Suffolk County

Boston Police warn of cell phone thieves who swipe data, banking information

BOSTON — A warning from police after a rash of cell phone larcenies in the city.

“It’s pretty scary. I especially don’t want anything stolen, especially as a young person, they can do a lot to you,” said Masha Yakubovich, a Northeastern University student.

She was unaware of the thefts and appreciates Boston Police putting out a warning.

“I am glad they put it out, it’s definitely good to know,” said Yakubovich.

Boson 25 reached out to security expert and CEO of, Robert Siciliano. He says this is nothing new, but in the digital age, our phones become a treasure trove for thieves.

“If your phone is not password protected and your phone is stolen, bad guys have access to everything,” said Siciliano. He and police advise always using a pin code to access your phone.

And a victim responded to BPD’s Facebook post saying, “This happened to me a few weeks ago in Boston. They stole $8,000, my SSN, and locked me out of iCloud forever… just by using my phone passcode.”

Boston Police warn of what’s called “shoulder surfing.”

“It’s very easy for someone to come up behind you and use their phone and zoom in and record exactly what you’re doing over your shoulder,” said Siciliano.

He and police also caution people to always log out of apps, especially financial and banking ones.

“If your phone is stolen while you’re actually on it, that means it’s not locked and all of your apps are currently active and somebody could get access to them,” said Siciliano.

As for banking apps, they should have what’s called “two-factor authentication.”

“That means you log in with a username and a passcode and you get a timed text message which essentially is that passcode,” said Siciliano.

And if your phone is stolen, he advises to wipe it clean from another device. Police say you can enable “Lost Mode” to remotely wipe all data from the device.

Boston Police add two more important tips if your phone gets stolen:

  • Make sure your phone is backed up on the cloud so you can retrieve data
  • If your phone is stolen, immediately change passwords connected to that stolen device

And finally, Siciliano says always be aware of your surroundings – he calls it situational awareness.

“No matter where you are. No matter what you’re doing, know what is going on behind, in front, to the left and the right and make sure no one is paying any unwanted attention to you,” said Siciliano.

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