With thousands of arrests related to mobile phone thefts already this year, Paul Withers argues retail and operator staff should still be doing more to educate customers on this type of crime
In all my years as a consumer – as well as the past six I have spent as a reporter at Mobile News – not once have I received any advice on how I can avoid becoming a victim of mobile phone theft – something I have unfortunately experienced.
The only advice I have ever been given is to take out a monthly insurance package.
This is all well and good, but surely prevention is better than cure?
The Metropolitan Police certainly think so. They have held a number of awareness events which have seen the number of mobile phone thefts in London – currently 7,000 per month – start to fall.
The events demonstrated the ways in which thieves carry out the crimes, which surprisingly involve no hint of physical violence or threats.
Instead, the thefts were typically perpetrated using diversionary tactics.
One CCTV clip showed a person using their phone on the street and having it snatched by a cyclist, who disappeared out of view before the victim had realised what had happened.
Another showed a person approaching someone in a bar, putting a newspaper over their phone, which had been left on a table top, and picking it up, along with the newspaper, as they left the bar.
It all sounds so simple – and easily avoided – but with almost 1,000 phones stolen in the UK every day, clearly the message isn’t getting through to everyone.
The question of whose responsibility it is to educate customers on the dangers is debatable – should it be the police or resellers?
After all, people need to take some responsibility for their actions, but the evidence from the events held in London show they work.
No doubt resellers will argue they do stock leaflets in stores or devote a section of their website to the subject – but I can’t recall ever coming across this, either as a consumer or when carrying out a mystery shop.
Perhaps it’s time to offer that extra level of assistance, as suggested by Chief Supt Gerry Campbell of the Metropolitan Police.
Tracking apps are potentially a criminal’s nightmare, screaming out where they are going and potentially where they live.
Capturing such an individual or gang could save hundreds, if not thousands, of people the heartbreak of being mugged.
Some handsets even include the software preloaded, Apple and BlackBerry to name just two, so the need for long explanations and downloading, as suggested by Campbell, may not be necessary.
And does the average man on the street know what an IMEI number is? I’m sure they’d jot it down if they knew that in the event of losing their device, the police could block it with that information.
The Met has statistics to back that up, with close to 5,000 arrests in London since this advice was freely handed out.
A lack of resources may prevent other police forces or council authorities doing the same, but would it hurt for staff, be it online, over the phone or in person to offer such advice?
With customer service and satisfaction forever the buzzword in the industry, they could do a lot worse than potentially saving someone the heartache of being robbed.