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Any good tips to prevent cell phone theft?

I wonder if anyone has used lanyards or other devices meant to prevent someone from stealing your cell phone out from your hands. I intend to try to keep all of our cell phones inside a zipped crossbody bag while we are on the Metro, but maybe you know of a product that seems useful for preventing cell phone theft.

Posted by
5486 posts

Situational awaeness and a tight grip. Or better yet, leave it in your secured bag.

Posted by
11153 posts

How do you keep it secure at home? I would only do something different if you have a serious reason to believe your current phone security precautions are insufficient.

Now that phones can be locked remotely after they are stolen, and now that almost everyone has one, phones are not as much in demand by thieves as they were just a few years ago. This is particularly true if you don't have the latest model (I've read that thieves are quite picky, as only the current "it" model can be easily resold).

I'm not saying you should leave your phone lying around, or be careless with it, but I don't think you have to spend your whole trip in fear of it being taken from you.

Posted by
5019 posts

Pay attention to your belongings and be aware of what is happening around you.

Posted by
57 posts

Never set a phone down on a dining table. Sit at the back (away from pedestrians) at a sidewalk cafe, but don't put the phone down there, either. Do not wander about looking at your phone, if you need to navigate, step into a doorway or even into a shop to get your bearings. Don't walk next to the curb where a motorcycle or scooter rider can grab your phone. Be alert and aware, especially when your phone is out of your secured pocket or bag. Don't put a phone in a garment or bag pocket that can be accessed by wandering hands.

The trouble with a lanyard or strap is that the thief might not notice that that the phone is attached to the victim. He might grab the phone and drag the owner to the ground in the process. The thief might not get the phone, but the owner could be severely injured.

Posted by
175 posts

That's a good point, Dianne:

"The trouble with a lanyard or strap is that the thief might not notice that that the phone is attached to the victim. He might grab the phone and drag the owner to the ground in the process. The thief might not get the phone, but the owner could be severely injured."

Posted by
1493 posts

Hi Adrienne,

I don't know how helpful I can be, but some thoughts...

What country are you visiting? Some parts of Europe need more attention with securing items. I don't know that anywhere is 100% theft proof. Travelers needs to be aware and vigilant as best they can.

If you are going to Italy, it's not violent compared to the USA in terms of mugging or thefts. Pickpockets may prevail if one is not savvy or paying attention. They want to tip toe in and out hoping to get your goodies.

Of course there are the common sense tips:

Make sure your cross body bag has a thick and possibly strong strap; no flimsy material (just in case.)

  • Don't all huddle around with the phones in the middle of the street. Duck into a cafe or look for a bench area.

If you are really nervous, have someone in your group be a lookout of sorts if you need to access your phone in the street. I would be more concerned about someone getting too close in my space at a Bancomat/ATM.

  • Don't leave any phone (or bags) unattended on a cafe or restaurant table.

I have traveled to Italy in the Autumn and Winter months, so it's a bit easier to conceal a little bag under my coat. I use a mini "Hedgren" cross body bag (about 8") to secure my Passport, extra card, extra Euro, Phone, etc. It's slim and not noticeable under a coat or jacket. I've never had to check a bag in any attraction since my cross body day purse is about 14" and pliable.

When I was walking around Rome or other parts of Italy I visited (day and night), I never really witnessed anyone being suspicious of stealing a bag, a phone or cutting a strap. Also adding, I didn't feel unsafe that a person may grab a bag.

But, as stated above, I do take a bit of precaution. Grabbing or picking a day bag would not get them much. Out of habit, because I am a city girl anyway, I automatically transfer my purse away from the street.

Posted by
684 posts

I have my phone on a Bandolier strap/case, which in addition to help preventing theft, protects me in case I get bumped while photographing over bridges. I also use Exofficio and Scottevest vests and jackets, which have inside pockets, many of which are zippered. Safe travels!

Posted by
553 posts

Almost everyone in Europe - adults and children - has a phone. They are visible everywhere, on buses, trams and trains, as are tablets and laptops. Of course, theft occasionally occurs, and you should take reasonable care, but the risks are really quite low, and not something to worry about to excess. When everyone around you is openly using their phone, the chances of someone wanting to steal yours is low.

Posted by
6542 posts

I never lose a cellphone. I don't carry one on vacation--or at home.

