Cellphone theft growing problem in central Florida

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Many people are probably more cautious with their wallets than their cellphones. Robbery investigators say those people may have their concerns backward. They say that thieves are far more interested in their phone.

"If somebody's spending $400, $500, $600 on a phone, that's a lot more money than most people carry in their wallets," said Det. Craig Hall with the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

A stolen iPhone can get a thief $400-$500 cash. That, investigators said, is plenty of incentive for criminals willing to walk up to a person and grab the phone right out of their hands.

Nationwide, phone thefts are booming. In Orange County, sheriff's detectives report overall robberies for 2013 are down 2 percent. But thefts of cellphones are skyrocketing -- up 38 percent so far this year. Those thefts account for 12 percent of all robberies in Orange County, investigators said.

Detectives said many stolen phones can't be listed as stolen property because people don't know the serial numbers. That makes it more difficult to go after the thieves, even if they're caught carrying your phone.

Investigators said phone owners should look up the ID number, which is most often found in the phone's settings menu, take a picture of it with screen grab and email it to yourself. They said it will be handy to have if your phone is stolen and you want to report it to police. 

"A lot of people don't realize that we can enter anything that we have stolen into a system with the serial number, as stolen," said Hall.

Detectives said until phone carriers and manufacturers make it harder to activate a stolen phone, they'll remain a lure for thieves looking for a quick buck.