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In last week's edition of Highland Park's Blue Zone News, HPDPS Sgt. Lance Koppa tells citizens about a new scheme criminals are using to get ahold of cell phones, specifically Apple iPhones. According to Koppa, the phone thieves are approaching victims, asking to borrow their phones for some seemingly legitimate reason. The town's public information officer and policeman explains the situation further in the town's weekly newsletter:

Last week, a female victim was approached inside a store by a male subject who asked to borrow her cell phone (an Apple iPhone in this instance). The male subject, mid-twenties, told the female that he was looking for his mother and they had become separated while shopping. Though the victim reported an “uneasy feeling,” she allowed the male subject to use her phone. He made a call, which gave the victim the impression that his intentions were legitimate. The victim said that the male subject then slowly started backing up, turned and ran out of the front door of the store with her phone. The victim yelled for help, which alerted other customers and employees in the store to the theft. The suspect was located a couple of blocks away and apprehended by HP officers. During the investigation of the theft, officers also determined that the male subject had approached another female in the store and used the same, "looking for my mother” story.

Apparently this phenomenon, which consists of targeting people with Apple products, has been dubbed online as "Apple Picking." The Highland Park safety officer said this trend is being seen all over the country, not just the Dallas area. Thieves are most likely to walk up to victims in busy, public places "where we are easily distracted," he said.

Koppa noted, following some additional research, that other officials are "reporting a dramatic rise [in] theft and robbery offenses where a cell phone is the targeted property item."

Cell phones aren't that valuable in and of themselves, you may be thinking. That's true—but think about the wealth of highly personal information you might have hidden on your mobile device. Bank account numbers, internet passwords, contact information, confidential emails and work/personal calendars can often be found on sophisticated smartphones, such as the iPhone. As Koppa explained, "the value of the information on these devices is more important than the replacement cost of the item."

Here are some suggestions the Park Cities safety officer has to avoid confidential information being leaked to strangers, should your iPhone get stolen:

  • Set up the four-digit passcode option in your phone's settings (pick something only you will know)
  • Back up your phone's contents on your computer (so you won't lose passwords, account numbers)
  • Try to avoid storing highly personal, valuable information on your mobile phone (write it on a piece of paper and leave it at home instead)

Another good point from Koppa: the newest operating system from Apple, iOS 7, will employ an improved Find My iPhone app. According to Apple, which is releasing iOS 7 to iPhone users in the fall, "new security features... make it harder for anyone who's not you to use or sell your device." You can read more details about that here.