Don’t Be a Victim of Apple Picking

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No, we’re not talking about climbing trees and biting into a Red Delicious. Apple picking is the practice of robbers targeting those Mac gadgets we love most: iPods and iPhones. It’s unlikely you’ll want to leave your Apple device at home during the long weekend, so what can you do?

Protect your data. It may not prevent the phone from being stolen, but it’s an important precaution to take in case it is. If you don’t, the thief will not only get a brand new phone, he’ll also have access to any personal information stored on it, such as your address, credit card numbers, passwords, and private emails. The simplest way to protect yourself? Turn on the passcode lock as well as the auto-lock feature. You can take it one step further by setting a PIN for your SIM card.

Back up your iPhone. This will protect you not only in the case of theft but also in case it gets lost or crashes. By default, your iPhone will automatically back-up if you plug it into your computer. You can also back it up to the iCloud if you have that set up.

Download a Tracker app. Want to lead the police directly to the thief? A GPS tracking app allows them to do just that. They can simply knock on the criminal’s door, get the iPhone back, and put him under arrest. The Apple tracking app is only a $.99 investment, more than worth the price, and GadgetTrak is a free app that broadcasts the location when the criminal browses the web.

Set an alarm. If you’re afraid you’ll leave the iPhone sitting somewhere just begging to be stolen or that someone will take it out of your purse, you can turn on app like Motion Alarm ($1.99). You can adjust the sensitivity level so that it will sound an alarm if taken. If you aren’t able to get the iPhone back in time, the alarm goes into “silent stealth mode” and sends the GPS location to an email address you’ve set up. The downside is that you have to remember to turn the alarm on in the first place!

Record the IMEI and serial number. You’ll find this information on the back of your iPhone. The International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number is the fifteen digit number that wireless carriers use to id your phone. You’ll need it, along with your serial number, to report the theft.

Know what to do if you are a victim. The quicker you report the phone stolen, the better your chances of getting it back.

  • File a police report. If you have a GPS tracker and know where your phone is at, ask them to help you get it back. Never go by yourself!
  • Notify your cell phone carrier. They can deactivate your account to prevent the thief from running up your bill.
  • Sign up for an identity theft protection service. This is only necessary if you didn’t protect your data and have lots of personal information on your phone. You’ll also want to change your passwords.