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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.
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.
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.
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.)
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).