London cops: use paper map, not smartphone to avoid phone snatchers

Paper can't be traded in at Apple's Genius Bar.

Smartphone mapping services are probably useful at London’s sprawling Notting Hill Carnival, but they also make users an easier target for thieves, says London’s Metropolitan Police.

People using their smartphones to find directions “all too often” become victims to phone snatchers, according to the Met, which has advised the one million or so festival goers to use paper maps to navigate West London next weekend.

“Mobile phones, especially expensive ones, are a glittering prize for thieves. Don’t give them a head start by displaying them openly and only use them if it’s absolutely necessary, said Commander Christine Jones.

The Met is asking people to only use their phones when it’s “absolutely necessary” and will be handing out paper maps at train stations across the city, helping people avoid using one feature that sits alongside camera, video, social networks, texting and calling.

Mobile phone theft hit British headlines in May after Apple was criticised for not requiring its Genius Bar staff to check the phone against Britain’s police-sanctioned data base “immobilise”, a list of unique device identifiers that can be used by owners to inform police, insurers, and second-hand dealers the device has been stolen.

iPhones are reportedly a hit amongst phone snatchers, making up just under a third of the nation’s two million phones stolen each year despite accounting for 14 per cent of the total number of mobiles there.

A reason why they may be popular is that Genius Bar employees do not check whether a person who brings in a phone to its Genius Bar to have it unlocked or replaced is the legitimate owner.

Apple’s “honour” replacement system was criticised in the US earlier this year for the same reason. A McAfee executive said Apple’s return policy was devised “with the mindset that we are all sheep and there are no wolves”, <i>Reuters</i> reported.

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