Nothing like being a millennial without her cell phone.
Story time! So, I’m on the Red Line Metro early Sunday morning, making my way back from a pretty tame night in Adams Morgan — minding my own business. As soon as the train arrives to a stop right before mine, I’m holding my phone in my hand normally. I had just finished tweeting a song lyric (Chemistry by Allegra Dolores to be exact), when all of a sudden, a young man with a black hoodie comes from behind me and straight SWIPES my phone. Now let me be clear: I have totally seen this happen on the Metro before, and the victim just sat in her seat completely stunned because it seemed like a joke. But there was nothing to laugh about once those doors closed and the train pulled off to head to the next station. When your personal space is violated, you’re completely immobile and your body doesn’t react as quickly as it should. But my immediate reaction was laughter rather than rage and obscene language. Why? Because I had clearly set myself up for that to happen.
According to an October 2012 article posted by WAMU.org:
In the District of Columbia, Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier estimates 60 to 70 percent of robberies are cell phone related. In the first nine months of 2012, Metro police reported 314 thefts of mobile devices, a slight increase from the same period last year. Thieves often leave the victims’ wallet or other valuables while demanding — or snatching — a smartphone, according to Lanier. Exact robbery statistics are not available, but she says they are in the process of being compiled.
Sure, I could have easily gone in to survival mode and chased after the knuckhead to retrieve my stolen property, but in the grand scheme of things I would have put my safety at even more risk. But I did what any 20-something would do after having their phone stolen at 3AM — emailed my support system (shout-out to my mom and sister) to let them know what had happened. Of course, my mom told me the obvious: I need to be more aware of my surroundings, especially when using public transportation late at night. Furthermore, I need to keep my personal belongings to myself at all times. But here are three things you should if you ever find yourself this unfortunate situation:
1. Call your cell phone carrier and suspend your service. Most (if not all) of cell phones that are stolen are being sold on the black market. So to avoid any ridiculous fees on next month’s phone bill, call your carrier and let them know that you’ve had your phone stolen. They should then offer you the opportunity to replace your device for a fee of about $100. (Can you tell I’ve been through this ordeal before?)
2. Change ALL of your passwords. Because we have connected our phones to EVERY social network imaginable, it’s important to change the passwords to all of your accounts as soon as possible. After emailing my mother, I was sure to go through all of the accounts that were connected to my phone and change their passwords. This can reduce the risk of identity theft (regarding your bank account) as well as being hacked by the thief him/herself. (Also, be sure to utilize the lockcode feature on your phone — that may make it a little bit more difficult for the culprit to get into your phone.)
3. Remain calm, and don’t lose your cool. Sure, it sucks that something of yours was stolen, but keep in mind that you are safe and that it can be replaced. Use this incident as a lesson learned, and remember to remain alert while using public transit. Keep those personal gadgets and gizmos a plenty secure at all times, and to avoid ambush, don’t sit next to train doors. “A lot of the robberies occur near the train doors,” said WMATA deputy chief Ronald Pavlik. “The thief times it perfectly as the doors are opening and closing,” (which is what exactly happened to me.) And seriously, if you see something, say something. Cliche, I know — but you really could be helping someone out by speaking up.
As of October 31, 2012, the FCC has created an initiative in which smartphone users can register their devices in a database that police will use to identify and disable it if it’s stolen, rendering it useless for resale on the black market. Both the Maryland Police Department and WMATA police are partners in the FCC initiative. Also, WMATA has created a number of audio announcements and visual aids within its train stations in order to inform customers about keeping their smartphones safe while traveling. Personally, I think this subject needs to be talked about a little bit more with the summer right around the corner and D.C. being a hot tourist destination, so hopefully this will fuel the discussion even more.
In the meantime, I shall bask in the joy of being cell phone-less and utilize Facebook, Twitter and Skype to the fullest until my replacement device arrives. 🙂
Have a great week everyone, and be safe!