How to Keep Your iPhone Safe in Paris… and What to Do If It Gets Stolen

Posted in: Paris Planning

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iPhone on table
Don't leave your iPhone out on your table in Paris. (Dramatic reenactment staged in EuroCheapo's office.)

More than half a million iPhones are stolen every year in Paris, and a majority of thefts on public transport, whether by pickpockets or more hands-on violent thieves, are targeted at iPhone owners.

Here are some common sense tips about how to protect yourself before you leave for Paris, how to hamper a thief’s chances of robbing your iPhone once you’re there, and what steps you need to take after the theft to protect yourself if they do.

Before Your Trip

Make sure that you keep your serial number handy (meaning not only on your phone) in order to provide your phone operator, insurance company and the police that your phone has been stolen.

Install a free software app like Find My Phone to allow you to locate and shut down your phone from a distance.

Be sure to back up your contact list and photos and sync any other information stored on your phone with your computer. (Once you’re traveling, it’s a good idea to back up photos to cloud storage in case something happens to your phone.)

Consult your phone’s insurance policy if you have one. Be aware that some insurers will not insure thefts that occur outside of the U.S. so read the fine print before you go and add coverage as needed.

Pickpocket signs Paris

Beware of Paris’ pickpockets. Photo: julianrod

Safety Tips for Using Your Phone in Paris

The French police want you to know that using your phone in public is a bad idea.

I know, I know. The whole point of bringing your iPhone to Paris is so that you can whip it out at your convenience to find directions, use a cool Paris sightseeing app, or Google the name of that restaurant you wanted to try.

But be careful not to leave it on a café table while you are sipping an espresso enjoying the scenery, or hold it in your hands in public (which makes using it as a camera pretty difficult, of course).

Be sure to pay particular attention on the Métro, bus and RER, especially when it’s crowded.

Paper Scams

Tourists who frequent American chains like Starbucks and McDonald’s have also been the targets of a common scam where thieves use old-fashioned paper as a tool for stealing 21st-century electronics, ruffling papers in front of your face or handing you a note to unfold, making off with your phone in the ensuing confusion.

Another common scam involves being approached by a person bearing a clip board and pretending to want you to sign a petition for a seemingly worthy cause. While your hands are busy holding the clipboard and signing the bogus petition, someone else will be rummaging through your bag or pocket and making off with your phone.

Beware of Pickpockets

Even those who try to be vigilant about their belongings might find themselves the target of a stealthy pickpocket. In a country where personal space is not at a premium and even innocent people will crowd next to you with an alarming intimacy, it’s sometimes extra difficult to detect a ninja thief who is out to relieve you of your beloved electronic iAppendage.

In addition to public transport, be especially careful in crowded lines at tourist attractions, museums and the like. (Also see this post about tourist scams to avoid in Paris.)

If the Worst Happens, Here’s What to Do

As soon as you realize your phone is no longer with you, try to stay calm and act quickly to limit the damage.

If you have anti-theft software, use it to shut down your phone.

The next step is to inform your phone service operator so that they can deactivate the SIM card in your phone.

Tell the Police

Find the nearest police station and take the time to file a police report.

Using your phone’s serial number, the French police can do what your phone operator cannot: They can enter the serial number on a black list making the phone itself inoperable on any of the country’s networks even with a new SIM card.

Tell Your Insurance Company

If you have theft insurance, file a claim as soon as possible for the best chance of being compensated correctly. Remember that if you are in the midst of a phone service contract and your phone is stolen, you will have to pay full price for a replacement (forget those inexpensive phone offers they use to lure you into a contract in the first place).

Related: Using an American iPhone in Europe… without going broke.

About the author

Kristin Hohenadel

Kristin Hohenadel is a writer and editor who lives in Paris.

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4 thoughts on “How to Keep Your iPhone Safe in Paris… and What to Do If It Gets Stolen”

  1. Jeff, it might be counter-intuitive since it’s called a backpack, but in the Metro I’d take it off your back and put it on the floor and/or hold it by its top handle. I hold my purse in my hand as opposed to on my shoulder; it would be pretty obvious if someone leaned down right in front of me to take something out of it (and difficult in a crowded train). I haven’t had a problem yet (fingers crossed). And keep your guard up since having a backpack in Paris will identify you as a tourist and a target. Good luck!

    Reply
  2. I’ve heard of the pickpockets but have never read such detailed advice. Thank you. I will be backpacking the Camino in Spain and will transit through Paris for the first time. Any suggestions on how to pack or safe guard the backpack? It seems all of the zippered and velcro’d pockets would be especially vulnerable in crowded spaces like the metro.
    I will be traveling solo and carrying a travel digital camera, iPhone5, and iPad Mini with all other belongings in a backpack.

    Reply
  3. Great tips. I’m curious where the half a million iPhones stolen statistic comes from — it seems really high.

    Reply
    1. Kristin Hohenadel Post authorKristin Hohenadel

      Hi Lynn,

      The last year that statistics were released in France was 2010, with 630,000 thefts according to the l’Observatoire national de la délinquance et des réponses pénales (ONDRP).

      Reply

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