It’s harder than you think to get your smartphone stolen in South Africa

If there’s one thing you can count on in South Africa, it’s that if you need something stolen, you don’t have to try hard to make it happen, right?


It turns out our countrymen are honest and caring people, and my efforts to get a smartphone stolen failed miserably.

I thought our plan was foolproof.

Take a large, touchscreen Android smartphone, leave it in busy areas where people often complain about devices getting taken, and then see where it goes once it was stolen.

We expected the “stealing” part of the article to be the easiest – we were wrong.

Kind citizens

My first stops were three popular shopping malls in Gauteng – two in Pretoria and one in Midrand – on a Sunday.

After five minutes in the first mall, in Midrand, I knew we had underestimated the task at hand.

The smartphone was left on top of a small ledge in the men’s bathroom above the urinals. I “forgot” it there and went to wash my hands and dry them.

Before I could go back to see if the phone was gone, a man in the bathroom had picked it up and was handing it to a security guard – stating someone had left it behind.

I collected the phone and tried plan B.

The phone was placed behind me on a bench in the shopping mall in a high-traffic area. It was out of my sight, and I pretended to be busy on my other smartphone – leaving the bait device to be easily taken.

In under 10 minutes, two shoppers on two separate occasions walked up to me, tapped me on the shoulder, and said I must be careful where I leave my phone. They advised me to keep an eye on it.

I tried a different bench using the same method. No takers.

I then tried my luck at two malls in Pretoria. The phone was left on benches, tables, information displays, and the rim of dustbins – all while I looked away or walked a few metres away.


You forgot your phone

After the failed attempts at shopping malls, it was time to get serious.

The phone was left on the boot lid of my car at a petrol station in Centurion, and in the parking lot of a small shopping centre in Pretoria – both at night, on the weekend, when it was busy.

I walked away from the car, left the phone there for several minutes on both occasions, and came back to find it untouched.

The final attempt was the parking lot of a large retail store in Centurion on a Monday afternoon.

I parked the car, acted as if I got a call on my other smartphone, and left the bait device on the boot of my car. I then started walking away.

The carguard near my vehicle had been eyeing the phone as soon as I put it down, and I thought we had our first taker.

As I started walking away from my car, he called to me: “Meneer, you have left your phone.”

We have not given up yet, but if South Africans keep on being so nice, this might take a while.

Bait Smartphone

Now read: Apple cracks down on black market iPhones in China

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It’s harder than you think to get your smartphone stolen in South Africa