This is a guest post by Stephen Ebbett

If you have a new iPhone 5, Android smartphone or other mobile device, watch out — you may be targeted by electronic device thieves. It’s a growing problem: The FCC reports that 30 to 40 percent of robberies in several major U.S. cities now involve mobile phones, and the spike in thefts of Apple products like the iPhone and iPad has inspired a new nickname for the crime: “Apple picking.”

Related: Our reporter was mugged in San Francisco. Read her safety tips here.

There’s a growing black market for stolen mobile devices, with crooks following supply and demand trends just as legitimate merchants do. But there are ways to safeguard your investment in mobile devices like the iPhone 5 — and protect the vital personal data stored on your smartphone.

Here are five tips to help you prevent thefts and beat mobile device thieves at their own game:

1. Don’t leave your smartphone unattended: No one would leave $700 on the table while going to the coffee shop counter to pick up an order, but people leave their shiny new mobile devices unattended all the time, providing a golden opportunity for thieves. Don’t make that mistake.

2. Install a tracking app: Both Android and Apple smartphones offer free tracking apps you can install to help you recover your device if someone steals it. The apps allow you to log onto another device like a laptop or tablet and track your missing device’s current location.

3. Be aware of your surroundings: Treat your iPhone 5 or other smartphone like you would a wallet – chances are it is more valuable than the contents of your billfold! Avoid handling it in unsafe areas, and keep both hands on the device to thwart thieves when you do have to display it in public.

4. Make sure you set a passcode: You probably have a lot of personal data on your smartphone – including private messages, contact information and even mobile banking data. This can be a bonanza for thieves, but you can stop them in their tracks with a simple passcode.

5. Ask your carrier for help: If your smartphone goes missing and you are unable to track it through a GPS app, your wireless carrier may be able to help. Contact customer service immediately and ask them to help you recover your phone and protect your personal data.

As long as there’s a black market for stolen smartphones, thieves will target them, so it pays to be prepared. Your new iPhone 5 or Android device is a big-ticket item, and if you are protected by a warranty only, theft may not be covered at all, and it’s likely you’ll have to pay much more out of pocket to replace your device than the original purchase price.

Stephen head shotStephen Ebbett is President of Protect Your Bubble, a new kind of insurance brand that understands that 21st century lives are busy and complicated and offers an online service that makes insurance simple and uncomplicated. The company offers a range of insurance products, such as iPhone 5 insurance, that has been specifically tailored to offer protection in a fast changing, modern world, so that customers are prepared if the unexpected happens, with the coverage and support they need in place and immediately available. 

Stolen cell phone image // Innershadows Photography, Shutterstock