Survey: 68 percent of Americans would put themselves at risk to retrieve a stolen cell phone 

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  • Mike Koozmin/2012 S.F. Examiner file photo
  • Smartphone robberies accounted for half of the robberies in San Francisco last year; nationally, one in three robberies involves a cellphone.
A study released today reveals new statistics about cellphone theft, including that one in 10 Americans have been victims of phone theft.

The study, commissioned by mobile security company Lookout, is based on a March survey of individuals who had their cellphones stolen. Of those surveyed, 68 percent said they would be willing to put themselves in physical danger if it helped them retrieve their devices.

This type of vigilantism has raised concerns with local law enforcement and city officials, who have lobbied for cellphone manufacturers to include so-called kill switches in their devices, rendering the devices inoperable in event of theft. Cellphones are the targets of over 50 percent of all robberies in San Francisco, and residents are often injured in ensuing scuffles over the devices. Ninety percent of those surveyed said they took some sort of action to recover their cellphones, from filing a police report to using tracking applications to locate devices.

However, the survey also reveals that forgetfulness is a greater factor in cellphone theft than brute force — 44 percent of victims surveyed left their phone in a public setting, such as a restaurant or bar. The survey found that most cellphone thefts occurred between noon and 5 p.m.

The loss of a device is not the most upsetting aspect of a theft, according to the survey. Most victims mourned the loss of personal data, such as photos, corporate email or banking information, and half said they would pay $500 for the return of their data alone, regardless of the return of their device.

With no mandatory kill-switch law in place, users are taking more precautions to protect their cellphones. A December survey by the District Attorney’s Office found that nearly 80 percent of iPhone users in San Francisco have enabled Activation Lock so they can secure their phones if they are stolen.

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