NY Cracking Down On Cell Phone Black Market

Attorney general asks industry to help stop thefts
By Joshua Philipp, The Epoch Times
May 14, 2013 Updated: May 14, 2013

NEW YORK—Thieves are snatching cell phones from the hands of unsuspecting victims, wiping the phones, then selling them on the black market for hundreds of dollars.

Between January 1 and September 23, 2012, there were 11,447 cases in New York of people having iPhone or iPads stolen, according to a press release. The NYPD said that nearly 30 percent of devices stolen on subways and buses in 2011 were from companies other than Apple.

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent letters to the CEOs of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung asking for information about what their companies are doing to help quell the crimes.

In the letters, Schneiderman questions whether the companies are benefiting financially from the thefts if victims buy new phones to replace their stolen phones. A 2012 study from mobile security company Lookout said lost and stolen phones could cost consumers more than $30 billion a year.

“The companies that dominate this industry have a responsibility to their customers to fulfill their promises to ensure safety and security,” Schneiderman said, in the press release. “This is a multi-billion dollar industry that produces some of the most popular and technologically advanced consumer electronic products in the world.”

He said that as Attorney General, he has a responsibility to uphold the law against deceptive trade practices. Schneiderman requested information from each company on what efforts they currently make to protect their customers against theft and to ensure their safety.

The letters note several smartphone thefts that turned violent. On April 19, 2012, a 26-year-old man was killed for his iPhone when he was on his way home to the Bronx. Alex Herald, 22, was stabbed in April 2012 during an iPhone theft. In February 2013, three people were stabbed in Queens while resisting thieves who eventually stole their iPhones.

Schneiderman requested that each company designate someone to work with his office to help develop a method to guard against theft and protect customers.

“Surely we can work together to find solutions that lead to a reduction in violent street crime targeting consumers,” he said.