Maggie: Last year, more than 1.5 million Americans had their smartphones stolen. But now there could be a solution. It is something the industry calls a kill switch. But as Keith Kocinski shows us, this potential fix is not a perfect solution for some.
Keith: It can happen anywhere, anytime. In San Francisco, almost 50% of thefts and robberies are related to cell phones. In New York City, there is now a special police unit that just deals with stolen phones. Thieves will almost do anything to get their hands on smartphones.
Ann Marigny: The next thing I knew, there was just a gun in my face.
Keith: The gunman appeared on her front stoop and demanded she and her friend hand over their phones.
Ann: It was probably the most scared that I have ever been in my life.
Keith: Once the phone is stolen, thieves often try to sell it.
Conrad Green: And it is very tempting for retailers – businesses such as ourselves – to buy back a $400 device at a $50 mark.
Keith: But experts say the solution is a kill switch, a self-destruct program that can be built into your smartphone. So if your phone is stolen, you can activate it remotely and it pretty much shuts down your phone so thieves won’t be able to re-program it. Some Apple products already have similar features.
Many are wondering why kill switches aren’t available on all phones. According to recent reports from CBS News, the five major wireless carriers didn’t want to support phones with a free built-in kill switch. Some believe it would cut into big profits the phone companies make selling anti-theft insurance and replacement phones.
Gascon: We are talking about a $60 billion-a-year industry, and about a half of that seems to be attached to the replacement of phones that are being stolen. So were talking about a lot of money here.
Keith: The Wireless Association, which represents service providers, said they are now working on alternatives to a kill switch. For example, they use a national database that tracks stolen cell phone ID numbers and then blacklists those IDs from being used again. But experts say you have to do more to protect yourself. Forty-four percent of people don’t even put a passcode on their phone. And that is one of the easiest ways to make a smartphone useless to thieves. And be smart about where you use your smartphone.
Ann: We always have our phones in our hand and it’s definitely a lesson learned to be a lot more careful about having your phone out in public.
Keith: Keith Kocinski, Channel One News.
Maggie: And if your phone is unfortunately stolen, experts say to remember to file a police report immediately.