Don't turn your back, says boss of mobile phone firm

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The Independent Online

A leading figure in the British mobile phone industry advised the public yesterday to stop using their phones close to rail and Tube stations to avoid being mugged.

A leading figure in the British mobile phone industry advised the public yesterday to stop using their phones close to rail and Tube stations to avoid being mugged.

Charles Dunstone, chief executive officer of the Carphone Warehouse, said phone users should stand with their backs to walls when making calls in public to avoid being attacked from behind.

The advice, part of a safety initiative backed by Britain's most senior police officer, Sir John Stevens, provides a further indication of the risks of carrying what is becoming one of the most dangerous of modern accessories.

Mr Dunstone conceded that the mobile phone industry had been "ambivalent" in its attitude towards rising numbers of attacks on its customers.

His comments represent the first important stance by the industry against what has become one of the most alarming growth areas in criminal activity. Recent Home Office research found that 700,000 mobile phone handsets were stolen last year.

Mr Dunstone said that customers who had been victims of robberies had often been attacked at stations when they switched on their phones. He said: "Avoid using your phone as soon as you get out of an area that has no signal like a Tube or railway station. If you were a thief, that would be a fertile hunting ground."

Mr Dunstone suggested that people worried about being mugged should use hands-free kits because they were less obvious. "It's when you are holding the thing to your ear that you are most vulnerable," he added.

The Carphone Warehouse boss saw mobile phone robbery first hand when he and a colleague made a business visit to Rotterdam in December. He said: "A guy ran up behind my colleague and bashed his phone out of his hand. Before we could react he had run off. They even got someone to run past us quickly in the other direction to confuse us."

The Government has urged the mobile phone industry to use new technology as a way of making phones less attractive to thieves. Mr Dunstone said:

"The mobile phone industry needs to show to the world that it's taking this issue seriously. Otherwise you get a feeling that the industry was not taking seriously the threats posed to its customers."

Next week has been named Combat Mobile Phone Crime Week by the police and Carphone Warehouse is working alongside forces to offer free ultraviolet marking of phones to make them more difficult to sell on. It is also offering theft insurance to people with phones up to six months old.