Liff Happens

Phone Theft at Music Festivals

Yup… phone theft at music festivals is a problem.

The Problem(s)

One of the problems is there are actually a lot of problems with phone theft at music festivals. But overall it ends up being the consumer that is impacted the most. So we thought we’d try to outline the issues, add some suggestions, and (hopefully) reduce the impact of these a**holes. 

It's Common

Phone Theft at music festivals is terrifyingly common. When phones cost >$1,000 and a 100,000 people will be carrying one around all in the same place… the phrase “fish in a barrel” comes to mind. 

Phone theft at music festivals headlines

It's Professional

You might think well my phone is useless without my passcode (fingerprint, face recognition, so on). The problem is many people still don’t use passcodes.

shame gif from GoT

They might try to scam you out of your passcode (more on that later) More commonly, the devices are moved internationally, typically to Mexico or China, and sold as parts or wiped and used off network. So that new $1,000 iPhone gets sold for ~$30… Doesn’t seem like buying a $400 ticket to a music festival just to steal phones would be worth it, except when you can grab 100 phones (back of the napkin math = $2,600 profit) it looks pretty good. 

Teams, yes multiple teams, of pickpockets flock to festivals just to steal your phone, and whatever else they can get their hands on. This is big business and just getting bigger (thanks Apple…).

You Don't Expect It.

Theft isn’t an experience you’re constantly tracking so you aren’t out looking for it. Music festivals in particular, assuming you’re paying to go have a good time, lull you further away from vigilance. Additionally, many festivals attempt to maintain the good vibes so they avoid advertising that you might be at risk. 

Plus, 24/7 vigilance paired with alcohol (or possibly other vices… you crazy kids) can be quite impossible. 

Theft Tactics

So how do they pull it off? A little insight into some common situations can help you avoid them. 

the more you know about phone theft at music festivals
back pocket phone

Classic Pickpocket

Target: alone or small group, inebriated or distracted, easy access to item (phone sticking half way out of the pocket)

Side note: it’s messed up that typical girl clothing has smaller pockets or no pockets at all.

Tactic: 

  1. Walk behind the target & just pull the phone.
  2. Have a team-member engage and distract the target while they pull the phone.
  3. Bump into you to test the pull. 
phones recording a festival

Slap that Shiz

Target: mosh pitting or heavy crowd, phone out recording the set, the environment is crazy or the crowd is surging.

Tactic: 

  1. They just slap it out of your hand and a teammate scavenges it from the ground.
backpack at a music festival

Slashing Bags

Target: backpack holders, the environment is crazy or the crows is surging, distracted or inebriated.

Tactic: 

  1. During tight crowds and loud sets, the thief uses a razor or knife to cut the straps or open the contents of the bag or backpack. Any valuables that fall out or the entire bag might go missing.

The Solution(s)-ish

While nothing is foolproof it’s been shown that if you’re not as easy of a target then you’ll be less likely to be a victim. Very much the saying: “You don’t have to run faster than the bear to getaway. You just have to run faster than the guy next to you.” But with phone theft at music festivals…

Don't appear as an easy target

Essentially, don’t make it look easy.

  • Keep items out of back pockets or easy to reach places. 
  • Carry less stuff. (can’t lose what you don’t have)
  • Maintain a level head (watch those vices, you kids)
  • Use tight hugging bags to store stuff. My favorite: A Running Belt

Plan for an issue.

Basically, have a fallback plan for if they try something. 

  • Attach your phone to your body… cough cough… Phone Leash
  • Back up your pictures and data just in case. 
  • Payment alternative. Apple and Google Pay can be a miracle if your wallet goes missing.
  • Leave backup items locked in a car or secure area, like a locker. (Don’t forget it though)
  • Have Find My (Apple) or Find My Device (Google) set up. Don’t get scammed afterwards if your phone is taken. 
  • NEVER GIVE OUT PASSWORDS
scam phone theft
This is a friendly scam warning. Phone theft at Music Festivals getting creative.

Ask the Festivals to try...

This is a shameless plug but Liff Happens helps reduce phone theft at Music Festivals, like with our Protect phone registration & Property Tags, and we help attendees recover from all kinds of item loss. So it’s in your best interest (and very much in ours) if you asked the festival to use the Liff App. 

Pre-registration example Phone