Phone snatching – can we beat it?

This is a just a thought…sprung from something that was posted here last week. Yes, we have phone snatchers in town. I wondered if we could apply the “demand – supply” rule and see if we can address the market (by making it smaller) for these stolen phones so perhaps we can limit the crime.

Now I know not everyone is bestowed with boundless bounty and most people want to purchase the cheapest good quality item there is… but if we buy the cheaper “second handle” mobile phones in the market, are we creating a market for these thieves to operate in?

I know I do not have a very large disposable income and if/ when (because in Karachi its just a matter of time when this happens) someone were to take away my cell phone, I doubt I would want to buy a spanking new device, after just having lost one, I would want to buy the cheapest one (and perferably one I would not mind losing again)…. BUT if this cycle of us buying the cheaper “second hand” models is what inspires the thieves, should we consider changing our buying habits? (I have not bought such a device as yet but I wonder)

Some folks in the city cannot afford the brand new phones but have the need for the cellular phone so I guess there will always be a market for “second hand” phones, but I wonder if those of us who can afford to purchase the new sealed models, would? For those of us who can afford to buy the new device (even if its an older, less “cool” model) would we? By purchasing sealed goods, couldn’t we ensure that stolen items are removed or reduced from the market? If we reduce the demand for these stolen goods perhaps the thieves will have to move on?

I know there was some talk of mobile phone companies being able to restrict the phone usage or some such thing (if it were stolen) but I am not sure what that was all about.

This is just a thought…. perhaps people out there have some suggestions
(and no I do not work for a cell phone manufacturing or a mobile phone selling retail outlet!)

30 Comments so far

  1. aegis (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 3:41 pm

    Hi saba, i really like ur blogs.

    I dont think this wud work, dont you think that the majority is of those who have a limited income and want to buy second hand flashy cells.

    These days you can also get chinese imitated phones only at one third of the price of the original ones, this can be a factor in reducing snacthing.

    Still i think that the snatchers wont stop doing so cos one of my friend told me that these snatched cell phones are now being smuggled to Afghanistan, so if the local market dose not shows any demand, they will send all the cells there.

    I am not saying we shoudnt try, i think every one needs to do their bit to resolve any problem.


  2. mantissa (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 3:56 pm

    There are 2 measures I personally use for a rainy day. In my car, I keep my fried Nokia 6230i handy ( fried internally because of an accident but cosmetically looks perfect). Push comes to shove, I’d just hand that.

    For my actual phone (which I’d really hate to lose), I use a program called PhoneGuardian (runs on Symbian phones and cannot be uninstalled), that will communicate back critical location information as well as subscriber information (secretly) in case it is ever stolen. I can also invoke a siren remotely as well! It also gives me the option of remotely immobilizing the phone completely (to prevent the party from getting into your address book/ media etc.) At least with the above, it improves my chances of locating my phone as well as kill the value to the phone to just it’s scrap parts (so no one benefits from my loss) – note however, that once repossessed, I can restore it easily too.

    Just my 2 paisas worth.

  3. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 5:05 pm

    Why don’t you start your own HOWTO’s?

  4. Concerned (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 5:23 pm

    Let me guess, you just heard abt phone snatching or someone just gave you access to blogging.

  5. malaika rizwi (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 6:22 pm

    well it up to us to shrink the market for stolen mobiles…if we keep buying new mobiles it will eventually kill the market of stolen mobiles!

  6. Ahmed (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 6:45 pm

    Let me think about this one:

    1) Shoot at sight for phone snatchers
    2) Ability to lock phones if stolen

    I wouldn’t lower the standard of cell phone communications by using cheaper sets. That is being too defensive.

    3) Be careful

    I do believe that if the phones can be rendered useless remotly once report stolen; that will SURLY get rid of this menace. It basically means the device is no good!

    I will look into PhoneGuardian, thanks!

  7. Abdul Sami (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 7:53 pm

    PhoneGuardian is useless

    SIM is immediately removed after a cellphone is snatched, there is no way to communicate with your Cellphone after it has been snatched, so you can not use any of the PhoneGuardian feature unless it has the advanced features to detect phone has been stolen. and what if the OS is flashed?

  8. mantissa (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 8:08 pm

    @Abdul Sami:

    First of all, PhoneGuardian is intended to provide some countermeasure as opposed to none at all.

