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Want to Keep Your Cell Phone Safe? Get a Flip Phone

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 1/18/2014

Are you still operating in the dark ages with a flip phone? At least you have less of a chance of getting robbed. Various news reports show that thieves specifically target iPhones, and in some cases have outright rejected old-fashioned flip phones or other devices like BlackBerry smartphones.

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    If you do have an iPhone or another newer smartphone, what kind of theft deterrent features or apps are available, and are they enough to keep your phone from getting "picked"?

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    Crime Spree

    Woman using smartphone in park Cell phone thefts have soared in the last year prompting legislators and authorities to pressure tech firms to install kill switches in their devices. It is estimated that nearly 40% of the robberies in large metropolitan cities are related to cell phone theft.

    Although flip phones may be safer to carry around with you due to the lack of demand for them on the black market, what things can you do to help protect your iPhone or other smartphone?

    First off, here are a few common sense tips:

    • Don’t flash your phone around. Keep it hidden from sight if you aren’t using it. If you are – try to be discreet.
    • Be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out on others around you and pay attention to anyone who is acting suspicious.
    • If you keep your phone in your pocket, try to keep it in a front pocket. Back pockets are easy prey for experienced thieves.
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    Should You Get Theft Protection Insurance?

    A word of warning about theft insurance – most carriers offer theft insurance as part of your monthly service for $5-10 per month.

    Consumer Reports commented that this is typically not recommended for most consumers for a few reasons. First, many insurance plans would still require you to pay a large deductible on top of the monthly fee. Sometimes these fees are $200 or more. Second, you don’t know what you’ll get from the insurance company – the phones they distribute as replacements are typically used and refurbished and may not be the same model of the phone you lost.

    For these reasons, it’s probably better to save your money and in the case of a theft look for a used phone on an online site like Craigslist or eBay.

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    Technical Deterrents

    Although technical solutions to deter thieves may work, thieves are tricky and can easily disable these solutions if they know what they’re doing. It doesn’t hurt to install a few apps to help deter theft though. Here are a few of my favorites:

    Prey is a free open source tool that can be installed on Android smartphones, iPhones, PCs and MACs. Prey is installed as a hidden app on your phone or device. Once you set up an account on the Prey website and configure it, you can mark your phone as lost. Once marked lost, Prey jumps to action. It can send you reports noting its GPS location. It can also take pictures with your camera and even screenshots of what the thief is doing on your phone. Prey is available at

    For Android users who have lost their phone but didn’t install any tracking apps ahead of time you can try Plan B from Lookout Security – available in the Google Play store. Once you lose your phone, you go to the Play Store and tell Google to install the app to your phone. If everything works as planned, the app is sent to your phone and it will start using GPS and Wi-Fi networks to triangulate the location. As location is determined, Plan B will send you emails alerting you of the location.

    For Apple device users you can use Find My iPhone to locate lost devices. Find My iPhone was developed by Apple for newer devices. Not only will it tell you where it thinks the device is, it can also put your device in a locked mode so a thief wouldn’t be able to view any data on your device.

    The main downside to these apps is that they require your device to be powered on. Unless you have a super battery installed you’ll be lucky if you get more than 24 hours from a fully charged device.

    Although a flip phone may not be the most attractive option to you, it is less likely to be stolen.