How to Booby Trap Your Smartphone to Prevent Theft

Make thieves think twice about stealing your phone

Man stealing woman's smartphone
Nathan Alliard/Photononstop/Getty Images

So you're standing on the subway platform trying to draw Lady Gaga in the Draw Something app and a thief snatches your cell phone right out of your hands before you can even finish drawing Ms. Gaga's meat-laden evening gown.

What the thief doesn't know is that you've booby trapped your smartphone and he's about to get 'pwned' as the kids say. We all love to see bad guys get their just desserts, but what non-lethal smartphone booby-trapping options are available in this day and age?

Smartphone Cases

A lot of folks won't even use their phones in public anymore for fear of having them snatched out of their hands. One simple remedy for this is to purchase a smartphone case with a wrist strap, similar to those found on Nintendo Wii controllers that are supposed to keep you from accidentally hurling your controller at your flat screen TV.

If a thief goes for your phone for a quick snatch-and-grab, they probably won't think that you have it tethered to your wrist. This may startle and confuse them and they will likely move on. The other possibility is that they might snap your wrist whilst trying to steal your phone. You may have a broken wrist but at least you won't be minus one expensive smartphone. Score one for the good guys!

Anti-Theft Apps

If wrist-snapping tether cases aren't your bag, consider one of the many fine phone theft alarm apps on the market. Prey Anti Theft is our top choice for both iPhone and Android.

Many of the phone alarm apps will let you customize the alarm sound file played during the theft. You can create your own shrill alarm noise or you can record your voice saying something threatening or disparaging.

Here are three phrases you could record in your own voice as part of the alarm that is played when someone steals your phone.

  1. "Attention everyone in the subway. The person who is holding this phone just stole it from me. He is running because he is afraid I will catch him. Now he is slowing down so as not to draw attention. Now he's running again. I will give you $100 if you tackle this person and return my phone to me. Thank you, that is all."
  2. "I don't always have my phone stolen, but when I do, this is the guy who steals it. Please detain this jerk and get my phone back to me. Stay safe my friends."
  3. "Attention! You have just stolen this phone. You should be ashamed of yourself. Please turn yourself into the police immediately. If you don't, then the guilt and shame of your despicable act will haunt you for the rest of your life and I will come to your home and sit on your breakfast."

Lo-Jack Your Smartphone

You should also consider Lo-Jacking your smartphone before a theft occurs so that you can track it down after the fact.

If you have an iPhone then you can use iOS's built-in Find My iPhone app to track down your phone. Don't forget to set a passcode lock for your phone and you should also lock out settings changes to the Location Services so the thief can't turn off the GPS beacon on your phone.

If you have an Android phone then you can find your device by using Android Device Manager to help you locate your stolen phone.

Be smart about when and where you whip out your smartphone. You may have paid the new or renewed contract subsidized price of $199 for your iPhone, but getting a replacement after yours is lost or stolen is going to cost you more than three times that. If your phone is stolen, report it immediately to your cell provider to avoid paying for calls that the thief is likely making to his grandmother overseas.