    Also when the SIM is swapped, the application remains resident nonetheless in the OS itself (regardless of the SIM you put in), so the application will as a matter of fact send the SMS with all identifier details (of the SIM placed into the phone as well as further details) So to clear it to you, your own SIM does not have to be in the phone for the application to function correctly. When I tested it myself, placing a a different SIM into my PG equipped phone caused my phone to get locked immediately (requiring me to enter my PhoneGuardian password) and dispatched an SMS right away without giving any confirmation on screen (with all the juicy details of the attempt including IMEI , IMSI, telephone number of SIM etc.).

    Once again though, this is only meant to be a partial countermeasure, and won’t necessarily cause the phone to re-appear by itself at your doorstep :)

  9. Purple_Haze (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 8:23 pm

    I dont think a phone snatcher would pick n choose the model of the phone. They will more likely select the target based on how easy or hard it would be to snatch/steel. If the person is an easy target it would not really matter if they r holding an iPhone or some old crapy model.

    Two recommendations:

    1) I think people must fight back “on the spot” & “as a community”. Dont just give away the phone unless your life is on stake. The people around the victim must help.

    2) Each phone must have an serial number. That number should be listed (submitted) to all service providers. (via police or 3rd party online database – This could be a great business opportunity too by the way) So when the thieves steel a phone – they sell it in the black market – the purchase of that phone goes to the phone service provider and will not be able to get the service and will be told that “Sir/Madam you have a stolen item, we cannot provide u service, cause THIS IS PAKISTAN, slap slap)

    Besides that the buyers/consumer will have the option to check/verify “before” purchasing a used cell phone if it is stolen or not.

    This way the problem of phone snatching will slowly but surely fade away.

  10. Ahmed (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 8:40 pm

    Frankly, I wouldn’t recommend fighting. The phone block/guardian idea is the most feasiable at this time. If the phones become useless, this will naturally fade away.

    FOURTH How to disable a STOLEN mobile phone?
    To check your Mobile phone’s serial number, key in the following digits on your phone: * # 0 6 # A 15 digit code will appear on the screen.
    This number is unique to your handset. Write it down and keep it somewhere safe. When your phone gets stolen, you can phone your service provider and give them this code. They will then be able to block your handset so even if the thief changes he SIM card, your phone will be totally useless. You probably won’t get your phone
    back, but at least you know that whoever stole it can’t use/sell it either. If everybody does this, there would be no point in people stealing mobile phones.

  11. zee (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 9:37 pm

    AHMED: I heard that they have got a way to work around with the blocked cell phones. Do you have any information on this?

  12. Ahmed (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 9:41 pm

    The key is to make it harder and harder for people to steal. You should do all that you can to make it difficult to steal phones.

  13. KhiTorPit (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 9:42 pm

    Where the hell is the cop ? why cant they catch the cell phone snathchers ?
    if the pictures of those snatchers would be shown on tv or in newspapers nobody will dare to snatch a phone ever.

  14. Ahmed (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 9:52 pm

    Putting up pictures and all those things should continue to happen, no doubt. That is law enforement work. If we’re talking about what citizens can do on their side, its making it harder to steal phones.

    You must realize that theifs/robbers are lazy. They’re lazy in the sense that they’ll rob or steal the easiest target. So if it became harder and harder to steal/rob, eventually it would fade to a very low number. That is progress on our side!

  15. Karachi Never Sleeps (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 10:40 pm

    I have lost two… now using Motorola C118
    Nothing to say more…

  16. Kashif (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 10:40 pm

    I liked the idea of PhoneGuardian and will try it soon.

    About looking up the phone using IMEI number, well, it don’t work at all. I have talked with various ‘power’ users and phone sellers and all are of opinion that its waste of time.

    Better go for MobileZone insured phones.

  17. Abdul Sami (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 11:03 pm


    What are the rates?

  18. UBD (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 11:05 pm

    Ahmed: there r software easily available free of cost from which u can change ur cell phone’s IMEI or serial number. And once u change IMEI number the cell phone is good as new.

  19. Ahmed (unregistered) on September 6th, 2007 @ 11:26 pm

    @UBD & Kashif: given that the mobile phone theif can get to a PC and get everything loaded up and change the codes within 30 minutes, the IMEI might not work. HOWEVER, I think 30 minutes is a reasonable time for you to be able to contact your service provider and have them lock the phone.

