The insurance company Dialdirect says cell phone theft remains rife in South Africa, and women are the ones that are mostly targeted in these crimes.
The insurance company said an alarming 11,404 reported incidents of common robbery occurred in the first quarter of 2023, an increase of 7.9% over the previous year, and it’s imperative for South Africans to be vigilant.
The company further added that over the past year, 80% of cellphone claims were from female customers, and Gauteng remains the hotspot for cellphone theft, and incidents typically spike on Thursdays and Sundays.
"The figures are extremely concerning, especially here in South Africa and it is true that women are targeted almost five times more often than men," says Dialdirect’s spokesperson, Martin van Wyk.
Van Wyk said that a cellphone is stolen every six minutes; criminals are "shoulder surfing" to observe the PIN code before stealing the phone, and this gives them access to a wealth of personal information.
"Nowadays, phones are essentially bank cards, so if your phone is stolen, make sure to de-link your bank account from your device and alert your bank immediately to prevent criminals from looting your hard-earned savings," says van Wyk.
"Nowadays, one’s life is stored on their phone. While insurance covers you against theft, loss, and damage, it’s best to always be on high alert," he said.
Van Wyk further added that it is important for people to remember that their lives are more important than their cellphones; however, with a good backup strategy in place, phones and contacts can be replaced.
Dialdirect has shared the following tips to avoid becoming the next victim of cellphone theft:
If your phone is stolen, immediately de-link or deactivate your banking app. Every second counts, so make sure you know how to do this by acting proactively contacting your bank.
Then contact your cellphone service provider to block your SIM card. Doing so will prevent criminals from accessing any OTPs (one-time pins).
Regularly backup your contacts, media, and other data. Password-protect these backups to make sure that nobody can access them.
Set a strong pin or password and use biometric authentication to protect sensitive data on your phone.
Set up and activate any mobile tracking software that comes with your phone, or download similar software from a trustworthy, verified, and highly rated third-party.
Use anti-theft bags, cases, or straps to make it more difficult to steal your phone. Bag slashing is rife, especially at big concerts and events.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times, look out for suspicious behaviour, and avoid being distracted by calls, messages, media, or other activities.
Don’t paint a bullseye
Don’t leave your phone in plain sight on a car seat, on a table, in an open bag, or even in your hand while walking.
Be wary of strangers
People randomly trying to make small talk might have the best of intentions, but maintain a healthy sense of scepticism, as criminals have been known to use these tactics to get their hands on phones.
Keep a safe record of your phone’s PUK and serial numbers.