Avoiding Apple Picking: Keeping Your Cell Phone Safe and Sound - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

Hold on tight to your cell phones! Cell phone and wireless device thefts are on the rise. These instances are known as “Apple picking,” where thieves will “pick” your Apple iPhone off you and sell it for cash. According to the Huffington Post, “Nearly 2,400 cell phones were stolen in San Francisco last year, according to police. More than half of phones stolen in the city were iPhones.” Similarly, in New York City last year there was an 8% increase in reported Apple product thefts from the previous year. Apple picking rates also increased 6% in Washington, D.C., 22% in Denver and 6% in Philadelphia.

As much as we’d like to think that no one would grab our iPhone or Android right out of our hand, this does happen, and it can happen to you. Take a look at these tips on keeping you and your cell phone safe and sound!

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

According to Business Insider, of all the instances of smartphone theft, 44% were stolen when they were left unattended in a public place, while 11% of phones were actually “picked” off of a person. Thieves are becoming more and more likely to steal phones that are out in the open, such as in someone’s hand or on a table in front of them. We recommend keeping your phone in your pocket or in your bag when you’re out in public. If you must stop to make a call or send a text, be very aware of your surroundings before doing so. If you notice any suspicious activity, report it immediately!

Install and Maintain Anti-Theft Software

In addition to setting up a password on your phone to protect yourself from the misuse of your personal data, you should consider installing anti-theft software. There are many apps out there that have successfully located and tracked stolen phones until recovery.

Find My iPhone or Locate My Droid

Once one of these apps is downloaded onto your phone, you’ll be able to track your phone’s location through either iCloud or LocateMyDroid.com. The current location of the device will show up on a map so you can then decide the best course of action.

Cost: Free


This app uses geo-location to search for a lost or stolen device and mark its location on a map. For Android users, there’s a bonus feature that allows you to lock your phone from a remote location and completely delete your personal information to protect yourself from further harm. This app also lets Android users communicate with the thief. If you have an iPhone, you can activate a loud alarm that plays on the phone after it’s stolen.

Cost: $3.99/3 months


This app has tracking features similar to other security apps, including remote alarm activation and file protection. For Apple devices, it also has a special feature that will take photos from your phone to collect evidence pertaining to the phone’s whereabouts.

Cost: $19.95


This app has been shown to recover lost devices within 24 hours after the crime was committed. Using geo-tracking and remote camera activation, the app will not only protect your data while it’s out of your possession, but it will also accurately locate and control your phone just by logging in to Prey’s web service.

Cost: Free limited plan, with paid plans starting at $5/month

Once your lost device is located, don’t try to recover it from a thief yourself. 68% of people polled by Business Insider said they would put themselves in danger to regain their stolen phone. Instead, contact local law enforcement, and they’ll take it from there. In the meantime, you can easily suspend your wireless service either online or by calling your mobile provider’s customer service.

Use Caution When Storing Electronics in the Car

Locking electronics in your car does not ensure that they’ll be safe. 14% of stolen devices were taken from a car or house that was burglarized. If a thief can see your phone or charger through the window, your car may be targeted for a break-in. Instead, keep your devices and chargers hidden in the glove box if you can’t bring them with you.

As smartphones increase in popularity, it’s important to be aware of the risks involved in having them out in public. If you take these precautions, you’ll be much less likely to be a victim of “Apple picking,” and you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of having a smartphone for years to come!


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