    Aside from this, do whatever you think is more effective. You know you have the options.

  20. Kashif (unregistered) on September 7th, 2007 @ 12:05 am

    @Ahmed: Does phone locking work? Isn’t it breakable?

    @Abdul Sami: MZ doesn’t charge anything extra for insurance. Its just that their rates are bit higher than open market. I was told that in case a set is snatched/lost, I have to register an FIR and will get replacement within 10-15 days.

    Rate Comparison (Nokia N70):

    MZ: 15,800
    Shophive: 16,190
    Beliscity: 14,930

  21. HelloPerson (unregistered) on September 7th, 2007 @ 12:37 am

    How does one get this “Phone Guardian” software ?

  22. Ahmed (unregistered) on September 7th, 2007 @ 1:09 am

    Phone locking works, it is breakable but if you act quickly, you can prevent the theif from being able to sell the set. It will discourage the practice.

  23. d0ct0r (unregistered) on September 7th, 2007 @ 4:48 pm

    @HelloPerson that software is only compatible with newer symbian 60 3rd edition mobile sets

  24. cardinal (unregistered) on September 8th, 2007 @ 6:16 pm

    nasa electronics in saddar mobile market is unlocking and doing the software modifications to major models of cell phone. cost varies

    Police know, CPLC know and who else does not know, everyone have stake in it :)

    The best part –

    70% of stolen GSM sets are sold under the police patron ship on sunday – at Abdullah haroon road mobile market, shops are closed but the shopkeepers make deal with dakayts, on PER SHOPPER Bargain. The SELLER carry a list of models and brands he have in shoppers. Once the bargain is done, both buyer and seller move to BVS school street shopper is examined for contents, counted units and money exchange takes place. – come next day equipment is delievered to nasa electronics software is played around-with mobiles are “chumpeed” refurbished and Repacked with the shrink plastic and land in showcase of some dealer.

    :) ask me how I know, – :) i did an article on the subject with help of a police mukhbar operating in the area, i made a deal myself got the 5 sets REFRESHED by NASA for petty Rs.700 each. all 5 were N series phones, surely stolen or snatched from ladies – as majority of sets contained pictures of families, kids, boys girls at parties and phone books had numbers saved as like aunty, ammi, abba, bhai, sweetie, phuppo, hubby, etc etc etc.

    why are we so worried when we have all within a system which is making someone loss a gain to others.

  25. Kamil Ahmed (unregistered) on September 9th, 2007 @ 10:13 pm

    @ cardinal – That was an awesome post! Was this ever published in dawn/the news??

  26. Notonebuttwo (unregistered) on September 10th, 2007 @ 12:24 pm

    If these stolen phones are repackaged and “Refurbished” then Saba’s post about buying “new” phones becomes redundant. The idea in the post was, I think, that we make the theives lose their interest in snatching phones by making the reselling these stolen phones pointless. However if they sell these stolen phones as new phones then they will never lose their incentives.

  27. rufi (unregistered) on September 10th, 2007 @ 1:34 pm

    this problem along with the million other problems every pakistani face every day really have a very simple solution. INTEGRITY. We pakistanis want someone to fix our problems without us ourselves having a drop of integrity in our blood that would stop us from buying stolen goods. keep hoping for a savior Pakistan. good luck.

  28. basit (unregistered) on September 10th, 2007 @ 3:30 pm

    Where the hell is the cop ? why cant they catch the cell phone snathchers ?
    if the pictures of those snatchers would be shown on tv or in newspapers nobody will dare to snatch a phone ever.

  29. Rufi (unregistered) on September 11th, 2007 @ 3:37 am

    We, the people, don’t pay enough taxes OR Govt. doesn’t use the taxes we pay, to pay that cop. So he’s too busy fullfilling his basic right of trying to make enough money to feed his kids, albeit not by the legitimate means since we don’t provide enough legitimate means to them.

  30. DeJa Vu (unregistered) on September 11th, 2007 @ 5:04 pm

    October 2003 ( when i came back from abroad ) till March 2004 i got robbed 4 times – since after that i start carrying a .30 in the Car. Couple of months back i was coming back after attending a function and realized that a motrocycle is following me i slowed down the car near Ziauddin hospital, took a left ( the kept coming ) passed the Saifi college – Loaded the pistol and fired couple of bullets in the air … saw them taking a U Turn and getting vanished.

    The best Possible solution i have …….

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