Protecting Your Cellphone Against Summer's Heightened Threat
That's not a silly question in light of new findings that more mobile phones are lost, stolen or damaged in June, July and August than any other months all year -- with July holding the dubious top honors.
"People are outdoors, active and so busy enjoying themselves that they're not always as careful as they should be," says Bettie Colombo of Asurion, the global leader in consumer technology protection services that spotted the spike in insurance claims.
And with the "stolen" category alone having convinced law enforcement officials that smartphones have become The New ATMs for criminals -- 30 to 40 percent of all robberies in major U.S. cities involved the often violent theft of phones, according to data released by the Federal Communications Commission last year -- you can see why you might want to check your beach bag right now.
Here are some worthwhile tips:
* Buy a waterproof case. Sure, people say the beach or pool should be pure downtime. But do they have friends who demand to see instant photos of you playing water volleyball? Just remember, per the tech site Cnet.com, that a case isn't waterproof unless it "can be fully submerged underwater for at least 30 minutes."
* Stay alert. Anyone can be a mark for thieves -- not just tourists -- and some of their operations have become "so sophisticated," says New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, that stolen smartphones are being "exported to other countries." So don't make it easier for the crooks by obliviously chatting on your phone in public places.
* Use a screen protector. One thin piece of film can save a large scratch, say, from hobbling your phone's touch screen.
* Enroll in cell phone protection from your wireless carrier. As many as 80 million phones are lost, stolen or damaged annually. For a low monthly insurance premium and a deductible should you file a claim, not only would you avoid the sticker shock that comes with learning what your smartphone really costs -- more on that in a minute -- but you'd get a replacement as soon as the next day.
* Use a password. Barely one in three people use one to lock their phones. "If it is stolen," says Colombo, "that's at least your first defense against identity theft."
One final caution about that aforementioned "sticker shock." Wireless carriers heavily subsidize smartphones when you sign a contract. So unless you insured yours with a reputable firm like Asurion (www.asurion.com), that Apple iPhone 5 with 64 gigabytes of memory you paid about $400 for -- without insuring -- would cost around $850 if you had to replace it before your contract expired.