Mobile phone dealers are preparing for a potential uptick in orchestrated robberies as the eagerly awaited introduction of Apple’s iPhone 15 draws near.
Thefts committed by groups of people at telecom retailers, frequently referred to as “steaming,” have increased in recent years. Surprisingly, over 300 such robberies in telecom retailers were reported in just one year, with half of them taking place in the final three months of 2022, immediately after the release of an iPhone.
This concerning tendency is highlighted by data released by the Crime Communications Strategy Group (CCSG). In response, Three UK is employing watermarking technology in collaboration with Selecta DNA and the National Business Crime Centre to prevent the spike in robberies.
Apple’s iPhone 15 is scheduled to hit the shelves on Friday, September 22, with the most expensive version carrying a hefty price tag of £1,199. The high value and desirability of these devices make them prime targets for thieves.
Joel Thompson, store manager for Three UK’s flagship store in London’s Oxford Circus, shares a chilling experience: “The worst experience I had was when about four people came into the store, and you could see them really aggressively taking the phones.” He adds that this incident occurred while customers were browsing and that the thieves even threatened staff to step back and not intervene. Thompson also notes a concerning shift in the behaviour of these criminals, stating that they have become “more aggressive” over the years.
Thompson raises a poignant question, wondering if the increase in these crimes could be connected to the broader cost of living crisis affecting many communities.
Smaller, independent phone shop owners are dealing with large losses they cannot afford, even if Three UK personnel has been told to back off during steaming events. Armed guys forced their way into Muhammad Fahad’s Fone City Shop in St. Albans earlier this year, giving him direct knowledge of this. He made an effort to fight but ultimately gave up. They essentially took everything.A total of “more than £10,000 worth of products,” recalls Fahad. He is still dealing with the psychological and financial effects and is pleading for more police protection for companies like his.
Retailers and law enforcement organisations are collaborating to prevent and fight organised robberies as the release of the iPhone 15 approaches.