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Smartphone theft survey finds people will endanger themselves to get their handset back

A new survey relating to smartphone theft has cast light on the prevalence of handset pinching, and the attitudes of the victims of said crimes.

Commissioned by security firm Lookout and conducted by IDG Research, the survey was carried out online in March across UK, US, French and German smartphone owners, with quotas set to ensure the majority of respondents in each country had indeed had their smartphone stolen at some point (500 victims of smartphone theft were questioned in each country, along with 100 who hadn't ever had their phone stolen).

And the results? In the US, it was found that one in ten smartphone owners had been the victim of handset theft, and 68 per cent of those never got their phone back.

As for the reason why most phones are stolen – that's sheer forgetfulness, with 44 per cent of respondents having their device nicked because they left it somewhere in public by accident. The next most prevalent reason at 14 per cent was a house burglary or car break-in where a phone had been lifted, with 11 per cent of phones going missing when they were stolen from a person's bag, pocket, or indeed ripped from their hands.

And the most common location for phone theft? The restaurant, believe it or not, so that expensive meal turned really expensive for 16 per cent of respondents. 11 per cent had their phone half-inched at a bar or club, and 11 per cent at work (worryingly – you'd have thought work was a safer place than a pub), with 6 per cent being victims of theft on public transport, and 5 per cent on the street.

The most telling part of this survey, though, were the questions concerning how desperate people were to get their stolen handset back.

Half of those surveyed said they would be at least "somewhat likely" to pay $500 (£300) to get the data (photos, videos, personal info) back off their stolen phone, and a third would up that amount to $1000 (£600).

Most worryingly, though, 68 per cent of theft victims would be prepared to put themselves in "some amount" of danger to get their stolen mobile back – in other words, physically confronting the thief if they had the opportunity, and potentially taking the law into their own hands. That is, as Lookout notes, never a smart move...

It's far better to take remote action, and use services such as Find My iPhone, Android Device Manager or similar to try to track down your handset, or remotely wipe any sensitive data. For more on this, see our features on what you should do if your iPhone gets stolen, and what you should do if your Android phone is stolen.