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Cell Phone Thefts: Steps to protect your data

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Across the country, cell phone thefts have nearly doubled in the past year, according to a Consumer Reports survey.

Experts say that there are simple steps you can take to protect your personal information.
 
Smartphones are more than an accessory, they're almost a necessity these days."I check to see if I got it in my pocket first thing before I leave out the door," said Shawn Stroud of Warren.
 
Joe Dorsey of Southington said, "I go a day without it and I'm like going crazy over it. Fear of missing out you know?"
 
"My phone is dead and I'm dying without it," commented Sadie Lewis of Cortland.
 
The small slick devices are also a hot commodity for thieves.
 
Nationwide cell phone thefts have nearly doubled in the past year to 3.1 million, according to a Consumer Reports survey.
 
In the Mahoning Valley, most of the large police agencies have not seen a significant increase. However, this crime is up in Austintown, Canfield and Boardman.
There were 83 more cell phone thefts reported in Boardman in 2013 compared to the previous year.
 
Boardman Police Detective Doug Flara said, "I'd say mostly you could attribute it to heroin use." He continued, "People need to support their drug habit so therefore they'll find something easy to take to turn into cash on the street."
 
NBC News reports that the first law mandating phones have built in technology to disable the device remotely was approved in Minnesota this week. There is also legislation pending in California requiring companies to manufacture phones with a kill switch.
 
In the meantime, there are precautions you can take to save yourself from some big headaches if your phone falls into the wrong hands.
 
"I got like dual security and dual passes just to open my phone," said Stroud.
 
Experts recommend creating a password to unlock the screen.
 
Consumer Reports and the Federal Communications Commission recommend setting up a "find my phone" account to locate the device, lock it and erase your data.
 
Apps like "Lookout" take a photo of the thief after the password is entered incorrectly several times and set off an alarm.
 
"I just always keep it on me and I never leave it out somewhere and then go back," advised Dorsey.
 
Police also stress not leaving your phone in unlocked cars, lockers or purses.
 
Consumer Reports and the FCC also suggest writing down your phone's unique ID, model and serial numbers along with the make, in case you have to file a police report.
 
If someone would try to return it, tape your email address on the phone or add it to your lock screen display.
 
Some extra keystrokes to help minimize the panic, fear and damage if your lifeline goes missing.
 
The FCC has a detailed list of recommendations here.
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