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Mobile Device Owners Are a Bigger Threat to Their Devices Than Thieves

The Prey Mobile Theft & Loss Report found that 69% of missing devices worldwide are simply misplaced in places where people feel most secure.

SAN FRANCISCO — Turns out you are your own worst enemy when it comes to missing mobile devices. According to a new report by Prey Inc., a provider of cross-platform, open source anti-theft software, misplaced devices were responsible for a large majority (69%) of all devices reported missing in 2018.

The inaugural Prey Mobile Theft & Loss Report determined that mobile device owners are a greater threat to their devices than are thieves. What’s more, when it comes to device theft, the most comfortable and familiar places — such as offices, homes or schools — can be the least safe.

Prey sorted all theft or loss stories into six categories:

  • Misplaced (69.12%)
  • Pickpocket (10.98%)
  • Home Invasion (7.60%)
  • Armed Robbery (6.76%)
  • Car Break-in (2.77%)
  • Business Break-in (2.77%)

While home invasion, business break-in and car break-in were excluded due to the certainty of their location, the report then breaks down the most likely locations for misplaced, pickpocketed or robbed devices:

  • Misplaced: home (28.10%), street (15.88%), office (13.09%), public transport (11.87%)
  • Pickpocket: public transport (28.57%), street (19.78%), office (17.58%), school (12.09%)
  • Robbery: street (26.79%), home (25%) public transport (8.93%), office (8.93%)

Prey synthesized all this data and determined that the top five places where people are most likely to lose their devices — home, street, office, public transport, school and university — represent a combined 80.94% of all reported events.

The report notes that “these five locations are places which users frequent as part of their daily routines” and goes on to concluded that “the majority of lost device events occur in places where the user is generally comfortable and does not expect insecurity.”

The report goes on to conclude: “If your phone falls into the wrong hands and doesn’t have the proper protection, the thief can get more than a resell profit. The information that on open smartphone provides is enough for a bad actor to carry out identity theft, especially when the phone line continues to be open. When that is the case, thieves can even utilize a stolen phone’s line to reset passwords on high-risk logins, such as your email.”


You can check out research in a multitude of categories here.


The survey considered a total of 829 filtered recovery reports voluntarily filed by Prey software customers over the course of 2018. The reports came from Prey Anti-Theft users in 100 different countries around the world.

The company compiled the survey information in a free report, which is available for download here.

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