IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) – Law enforcement officials in Irving are warning North Texans about a continued increase in cell phone thefts in the DFW area. Irving has already seen 361 cell phones stolen this year — a 20 percent increase from last year — and, police said, it is not the only North Texas city struggling with this rising trend.

According to authorities, only some of the thefts occur when owners leave their phones unattended. Many of them happen when a suspect asks to borrow a victim’s cell phone, and then runs away from the scene with the victim left standing in bewilderment.

Police said that the suspects will often attempt to gain sympathy from the victims, by telling a fake story about their phone being broken or locked up inside of a home or vehicle. Even when the victim is reluctant to hand over their device, the suspect will then ask the victim to dial a phone number and hand over the phone when the line starts ringing.

The suspect still runs away with the phone, leaving the victim stunned.

Police all over North Texas are looking for a way to prevent this type of theft, and hoping that awareness can be just the first step in slowing the troubling trend.

Given how much personal data is accessible on one’s cell phone, authorities explained, it is important that users protect it just as you would a wallet or purse. Keep it close by at all times, and do not let others hold or use your phone unless you trust them with the information that is kept inside.

Also, police recommend writing down the device’s serial number and IMEI number, and backing up your personal data often. And ask your cell phone provider what type of services they offer for customers who have a phone that has become stolen or lost. Some phone carriers can totally disable a device after it is taken, or can help authorities track it down.

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