Seaside city revealed as smartphone theft hot spot

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As you tweet, text or surf on your smartphone in public have you ever stopped to think who could be eyeing up your gadget?

Mobile phone theft is one of the most reported crimes in the country, with Brighton, Manchester, Leicester and London among the most common hot spots. So how can you protect your handset from thieves?%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%

The abundance of expensive smartphones has seen a spike in this form of crime and more than 700,000 mobile phones are lost or stolen in Britain each year, according to O2.

New data from gadget insurer, puts this crime on the map, revealing that people in Brighton are over four times more likely to have their mobile phones stolen than the national average, while those in Manchester are 3.8 times more likely to fall victim to this crime.

Mobile phone users in Leicester and Belfast are three and a half times more at risk of falling foul of thieves; Londoners are 3.4 times more likely, while those in Coventry, Cardiff, Nottingham, Bristol and Newcastle are all more than 2.5 times at risk.

Claims data from gadget insurer also reveals that women (53%) are more likely than men (47%) to have their mobiles stolen, perhaps indicating that women are less vigilant with their handsets.

Opportunist crime
With high tech handsets costing hundreds of pounds - the new Apple iPhone 5 costs as much as £699 – we are advertising our valuable gadgets to thieves every time we use them. While the rise in price and proliferation of smartphones has seen an increase in people insuring their handsets, around 63% of us are still carrying uninsured mobile phones, according to

"Mobile phones are easy pickings for thieves who know that people talking or messaging are distracted and unaware of what's going on around them," says Stephen Ebbett, director of

"A big concern is that claims from people who have had phones snatched by thieves that have mounted the pavement on bicycles and motorcycles are growing."

Expensive accessory
As many handsets come free of charge with monthly contracts, phone owners often don't realise the true value of the handset until it is stolen and we are faced with a considerable cost to replace it.

So insurance is key if you have a valuable handset and it pays to shop around for comprehensive cover. While most policies will cover the cost of a replacement phone – often with a payable excess – not all policies cover the cost for unauthorised calls, texts and data usage as a result of your phone being stolen.

To make a successful claim it is important to comply with the terms and conditions or you could be left short with a policy that will not pay out. For example, if your handset is stolen, you must tell the provider to bar the phone and contact the police to report the theft and get a crime reference number.

Crime prevention
While insurance can help cover the cost, this crime can be incredibly traumatic and inconvenient to sort out, so take steps to avoid it by keeping your mobile out of sight when out and about.

"If you have to make a call in public, do it with your back to a wall so you can see what's going on around you and so the phone cannot be snatched from behind," advises Ebbett. "If you're in a pub or restaurant, don't leave your phone on the table where it can be easily snatched by opportunist thieves."

"Write down the phone's IMEI number, and use an ultra-violet pen to mark the handset and battery with your postcode and house number. Make use of the phone's security lock or PIN system."
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