Thieves Are Snatching Phones and Stealing Personal Info After Studying Victims' Passwords, Investigation Finds

Clever cell phone bandits are targeting bargoers out at night, watching as their targets enter in their passwords onto their cellphones before swiping the phone.s and stealing victims' personal information.

If you think all your personal information is safe on your phone because it’s locked with a passcode, think again. As one woman who had thousands drained from her bank account learned, those with ill intent can look over your shoulder, memorize your passcode and snatch your phone.

Manhattan economist Reyhan Ayas says she was standing outside a bar in New York City when a thief snatched her iPhone.

“It was probably the worst 72 hours of my life,” she tells Inside Edition.  

It’s believed that many of those behind such thefts work in teams. One person looks over a potential target’s shoulder as they type in their code, and another swipes the phone.  

Greg Frasca says that’s what happened to him at a bar in Chicago.  

“This is a pretty professional scam,” he says.  

Wall Street Journal tech columnist Joanna Stern says these thieves are targeting bargoers who may have been drinking and are out at night.  

“Ultimately if a thief knows your passcode, it is basically game over,” she says.  

She says once a thief gets your phone, the first thing they do is change your passcode to lock you out, and then they go for your money. 

That was the case for Ayas, who says that after her phone was taken, she saw a staggering sum stolen from her bank account.  

“About $10,000 taken from my account,” she says.  

Victims say another nightmare began when they realized they were locked out of the Apple accounts, which meant they were unable to access their phones.  

“All my photos are lost, all [of] my iCloud, 15 years [of content],” Ayas says.  

Although their photos live in Apple’s iCloud, they say Apple will not restore their access because they have no way of confirming it’s the actual owner requesting the restoration. Ayas says she was willing to show any proof of her identity to get access to her photos. 

“I would grab my passport, grab my driver’s license and run to the nearest Apple store to get my photos back,” she tells Inside Edition.  

But Apple will not budge, she says. And so, her precious memories exist in the cloud, unattainable forever, ironically accessible only to thieves who stole her phone.  

Apple says that they "sympathize" with customers who've had this experience and take the incidents seriously, adding they work hard to protect users accounts and are always investigating additional protections against new threats. For privacy reasons, Apple also says they don't accept passports or driver's licenses to confirm ownership of an account.

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