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Ways to prevent theft of cell phones
A large number of cell phone thefts is reported every day. For a thief, cell phones are a popular target because of its small size. Below are some ways to prevent your personal and confidential information stored in your phone from being misused.
MY FRIEND Abdul Khaliq Wani had some work at Pulwama, so he took the public transport. It was a hot sunny afternoon and the bus was overloaded, but he somehow managed to share a seat with some young chaps. As the bus travelled along the Saffron fields, he dozed off, only to be awakened by the conductor requesting for the fare. He reached his destination and got off the bus. He wanted to make a phone call so he searched for his cell phone, which he had kept in his outer-coat pocket, but he couldn’t find the phone. He searched all over and suddenly it dawned upon him that he had just lost his cell phone in the bus.

With the increasing number of cell phone users in Kashmir, such incidents are quite common. The cell phones are becoming fancier and more expensive; therefore these are increasingly vulnerable to be stolen. It is therefore not surprising that cell phones disappear everyday, sometimes these are merely misplaced but often these are stolen. Cell phone theft is a booming business.

For a thief, cell phones are a pretty popular target due to the fact these are small and easier to take and sell. Most thieves probably take the phone and use it until the owner has the phone disabled. Having a cell phone lost or stolen can make one feel helpless not knowing what to do or where to go for help. With thousands of cell phone thefts reported each week, owners need to protect personal information at all times and report loss to the police immediately. The cell phone needs to be taken care of as if it were your personal wallet.

Another important thing for users is to realise that the information on the cell phone is now potentially accessible to the thief, in this information age, so it is easy to obtain all kinds of information on individuals, based on bits of information stored in a cell phone. Most of the cell phones are equipped with cameras and we usually click pictures of our family members not realising that if the phone is stolen or misplaced, these photos could be misused.

Cell phone service providers and manufacturers are in the process of putting in place a system for tracking stolen phones, but for now, consumers need to take precautions. Some softwares are available that can help in protecting a cell phone’s information and to locate or disable the phone. PhoneGuardian reportedly prevents data from being retrieved and provides the information necessary to find the thief and retrieve the phone. Security software is the best protection from information being used or sold by a thief if the owner chooses to store such sensitive information in their phone. Another option is AccuTracking, which describes itself as a low cost GPS Tracking Service. A consumer would need to download the software on their phone prior to its loss obviously. SunSat Satellite and World Tracker also offer some options.

The following precautions could be taken by cell phone owners to reduce the possibility of losing cell phones, having it stolen, or reducing the damage that can occur in either instance:

Use a clip or leash to attach the cell phone to your body.

Don’t leave an unattended cell phone lying in clear view or in a purse that isn’t in a locked compartment.

Consider carefully what information you store on your cell phone. Avoid storing personal information on your cell phone at all. Certainly, most cell phone users prize being able to store addresses and phone numbers, but one should carefully consider what information is most sensitive and could create havoc if a stranger were to gain access to it, and avoid storing such information.

Check the user guide that comes with your phone set and start using the lock or password feature to potentially prevent a thief from making unauthorised phone calls. This will make it less valuable to a thief and deny them access to personal numbers stored on your SIM card. This way you can restrict the thief from getting easy access to the keypad. Select a strong password. There are ways to override passwords, but at the very least you might be buying yourself some time until you discover the loss and call your provider.

Never reveal your PIN code or SIM lock code under any circumstances, unless an authorised party is asking for it.

Don’t lose your security code. Carriers can give you the PIN code, but the security code you set on your mobile can usually only be reset by having the software reset by the manufacturer. This means you’ll have to visit a repair centre or send the device off for repair.

Backup all the data on your computer and if you don’t have a computer, maintain a record of all your phone information and keep this in a safe place.

Dial *#06# on your cell phone and you can get the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI), which is a 15 digit number unique to your phone. Store this code number in a safe place.
Place a message on the mobile phone that ’If this phone is stolen, IMEI number will be reported to police’, this may save your mobile phone if found by someone, because the cell phone company can render the phone unusable if it is given the IMEI number.

Store the following important data:
Your phone number
The make and model
Colour and appearance details

Use an ultra-violet pen to print your post code and house number onto both your mobile handset and battery. This makes it easily identifiable as your property if lost or stolen. It would also be good if you write your alternate contact number or email address on your phone. This would help the finder of your handset to contact you if he or she intents to return it. The ultra-violet pen marking will wear off every couple of months, so reapply it when you feel necessary.

Mobile phones are valuable, both to you and the potential thief, so take care when using them in public. Avoid having them on display, or talking on them in busy areas where they can be easily snatched.
Never leave your mobile phone unattended. It only takes a second for it to be grabbed. Keep it secure and out of sight.

Always keep your phone deep inside the internal pocket of your jacket or coat, not in the outer coat pocket, like my friend Wani.

In case the cell phone is stolen, the user has to immediately lodge an FIR in the nearest police station and call the cell phone service provider as soon as the loss is discovered. The following information is required to be submitted to the police:

Probable time and place of the theft.

Cell number, name of their cellular provider, the make and model of their phone, and the IMEI Electronic Serial Number of the phone to make a complete police report.

After lodging the FIR, the individual is required to submit in writing the details to the cellular service provider along with a copy of the FIR. The cellular provider can then, stop all incoming and outgoing calls of the cell phone and the individual will not be held responsible for calls made after that point. It is important that records be kept regarding names, dates/times of any communications in case there is any dispute in the future. Consumers need to know that when their phone is stolen, they are generally responsible for all charges incurred prior to reporting the phone loss. In addition to reporting the phone loss, the phone instrument can be disabled by providing the IMEI of your phone instrument, so that no further calls can be made. A word of caution, once the service provider disables the phone, it may not be able to be used again, even if you get it back. It is advisable to assume that the phone is just missing and that the person, who has it, intends to return it to you, so if someone returns your set, be polite, even if you suspect theft. In case you don’t get your phone back in a reasonable time, it is advisable to get the phone disabled, so that no one can ever use it.

We may not be able to prevent theft of cell phones, but we can prevent our important and confidential information from being unauthorisedly accessed. If everyone keeps record of their unique 15 digit IMEI by dialing *#06# , the cell phone can be blocked for ever in case it is stolen, and even if the SIM is changed, the phone will be rendered useless and there would be no reason to steal any cell phones.
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