`Apple picking` theft: How to protect your digital life - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

`Apple picking` iPhone theft: How to protect your digital life

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

It's called "Apple picking," but it has nothing to do fresh fruit; rather, it's what thieves and muggers call the practice of stealing iPhones and it's happening all over Chicago.

"The IPhone is a very popular phone and has been since it first launched and every time they come up with a new phone, it's the hottest phone out there," Craig Burns explains.

That demand has created a smart phone crime wave here in Chicago. A community alert issued by Chicago police Friday is the third this month warning of thieves and muggers targeting iPhones and other apple products -- many of the attacks taking place on public transportation.

So what do you do if somebody grabs your iPhone?

Craig Burns of MacMall, a store that specializes in Apple products, says there are steps you can take before your phone is stolen.

Most importantly, back it up on iCloud and make sure you turn on the "find my iPhone" function in your settings.

"And once it's turned on the iPhone uses GPS data to locate where the phone is," Burns adds.

So if your phone is stolen, you can track it on any device connected to iCloud.

"Call the police. File a police report and let them know you have location data," Burns says. "Tell them you're using find my iPhone and you can tell them exactly where it is. That can help and has helped the police recover the iPhone for you."

Problem is, the smarter criminals know this and almost immediately wipe the phone of all data, which makes it untraceable.

If you have sensitive information on your phone, like bank account numbers and passwords, you can use iCloud to keep it out of the criminal's hands.

"You can remotely wipe the phone which will send a signal to the phone and erase all the data," Burns says.

Recognizing that theft is becoming a huge problem, apple is working on something of a self-destruct feature called "activation lock" as part of its next iPhone operating system.

"If a thief steals your iPhone and deletes all your data off of it, it essentially becomes a fresh iPhone. They can just sell it. Activation lock will prevent that from happening. So your iPhone will always be your iPhone."

While tracing your stolen iPhone online is a cool feature, police say it's not a good idea to try to find the person who took it and get it back yourself. They say while iPhones are expensive, they're not worth someone's life.

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