Cell phone snatching problem sweeping Baton Rouge area - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Cell phone snatching problem sweeping Baton Rouge area


Thieves work over time to steal other people's things. They've never been known to "phone it in" until now.

Experts say cell phone snatching is a problem that is sweeping our area. Thieves are stealing cell phones, some right out of your hand or when you're not looking. Part of what makes it so attractive to thieves is the market for stolen phones.

MJ Cascio and Chelsie Hanley were with a group of friends at a local bowling alley when someone snatched two new iPhones.

"You don't think it can happen to you, but it does. And when it does, you feel violated- extremely violated," said Cascio.

"I thought it was a joke. We really thought he was joking, but then we realized he ran out the door and we didn't know what to do," said Hanley. These teens tell us the bowling alley manager said it happens a lot.

Thieves can steal your phone and make a quick $30 to $200 by selling it to stores or on-line with no questions asked. Louisiana law does not require the thief to tell anyone where they got the phone from.

"It's not even worth taking your cell phone with you anymore. You pay all of this money for something, now that this has happened, I've talked to other people and it's happening everywhere," said Cascio.

And it's not just snatching. Some thieves have gotten clever with a so-called Pop-A-Lock scam; and they have targeted coffee shops here in Baton Rouge

A man recently approached a woman sitting at a coffee shop on Perkins. He asked the woman to borrow her phone to call pop-a-lock; the company that unlocks car doors.

The woman says the man even sat at her table for about three minutes, supposedly on the phone with the company. All of a sudden, the man acted as if he needed to go and get his VIN off his car. He walked out to the parking lot with her phone, and she never saw him again.

Experts say the best thing you can do is put protection software on your phone; that way you can track it or disable it if it is stolen. They also say to never give it up or leave it sitting around.

"Always keep your phone in your pocket, don't just lay it out. Don't just walk and talk on it, because they can snatch it right out of your hand. Just keep it with you," said Hanley.

"It's ridiculous. I've gotten to where I just leave my phone locked up in the glove box because it's not worth losing it. It's definitely not worth losing my life over it," said Cascio.

WAFB checked with pawn shops in our area, and if someone tries to sell a phone, they write down the phone's serial number and the name of the person selling it. They send that information to police nightly.

You are urged to write down your phone's serial number and report any thefts to police.

The major cell phone companies are also working on a national database to combat the thefts.

Here are some apps to protect your phone:

Lookout Mobile Security – Sounds an alarm so you can find you iPhone if it has been stolen nearby or simply misplaced. It is free and available for iOS and Android devices.

BlueSprig's Aircover – Comes with a map which helps you locate the stolen or missing phone. It is free and available on iOS and Android devices.

Project Prey- Tracks the phone and even work to snap shots of the criminal. Price varies.

Gadget Trak - Costs $3.99 in the Apple App store, tracks your phone using Wi-Fi networks and also uses the camera to snap a photo of the thieves.

Find My iPhonE - Free and very popular. You can remotely wipe the phone, but the app doesn't work if the phone is turned off.

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