If anyone needs to communicate with me, they can send me an e-mail that I watch religiously on WIFI via a tablet.
When I retired, I really seldom talk to anyone on the telephone other than for business. And my wife is usually with me anyway.
And they're right about younger Europeans having cellphones growing on their ears. They're just like the North Americans.

Posted by
2284 posts

Cell phones do get stolen. But in Europe (like the US) it seems like every person over 2 years old has one in their hands at all times. When visiting Brazil my sister was told never to show her phone on the street - to always have it hidden in a bag. That’s not necessary in Europe - a phone won’t make you a specific target (95% of the people would then be targets!). But a thief will absolutely steal one if it seems easy. So don’t make it easy. The best tool for that is your brain:

Just be aware of it. Don’t set it on the edge of a table or in a back pants pocket or in an outward-facing unsecured bag pocket. I keep mine in a zipper pocket of my purse, facing in. When it’s not in my hand. And it’s in my hand a lot because it’s my map and I rely on it for directions and real time GPS. For many people it’s also their camera, so in their hand a lot. The issue isn’t when it’s in their hand, the potential theft comes when it’s set down or put away somewhere insecure. So use it as much as you think is beneficial, and put it away safely when not using it.

And David, the funny thing is we call this thing a “phone” when most of us barely use it for calling! It’s a multi-purpose travel tool holding a camera, video camera, guidebooks, phrase books, entertainment like books and movies, map with GPS, public transit schedule lookup, research on sights through the internet, audio for tours, repository for trip documents like hotel confirmations, hotel booking abilities, restaurant reviews and reservations, ticket buying....

Posted by
3355 posts

I agree that the chances are very slim, but you can reduce your amount of time that your phone is in your hands.

..Know ahead of time what route you will be walking. You rarely actually need your phone for route mapping when walking.

..Skip the social on-line sites, texting, etc. until you’re back in your hotel. Enjoy the moments in front of you!

On the street, my phone is only out for taking photos. And, although photography is a hobby of mine, I also purposely do not take photos during segments of the day since we are there to enjoy the atmosphere and make memories with our other senses.

Posted by
5634 posts

A friend put her iphone down on the table at an outdoor cafe' and it didn't last long. A newspaper was thrown down on top pf phone, a hand went under the paper, perpetrator and iphone exited quickly. He said he would never have done that at home.

Posted by
3283 posts

I rarely worry about my phone at home. I can set it down just about anywhere and when I come back its still there. A couple of times I have forgotten it in restaurants and its always been turned in to management. Granted, this is not in city center of major cities (well, once in St. Paul, MN), and I don't make it a practice. I've been on both sides of this. My daughter's iphone was stolen out of her coat pocket at a New Year's eve celebration in a major Barcelona town square. I'm quite certain we were watched and the only way to prevent the theft would have been to not pull it out or use it at all. While that is a great solution, if you are hesitant to use it, why have it? She was caught up in the fun of New Year's in a foreign country and had taken a "pretty picture" and was posting a New Year's greeting to her friends.

I have been on metros in New York, DC, Paris, Munich, Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Barcelona, Madrid, and probably more, plus buses in many more cities and have never observed any problems.

In Granada, Spain, I had been carrying my phone, I think for navigation, and left it in a restroom stall. At least 30 minutes later, I realized I didn't have my phone, traced it back to the bathroom, returned to the bar, and it had been turned in. I am not typically so careless, but I also am not going to worry or let something like a phone ruin my vacation. With a phone, wallet, passport, etc., I think the best place is in a money belt or a purse/handbag that is secure and is not easily accessed, and held in front of your body. Sad to say, anywhere on earth, if someone really wants something, there is not much you can do and I wouldn't let a fear of theft or theft ruin my vacation. That said, I never carry all of my cash and credit cards and I have paper and digital copies of my passport, drivers' license and credit cards.

I hope you can alleviate some of your worries and have a great trip.

Posted by
470 posts

Lot of good suggestions here. I generally keep my phone put away in my bag at home and abroad but worry when on travel and using it for pictures. My prior phone i bought a case that had a rivet allowing me to attached a wrist or neck strap to it. Like others said that was mainly to keep from dropping it. When I upgraded the phone last year I couldn't find a case like that but Amazon has a neck lanyard with a kinda of silicon contraption that will fit most phones. Just checked and several variations available there now. Just search for cell phone neck holder.

