Nearly half a million Brits had a mobile phone stolen in the last year

14 March 2017

Corinne Webb

Nearly half a million Brits had a mobile phone stolen in 2016

In March 2017, Protect Your Bubble analysed the latest mobile phone theft data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales, which revealed 446,000 mobile phones have been stolen in the latest 12-month period.

Other things we found…

  • People in their early twenties are twice as likely to fall victim to mobile theft
  • Nearly a third (32%) of owners take no security measures with their phone
  • However, the latest figures show mobile thefts are at a 10-year low

Official crime data reveals that, on average, 1,220 mobile phones are stolen every day in the UK, but better security systems are having a huge impact on mobile phone theft with the numbers stolen at their lowest level for 10 years.

The data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales reveals the rates of theft are twice as high for younger people as the general population. 2% of 22-24 year olds have had their mobile stolen and 2.4% aged 18-21. Women in this age group are the most vulnerable to mobile phone theft.

The favourite methods of the thieves are pickpocketing and snatch theft, where a phone is grabbed from the victim’s hand. More than 40% of phones are stolen this way compared to just 5% that are taken during a mugging.

But just over a third (35%) of stolen mobiles go missing when they are left out and unattended, for example if a mobile phone owner leaves their handset on a table and takes their eyes off it briefly. Figures show this happens on public transport and other public places more often than it does in bars and clubs. And 15% of such thefts happen at work. 

The theft of mobiles peaked at 897,000 in April 2008 to March 2009, according to the data in the Crime Survey of England and Wales, which is used by the government to track trends in crime.

The numbers declined sharply the following year and once again fell substantially between 2013 and early 2015. They are now at 50% of the peak in 2008.

Research for the Home Office1 suggests the reductions are linked to the introduction of better manufacturer security systems. It says the introduction of better security since late 2013 by the likes of Apple and Samsung had an impact on the black market value of phones, which made them less attractive to thieves.

Many people do little to protect themselves. Just over half (53%) the owners surveyed use a PIN code and around a fifth (21%) use apps to track their phone if it is lost or stolen. Nearly a third (31%) of people take out mobile phone insurance, but nearly the same proportion (32%) takes no security measures at all.


Security measures taken by mobile phone owners (%)
All Male Female
Use PIN or lock code 53% 54% 51%
Mobile phone Insurance 31% 30% 31%
App to lock phone remotely 21% 23% 18%
Recorded phone serial number 17% 19% 14%
Noted service provider number 14% 15% 12%
Installed anti-virus/spyware 10% 12% 9%
Placed on asset register 5% 6% 5%
Physically marked phone 2% 3% 2%
None 32% 31% 34%
Crime Survey England and Wales 2014/15

The likelihood of people taking some of these simple measures changes according to their age. A PIN or lock code is used by 76% of people aged 16 to 24 but by only 10% of those aged over 75.

Research has also revealed the brands and models of phones most likely to be stolen.  A study of Metropolitan Police data for 2015 by the Behavioural Insights Team, an organisation part owned by the government, revealed that 59% of all phones stolen were iPhones.

The scale of thefts for a brand corresponds to the popularity of the phones, but the study also concluded some models are particularly targeted. Data for thefts where a phone was targeted – so not including those taken while in handbags, cars or during burglaries – reveals Apple is the most sought-after brand, but particular models from other manufacturers were targeted more. The HTC M8 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge were more popular than specific iPhones.


Top 10 mobile models targeted by thieves, 2015
1 HTC M8
2 Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
3 Apple iPhone 6 Plus
4 Apple iPhone 6
5 Apple iPhone 6s
6 Samsung Galaxy S6
7 Samsung Galaxy S5
8 Samsung Galaxy Note
9 Apple iPhone 5C
10 HTC One
Data from Metropolitan Police, 2015

Rob Basinger, head of UK at gadget insurer Protect Your Bubble, comments: “The reduction in the theft of mobiles is welcome news but their popularity, and the value of some component parts, means hundreds of thousands of people a year will still have handsets stolen – most likely snatched from their hands. Many theft victims tell us thieves mounted pavements on push bikes or motorcycles to grab their handsets, so mobile users should always be aware of their surroundings.

“Given that most flagship smartphones cost more than £500 to replace, it can be an expensive loss. Taking a few minutes to activate your phone’s in-built security technology is time well spent, while targeted insurance gives people a way to protect themselves financially as well.”

Cover your mobile against theft as well as loss and accidental damage with Protect Your Bubble. Get a quick quote here:

We also offer household gadget insurance, covering against theft, liquid damage, cracked screens & more. You can insure multiple gadgets all under one policy whilst also making a saving! Find out more here:

Policy terms and conditions apply. Please see website for details.

– ENDS –



The Crime Survey of England and Wales looks at Police recorded crime. It is an annual survey of more than 30,000 people, used by the government to track trends in crime, the level of offences and the impact upon victims.


  1. From the Home Office reports: Reducing Mobile Phone Theft and Improving Security - Paper 2, March 2016 and September 2014


For more information please contact:

Amelia Lupson, Rhizome Media T 020 8004 5984 | E