Secure smartphones, prevent theft

By Michelle Costanza

Secure smartphones, prevent theft

June 13, 2013 Updated Jun 13, 2013 at 11:48 PM EDT

Johnson City, NY (WBNG Binghamton) A growing trend of smartphone theft has prompted New York's Attorney General to set a new initiative in place to protect consumers.

"Secure Our Smartphones" urges leaders of the mobile phone industry to take additional steps to protect consumers.

Many phones now come with passcode locks and the ability to track its location through applications. But law enforcement and government officials worry these security measures aren't enough.

Local residents feel the same.

"My friend had her phone stolen recently. She had a locator app on it, so it was found, but it didn't stop someone from using it," said Kelsey Garris, of Endicott.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said introducing a "kill switch" could deter thieves from the beginning, by permanently disabling a device when it's stolen, therefore taking away the prospect of reselling.

The coalition met with representatives from Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and Google/Motorola recently to discuss further security measures.

In addition to investigating the viability of a kill switch, Secure Our Smartphones plans to study patterns of theft to analyze causes of the increasing trend to steal phones.

According to Consumer Reports, more than 1.6 million Americans fell victim to smartphone theft last year -- amounting to 10 percent of citizens nationwide -- adding up to more than $30 billion in costs for victims.

Though Boome County deputies said they haven't noticed an overwhelming increase in reported thefts, several locals agreed that it has become a problem that needs to be fixed.

"I've had my phone stolen. So have my friends. But if someone steals the phone, well there's no point in selling it if they can't use it," said Max Scheiner, of Endicott.

"Shutting it off will absolutely ruin any chances of someone trying to resell a phone, and I think tracking areas of it getting stolen could help," added Epiphany Munoz.

Schneiderman along with San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon are heading the coalition and partnering with law enforcement to keep smartphones in the hands of their owners.