Phones are being 'stolen to order' for festive market
THIEVES are stealing phones to order for the Christmas market, with the iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxy S4 top of the theft list.
Gardai have issued a smartphone alert after thefts of high-end handsets such as Apple's iPhones and Samsungs soared by 33pc.
More than 12,000 phones were stolen in Ireland by October, with a handset being taken on average every 30 minutes.
That represents a 33pc increase on the same period in 2012 – and gardai admit that they expect to see thefts soar over the run-up to Christmas.
"It is a combination of phones being stolen to order for the Christmas market and as well as crimes of opportunity," a Garda National Crime Prevention Unit spokesman said.
"Tens of thousands of people are attending parties at this time of the year and everyone uses their smartphone for photos, Facebook and Twitter. So phones are readily accessible to thieves."
Gardai stressed that people often don't take sufficient precautions with handsets that can cost as much as €700.
"We have had cases where iPhones were left on pub tables while people queued at the bar for drinks. Needless to say, the phone wasn't there when they came back."
While the majority of thefts still occur during the daytime, 20pc of all handset thefts occur between 1am and 3am.
Leading phone retailer Carphone Warehouse said the trend was being driven by the soaring value of smartphone handsets and the fact that people were increasingly storing valuable personal data including bank and credit card details on their phones.
In several cases, people had even stored the details of their house alarm codes.
"Smartphone thefts are on the increase due to the value attached to the phones. It is very regrettable if you become a victim of this type of crime," a Carphone Warehouse official said.
Despite the fact that some smartphones now cost more than a laptop, on average just one in seven Irish users records the critical IMEI/ESN number which is individual to each handset.
Gardai are running a special campaign, Operation Aughrim, aimed at targetting known smartphone thieves.