“Thefties” Snap Shots Of Smartphone Thieves In The Act

“Thefties” Snap Shots Of Smartphone Thieves In The Act

Lookout's new program uses a phone's front-facing camera to capture suspicious activity as it happens.

Marnie Kunz
  • 5 june 2014

Phone thieves, beware! Mobile security company Lookout has launched a new program to cut down on the phone theft epidemic by taking front-facing photos of anyone doing “suspicious activity” on a smartphone. Triggers for the thefts include trying to enter a wrong password repeatedly or trying to remove a phone’s security software. When any sneaky activity occurs, Lookout subscribers get email alerts, complete with photos of the person triggering the alert and a map of the person’s location.

Thefties aim to stop phone thieves in their tracks by giving the cell phone owner information that can identify the person if they know the culprit, or allowing them to give tracking information to the police so they can apprehend the suspect. Each email alert gives users the option to contact their phone carrier about the security breach and also allows them to file a police report if they want to. Subscribers can also personalize the alert system so that only certain features trigger an alert email.


Phone thefts continue to rise rapidly, with 3.1 million smartphones stolen in America in 2013, according to Consumer Reports. Smart phone users have been taking more measures to combat thefts, with about a 50 percent increase in the number of smartphone users who set a screen lock with a 4-digit pin in 2013, according to Consumer Reports. However, most users do not take any measures beyond setting a PIN, and software like Thefties could provide more security for smartphone users. According to Lookout’s Phone Theft in America report, 1 in 10 U.S. smartphone owners are victims of phone theft and 68 percent of victims were unable to recover their device after the theft occurred.

Thefties is available to help combat the phone theft problem, and can be used on Android and iOS devices. On Android phones, the Thefties system triggers alerts when a failed password attempt happens a certain number of times, someone puts the phone in airplane mode, turns off the phone or removes the phone’s SIM card. The Apple alert system is less comprehensive because of limitations Lookout developers met with in working with iOS software. Thefties iOS alerts occur with failed password attempts, putting the phone in airplane mode or removing the SIM card.

The Thefties program is currently part of Lookout’s premium subscriber program, but existing Lookout users will get grandfathered into the system.

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[h/t] CNET, Slate, Consumer Reports


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