Stealing iPhones: How does it work?

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by TallManNY, Sep 28, 2012.

  1. TallManNY macrumors 601


    Nov 5, 2007
    So in the big bad city, and I assume elsewhere, it is not uncommon to hear about a snatch and run theft of an iPhone. Someone just grabs it out of your hand and runs off with it.

    My question is how does this work from a business model for the thieves? First of all, the devices has a GPS in it and can be found on "FindMyPhone". Second of all, it can be remote locked. But can't you also contact Apple and since the device has a unique identifying number, can't Apple also track and disable it?

    I've never clicked the "Lost Mode" or Erase feature but I assume that locks the phone and erasing it protects your data. But if you report your iPhone stolen, shouldn't Apple and the Cell Companies, if not help have police recover the phone, at least refuse to do business or connect a stolen phone?

    So what does the 20 year old who has grabbed a phone and run off with it do with the thing long term? Do they have to get hacked to become long term usable?
  2. Wyndam macrumors newbie

    Oct 15, 2008
  3. vbtwo31984 macrumors regular

    Jun 20, 2010
    Carriers in the US do not care if a phone is reported stolen. They do not lock the IMEI or do anything. It can be activated again with a new account. Find My iPhone will only work if the thief is stupid enough not to wipe it right away and to keep it on enabling it to be tracked.
  4. FSMBP macrumors 68020


    Jan 22, 2009
    Apple doesn't do anything. If your iPhone is stolen in the USA & you report it to your carrier, some carriers will 'blacklist' that phone; therefore, no one can use it on their network.

    But what can a thief do & get out of it?: He can steal the iPhone, put it on Craig's List or eBay & sell it quickly for cash. Even if the iPhone is disabled or locked, he can be long-gone by the time the buyer finds out the phone is unusable (most buyers seem uninformed about checking for this stuff).

    They do "care" (in a sense that is). Here is the link for the carrier blacklisting info:
  5. KC2 macrumors regular

    Feb 29, 2008
    I fully expected a user with a September 2012 account to be the OP and this to be some sort of "how do I steal" thread. Happy to see I was wrong :)
  6. DeaconGraves macrumors 65816


    Apr 25, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    You're making the assumption that most iPhones stolen are used by the theif itself.

    That's probably incorrect. My guess would be that most stolen phones are sold to someone else. If you remote wipe your data, you've protected your data, but also just given the theif a clean phone to sell, which he was probably going to do anyway.

    And even if the suggestions you make come into effect (Apple or the carriers refusing to re-activate a phone that's been stolen) that's no sweat off the theif's back since he/she's gotten the cash for the phone and is out of the picture.
  7. Abandapart82 macrumors member

    Sep 23, 2008
    I thought they just unlocked them or something so they could be used even if black listed.
  8. stuaz macrumors 6502

    Jun 16, 2012
    In the UK the phone can be blocked from working but I guess there may be ways around that.

    Its not really Apple's responsibilty to lock them or anything.
  9. BFizzzle macrumors 68020


    May 31, 2010
    Austin TX
    well ATT is suppose to start a lost/stolen program that you can report your device to, and supposedly it will prevent people form using it on their network.
    verizon and sprint you can report lost/stolen and the ESN will be bad and they cant use it on their network. im not sure if somone can use a stolen phone if they Flash it then try to activate it.
  10. MacBookPro13" macrumors 6502a


    Jan 25, 2011
  11. bogatyr macrumors 65816

    Mar 13, 2012
    Power off the device immediately when stolen. Put into DFU mode and restore. Find my iPhone is disabled now and there is no tracing it except by Apple or a carrier - neither offer to trace them. Resell on craigslist.

    Oh and if the person used iMessages - read old owners iMessage messages after restoring phone since Apple ties this to the SIM or something and not any actual account info on the damn phone. This is the big issue. If someone steals my phone, they either wipe it or I do remotely and my data is safe. However there is NO way for you to keep them from getting your imessage messages (google it).


    The unfortunate thing is that the iPhone 5 for Verizon is now GSM unlocked. It would be the best target to resell as a GSM iPhone (just no LTE).
  12. WesCole macrumors 6502a

    Jul 1, 2010
    This. My sister's iPhone got stolen and I had to call AT&T to report it since her iPhone is on my account. Basically, AT&T said they would remove the IMEI number from my account so I don't get charged, but there is nothing they will do if someone activates her stolen iPhone on their network. I was pretty upset about that since it would be an extremely easy way to get the iPhone back, but I understand that someone might sell an iPhone, report it stolen, then get it locked out or something...Apple was really nice and replaced her stolen iPhone for free...I didn't see that coming, but it was really nice. :)
  13. TallManNY thread starter macrumors 601


    Nov 5, 2007
    No particular reason. I was reading this local reports of thefts this morning:

    iPhones Stolen

    Police reported the following iPhone thefts:

    Someone swiped an iPhone out of a 35-year-old woman’s hands at the intersection of Hanson Place and Fulton Street at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 20, police said. The thief — who also got away with the woman’s Chase credit card and Starbucks gift card, fled southbound on South Oxford Street toward Atlantic Avenue, according to cops.
    A crook grabbed an iPhone from 22-year-old woman at Ashland Place and Myrtle Avenue at 9:15 p.m. on Sept. 20, police said.
    A young woman twisted a 22-year-old woman’s arm and threw her to the ground to steal her iPhone at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue Extension and DeKalb Avenue at 9 p.m. on Sept. 20, police said. Officers arrested a 17-year-old girl about 15 minutes later, at the intersection of Ashland Place and Willoughby Street, police said.

    Failed iPhone Theft

    A 26-year-old man fought off two people who tried to steal his iPhone at the intersection of Ashland Place and Myrtle Avenue at 8:45 p.m. on Sept. 20, police said. The man punched one of the would-be thieves and ran off, he told cops.

    I was thinking that these grab and dash thefts seem pretty amature. That is why I picked "20". Old enough to be big enough to grab and dash but young enough to still be doing a very stupid form of street crime. I suspect the grabber doesn't have any hacking ability. But perhaps they make their first sale to a fence who does have that ability. And the DFU Mode process seems very easy. So maybe the original thief is doing that as suggest above.

    I think the cell phone companies should make some response to a filed police report. They don't necessarily have to respond to a telephone call but it would be nice if the police consolidated a list of reported thefts and then the cell companies and Apple made a response to this. It would dissuade these thefts if the phones couldn't be used by someone other than their legitimate owner.
  14. darngooddesign macrumors G3

    Jul 4, 2007
    Atlanta, GA
    They can run quicker.
  15. d123 macrumors 68000


    Oct 19, 2009
    The UK networks can (and do) blacklist stolen phones, but all it has done is create a giant black market export business where the gang masters are making millions sending phones to 3rd world countries like Pakistan, India, certain African countries.

    They even advertise openly for blocked phones in classifieds and online sales sites like Gumtree.
  16. mrskullfreak macrumors 6502a


    Jan 25, 2012
    michigan north detroit
    I would be po if mine was stolen.
    Where would you begin as far as your info goes?
  17. Night Spring macrumors G5

    Night Spring

    Jul 17, 2008
    Also, keep in mind that even if the carriers do blacklist stolen iPhones and refuse to activate them, an unactivated iPhone works perfectly as an iPod touch.

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