Posted by
613 posts

Cross body bag is good. So is a lanyard or neck pouch, but keep it inside your shirt.

Posted by
3925 posts

Keep it in the safe at your hotel. It's the only option in this crime ridden hellhole that is Europe.

Posted by
2681 posts

Things are most vulnerable when not on your person. I.e. an outdoor eatery. Keep your bag across your body with bag in your lap (never on the chair behind you). Look at phone, put back in your bag. Don't leave it or a separate camera on the table. Examples why not provided above.

Posted by
7167 posts

I’ve been taking cell phones to Europe for many years now...not once have I encountered any cell phone theft situations.

Kind of sounds a bit over-hyped. Someone also told my mom not to wear rings on her finger because thieves would chop her fingers off to get the rings. 😂

Posted by
4947 posts

I always consider the chances of me losing my phone are greater than having it stolen - home or abroad. I just dont use it while doing something else (like walking, eating, etc.) However, one tip I heard many years ago was to put a piece of ugly duck tape on your phone and camera in a way that looks like its broken and therefore not worth taking.

Posted by
175 posts

OK - I have looked at all of your suggestions, and have made a purchase. I was interested in the Bandolier idea, which I had never heard of, but the amazon reviews indicated that it was INCREDIBLY difficult to remove from the case, and at $90-100, I decided against that product. I saw lots of types of wrist tethers, universal lanyards, and phone loops. I just want a little bit of extra protection, and I don't want anything bulky or something that could be used to choke me, or something that could be easily cut off. Also, a lot of these types of devices have a weak link, whether it's a really strong cord which is attached to a dinky thin loop of string, or a metal clip that could easily fail at some point.

I finally decided on this thing:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008LQ1ERI/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I think that it will help me in situations like someone described above (taking photos on a bridge). I also think that it will help act as a theft deterrent, because it would be noticeable enough for a thief to think it's not worth the effort, and go for a different target. I did have to buy a different phone case, though, because mine is clear and this product would look ugly with a clear case.

Thank you for all of your opinions and insights!

Posted by
440 posts

On the recent Best Of Scotland tour, one of the guys used a similar lanyard system. He was not worried about theft as much as having the camera instantly ready.

Posted by
291 posts

More suggesting ways to help with peace of mind, as opposed to avoiding theft entirely, it's worth making it a point to...

  • Make sure you've set up and take advantage of the phone's built in security features - Find my iPhone (or the Android equivalent); being sure a passkey/TouchID/FaceID lock is set; setting it to wipe after so many failed unlock attempts, as well as being able to wipe it remotely. While someone might get your physical phone, at least you can prevent them from getting access to any of the personal information on it.

    • Keep you phone backed up regularly. There's a number of ways to do that, from using a cloud-based backup solution, to backing it up to your computer at home or even an external hard drive. If the unthinkable happens (even short of theft, you drop and break it or lose it) it's simple enough to pick up where you left off, so to speak, with a new phone. While that might have to wait until getting home, that's far better than losing everything entirely and having to step back in to your own personal Stone Age when it comes to contacts, apps, photos, etc. The advantage of a cloud-based backup approach is you can even back stuff up while traveling - uploading trip photos and videos once on your hotel's wifi, or wifi in a cafe, train station, airport lounge using Google Photos, for instance. So even if your phone is lost, not all your memories are!

Beyond those, I even employed a fairly extreme solution for awhile - not because of a phone being stolen, but because of having US customs seize my phone for a week some years back after returning from an overseas trip (they can do that, for any reason, and for as long as they want). I wouldn't travel overseas with my main phone, but would take a burner phone with me overseas. This ended up being not too much of a hassle, interestingly enough. I had a spare previous generation phone lying around after upgrading, and so that became my travel phone. I'd leave sensitive work or personal material off it, had it unlocked and able to take prepaid European sim cards/plans, kept necessary travel apps on it, kept unnecessary personal apps/accounts off it. Is it a bit of a hoop to jump through? Certainly. But with the amount I was traveling and how unsettling and inconvenient it was to have my phone taken by customs, it made for considerable peace of mind knowing the electronic device I was traveling with was one that contained nothing too meaningful on it. When I'd get home, that phone would go back in a drawer until the next trip!