Here at TechnoBuffalo, we want to give you every opportunity to read our newly overhauled site; on your desktop and laptop computers, of course, but on your tablets and phones, too. But we also want to watch out for you, because you know what? We care about you.

So we’re asking you to put your phone away. No, not at Christmas; we’re your only hope for surviving awkward family moments.

We want you to put your phone away when you’re out and about, especially on your city’s metro transit or walking around the streets.

This is a real thing that really happens.

Apple-iPhone-5-Hand-3Not the most secure location for your smartphone.

Just before Halloween, I celebrated—yes, let’s use that word—the one year anniversary of my mugging. Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen stories pop up from a few other journalists about their experiences. At the end of November, IGN writer and Rebel FM podcast host Anthony Gallegos was robbed at gunpoint and just this week VentureBeat’s Christina Farr at knifepoint. This is becoming more and more common.

They Want Your PodIt used to be purse snatching, but why bother with those when everyone’s walking around with an expensive piece of technology just ripe to be snatched out of their hands?

Me? I was sitting at a bus stop texting my wife. Someone grabs the phone out of my hand, I hold onto it and try to put it away, because I thought it would be smart to resist at this point. In my case, the attackers didn’t have any weapons, but they managed to do some damage.

The cellphone itself is one thing. I had insurance on it. It’s easy to replace. But the personal information – addresses, phone numbers, photos, email—that was the worst part. I had nightmares for weeks about the attackers thumbing through the addresses and picking one of my female friends to go after.

Nothing ever came of it. The police never found anything. The local newspapers picked up on it, though.

Just the facts.

A USA Today article from October had a few standout statistics:

  • Nearly half of all robberies in San Francisco are cellphone related this year
  • According to New York City Police, 40 percent of robberies reported involve cellphones.
  • Cell phone robberies in Los Angeles are up 27 percent from a year ago and account for more than a quarter of the city’s robberies.

So what can we do about it?

surveillance-camerasFirst, zip up. That’s good advice for life, but more specifically keep your backpacks and purses closed and close. Keep your phone in your pocket. If you listen to music on it, use a playlist. If you check time with it, get a watch (probably don’t get this one). If you read on it, get a book. Even a Kindle is less of a target, just because it’s cheaper and for a very specific use. Think twice about answering your phone in public as well, or get a Bluetooth headset.

Just as important: keep your eyes open and your head up. Someone who looks aware is a much less appealing target.

Second, put a password on your phone. It’s inconvenient, but can keep thieves from getting at your personal information.

Install security software right away. Not later. I always said later.

If you’re on an iPhone or iPad, configure iCloud and Find my iPhone. On Android, there are a variety of options, starting with the security software provided by your carrier, but certainly not limited to that. Cheap or free apps like AndroidLost let you remotely wipe, lock, and locate your phone. AndroidLost in particular will even let you take pictures with your phone’s camera. Windows phones have built-in security features as well that integrate with your Microsoft account.

Carriers are helping, too.

att-tmobile-logosAs DigitalTrends explains, though, Verizon and Sprint aren’t onboard, and phones like the iPhone 5 that have both CDMA (Verizon, Sprint) and GSM (AT&T, T-Mobile) hardware can be blacklisted on one network and then brought online on another, so more initiative and cooperation between carriers is needed to make this an effective deterrent (until someone figures out how to mask IMEI numbers, that is).The carriers themselves aren’t sitting on their laurels, either. AT&T and T-Mobile recently implemented blacklists for their phones that use the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number on the phone, rather than the SIM card, to ensure that a stolen phone can’t get back on the network. That’ll turn a lot of phones into bricks.

So we’re asking you, the reader, to please keep yourself safe—especially around the holidays. Christina Farr’s piece on VentureBeat suggests that the thefts increase around the holidays as people walk around distracted, carrying huge bags and the like. If you keep your eyes open and your gadgets stowed, it’ll go a long way toward keeping you—and your sweet tech—safe.

[Bandit photo via Bigstock]