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Apple, Samsung, others urged to help thwart mobile phone thefts

The New York State attorney general is asking Apple, Samsung, Google, Motorola, and Microsoft what they're doing to crack down on the costly and sometimes violent thefts of mobile phones.


Apple and other mobile phone vendors are being asked to amp up the fight against cell phone theft.

In a series of letters sent today to the heads of Apple, Samsung, Google, Motorola, and Microsoft, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman requested information on what they're doing to make their phones more safe and secure from thieves. Schneiderman also urged the companies to work with his office to devise ways to cut down on the lure of cell phones to criminals.

The attorney general pointed to a rise in the theft of phones and other mobile devices in a practice known as "Apple picking." Criminals steal the phones, wipe them clean, and then resell them on the black market. Sometimes the thefts turn violent; Schneiderman cited just a few examples in which cell phone owners were mugged, stabbed, or even killed.

"Cracking down on violent and dangerous cell phone thefts is important for New Yorkers," Schneiderman said in a statement. "The companies that dominate this industry have a responsibility to their customers to fulfill their promises to ensure safety and security. This is a multibillion-dollar industry that produces some of the most popular and technologically advanced consumer electronic products in the world. Surely we can work together to find solutions that lead to a reduction in violent street crime targeting consumers."

In his letters, Schneiderman asked why companies such as Apple and Samsung, which develop such sophisticated devices, can't also create technology to render stolen devices inoperable and eliminate the expanding black market.

Of course, owners whose phones are stolen can contact their carriers to disable their accounts. Apple's "Find my iPhone" app helps users locate their missing iPhone and issue a command to erase the information on it. But such measures still leave the phone in operating condition, allowing a thief with the right know-how to easily wipe it and then resell it.