iPhone thieves target distracted victims

Thieves grab phone and run, look for people focused on phones

Published On: Sep 18 2012 06:32:03 AM EDT   Updated On: Sep 18 2012 10:50:52 AM EDT
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Officials across the nation are noticing a rise in iPhone thefts. You might think those targeted are the ones not paying attention to their phones, but it's actually the opposite.

Apple shares opened Tuesday morning at another all-time high. Apple stock came close to the $700 mark in regular trading and topped 700 after hours.

It's all thanks to the new iPhone 5, which doesn't hit stores until Friday but has people already starting to line up outside retail stores. Pre-orders for the new device have sold out.

With news like that, it's no surprise iPhone thefts are on the rise.

In major cities around the country, police officers noticed that the thieves are targeting similar victims. People in fast food restaurants, people who were distracted, even people who lent their cellphone to someone and took off.

Now officials want everyone to be on alert.

Channel 4 found instances shown in videos online. One shows a man trying to sell his used phone on Craigslist when the potential buyer takes off with his phone.

That's the premise of this iPhone theft, or "Apple Picking." You don't have to be trying to sell your phone. There are many ways thieves are targeting iPhone users -- people at fast food restaurants, coffee shops and people walking on the street.

Officers said most people were focused on their cellphones, not paying attention to their surroundings.

Sometimes thieves will ask to use a cellphone or just come up and grab it.

The Federal Communications Commission said about 30-40 percent of robberies in several major cities involve cellphones. In some cases it's a group effort.

Channel 4 crime and safety analyst Ken Jefferson said the most important thing is to always be aware of your surroundings and aware of where your phone is.

He said losing a phone is about more than losing a piece of technology.

"What people have to realize is that they're not just losing an iPhone with the ability to make calls and send emails and send and receive texts," Jefferson said. "A lot of people have their personal information stored on these phones. Now when it's stolen, you're now compromising your identity simply because of the personal information that's there."

The FCC is working to help protect people if their phone is stolen. It is working to launch a system where someone can report a stolen phone and their carrier will block it from being used. The FCC thinks that will help keep thefts down.