Fight the gadget theft epidemic

Published:
31 January 2013
Topic:
News,Insurance,Mobile Phones,Home

Official police figures say more people are having phones and tablets stolen while using them out and about, at least in London, where opportunist 'table surfer' thieves take advantage of diners and drinkers in restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs.

As these kinds of gadgets have become a bigger part of our everyday lives, it's not surprising to see thefts on the increase. It does, however, highlight the importance of making sure you have some kind of insurance in place so that you're not left out of pocket.

Here's a look at what you can do to protect yourself, wherever you live, and what to do if you become a victim.

Portable valuable

Gadget designers are always working on devices which are capable of doing more while remaining portable, which is great because it means we can be connected wherever we are. But it also means carrying around more and more valuable pieces of kit - and that value can be measured in what the device holds as well as its actual cost to buy.

Take the iPhone for example, one of the most sought after pieces of tech in a generation. The latest model has any amount of bells and whistles, is only 7.6mm thin and weighs just 112 grams. It's also worth £529, making it a big reward for an easy lift in the eyes of a table-surfing thief.

I'm sure more than a few of us can hold our hands up to having left a phone idly sitting on a table in a pub or restaurant, if only for a couple of seconds, but it could cost you dearly if you don't have any insurance.

Types of cover

Certain home insurance contents policies offer cover for items you take with you outside your home, sometimes as standard or, otherwise, as an optional extra for which you must pay an additional premium.

This might provide enough cover for your smartphone or tablet for when you're out and about, but you should be aware of your policy's 'single item limits' if you have a particularly expensive gadget in tow.

Single item limits will vary from one home contents insurance policy to the next, making it very important to check how much you've got. If, for instance, you have a single item limit of £1,500 and your £2,000 Apple Macbook Pro were stolen from a table in a café, you might end up having to make up the £500 shortfall yourself.

Another thing to bear in mind is the excess on your home insurance policy - the amount you must pay towards the cost of any claim - which might be too high to make claiming for your stolen tablet viable. For example, if your Nexus 7 tablet were stolen and your excess was £250, it'd be cheaper to just buy a new one at £159.

Contents policies carry a compulsory excess of perhaps £50 or £100, but you can opt to agree to pay an additional excess in return for a lower premium.

Specialist protection

Of course the other option for keeping your gadgets covered is gadget insurance, which is a tailored insurance product designed to cover items such as laptops, mobile phones, tablets, sat-navs and so on.

Many gadget insurance policies offer 48-hour replacement, meaning you won't be without your phone or other gadgets for long. Some insurers won't cover gadgets more than six months old, and again you'll need to watch out for higher excess levels.

You should also get some measure of protection in case your device is damaged, but once again look out for any excess that applies when you claim.

Before paying out for personal possessions cover on your home insurance or gadget insurance, it's worth checking the details of your current account, as some accounts come with free mobile phone cover.

Whichever option you go for, you still need to have your wits about you when using your gadgets out and about. Read the terms and conditions of any insurance policy carefully and you're likely to find a clause which says you're expected to take 'reasonable care' or your possessions outside the home.

An insurer could turn down your claim if, for example, you left your phone unattended on a table in a bar while you ordered drinks, because you failed to take reasonable care of your belongings.

Keeping your gadgets safe

Prevention is always better than cure, and making sure your gadgets can't be easily stolen will preserve your no claims bonus and save you a lot of hassle - especially if you store confidential or sensitive information on your device.

Here are some tips to keep your phone and other gadgets safe in public:

  • Never leave your gadgets unattended in public spaces, or in open view in a vehicle.
  • Keep a record of your phone's International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) code as you'll need this if it's lost or stolen. You'll find this either on the phone's original packaging, on the handset itself or by dialling *#06# from an iPhone.
  • Register the IMEI at http://www.immobilise.com/, the UK National Property Register. It's free and could help you get your property back.
  • If you have an iPad or iPhone, enable the 'find my iphone' or 'find my iPad' feature, which uses GPS mapping technology to locate a missing iOS device.
  • If you have an Android phone, you can download the equivalent from the Google Play Store, called 'Find My Droid'.
  • Some apps, such as 'Norton Anti-Theft', allow you to remotely take pictures of the thief using the phone or tablet's camera, and see their current and recent locations.
  • NEVER store any sensitive information such as bank account numbers or passwords on your gadgets.
  • If your gadgets are stolen, report the theft to the police as soon as possible.
  • Report the theft to your network so that you're not liable for any charges a thief might run up. Ofcom has a list of phone numbers here.
  • Report the theft to your insurer as soon as you can.
  • If you have an Android phone linked to a Google account, change the account password as soon as possible.

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About This Author

Mark Hooson

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Senior Writer

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