your attention is on them and not Thief 2 who is actually pickpocketing you for real. This is a risky technique because it can draw attention to you, which makes it harder for a thief to be sneaky. When it works it works really well because you leave the encounter thinking you stopped a pickpocket.

The Sleeper

Do you often sleep on public transportation? If so, you are susceptible to this technique. It’s very simple, really. The thief waits until you fall asleep, then they will swipe your phone or your entire bag. This technique is particularly successful if you keep all of your valuables in a bag under your seat or next to you. Thieves are not picky. They will take the entire bag because it’s much easier to do quickly and make a getaway.

How to prevent phone theft

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Now that we know the tricks used by pickpocketers, we can think about how to prevent them from being used on you. For the purpose of this article we are talking about phones being stolen, but these techniques can obviously be used to steal any number of valuable objects from your person. Here are a few simple things you can do to avoid being pickpocketed:

  • A pickpocket can’t steal what you don’t have – Limit the amount of things that you carry on your person.
  • Be aware of the situation – Many of the techniques listed above only work in congested areas. If you find yourself in these situations, pay extra attention to the contents of your pockets and bags.
  • Don’t be a target – This may sound impossible, but it’s not. Thieves will target people that they think look susceptible. Walk like you know where you’re going, keep your bag properly closed, and don’t have things hanging out of your pockets. Avoid using that new Galaxy until you’re in the clear.
  • Pay attention to distractions – We don’t want you to stop helping people with directions or dropped items, but just pay closer attention in these situations. Is your phone peeking out of your pocket when you bend over? Did you set your bag on the ground to help?
  • Keep valuables in your front pocket when traveling – This is by far the easiest way to avoid being pickpocketed, as you’ll more than likely notice a hand slipping into your front pocket.
  • Last but not least is to use anti-pickpocketing devices. If you’re super worried about these techniques you can put your phone or wallet on a chain connected to your pants or use a lock on your bag.
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