Deputies investigating string of smartphone smash-and-grabs - FOX 13 News

Deputies investigating string of smartphone smash-and-grabs

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Law enforcement agencies across the Bay area are investigating a string of smartphone thefts.

All it took was a sledge hammer and some tools for four thieves to swipe a stock room full of iPhones and Androids from a Best Buy Mobile earlier this month.

The crime is catching on across the Bay area.  Police are looking for a suspect seen on surveillance cameras smashing his way into a Palm Harbor AT&T store. He didn't touch the cash register. Instead, he stuffed a bookbag with smartphones.

"They're readily available in the stores. If the store's closed, they're on the store shelves," Pinellas County Sheriff's Office's Cristen Rensel said Tuesday.

Pinellas County deputies are also looking for a man caught on surveillance cameras stealing an Oldsmar Sprint employee's cell phone while he wasn't looking.

"He grabbed the cell phone of the employee, walked out to his car, went back into the store for a moment, said he didn't have what he needed and then he left," Rensel said.

Experts say often the smartphones are more valuable than any amount of money stashed in a wallet or a cash register.

"It is a big problem because people don't realize some of these phones are $600, $700," Tampa's iHospital Lead Technician Nikesh Patel said Tuesday.

There are some options to help smartphone users keep track of their technology. iPhone's iCloud software allows users to track their phone's whereabouts in case it gets lost or stolen.

"It should show you where it's at as long as you have an internet connection and it's on," Patel said.

Experts advise keeping a close eye on your phone and also setting a passcode to keep your personal information safe, in case it is stolen.

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