UCL News


Phone snatching: How to avoid it

12 February 2024

Moped and bike enabled crime occurs in all areas of London and unfortunately, 'phone-snatching' is common in Bloomsbury. Please be alert if you're using your phone in a public place.


We've recently seen increased reports of criminals on mopeds, bikes and electric bicycles carrying out 'snatch thefts', sometimes in groups. Some criminals dress as Deliveroo or other well-known delivery company riders, so victims do not suspect them as they cycle close to them on pavements.

Criminals who use mopeds and bikes tend to operate in areas with a high pedestrian footfall. The Bloomsbury area sees a lot of people coming from Kings Cross/St Pancras/Euston heading to the West End and vice versa; there is also huge footfall of tourists as well as a high density of students around areas such as Gordon Street.

If you're using your phone around these areas – including outside buildings that are on quieter streets, such as Bidborough House and Bentham House – please remain vigilant.

Top tips to keep your phone safe:

  • Be aware of your surroundings when using your phone outdoors: Try to avoid using your phone in public. If you do, use it away from the road side and keep checking your surroundings. You may want to think about using a Bluetooth headset so you do not need to have your phone out in front of you.
  • Be vigilant: Criminals are counting on your being distracted by your phone so you do not notice them as they approach. Look out for bikes and mopeds if they ride on the pavement.
  • Train or tube: Try to avoid taking your phone out when you leave transport hubs. These are hotspots for criminals as they know people often check their phones when their signal returns.
  • Keep it locked: This way thieves cannot access your personal information.  
  • Register with Immobilise. This will help Police return your phone to you if it is recovered: www.immobilise.com
  • Update your security settings
    1. Note down your phone's IMEI number (which you can find in your settings or by entering *#06# on the dial screen). If stolen call your service provider and ask them to block your phone so criminals cannot access your personal information.
    2. It is worth updating your security settings so you can remotely block your phone. You can set up the tracking app ‘Find my IPhone’ or similar on Android, which may help Police to locate your phone. Please do not attempt to track your phone yourself, as confronting a criminal could be dangerous.

Call UCL Security 24/7 on:

  • Emergency Number: 020 7679 2222 or (222 from any internal UCL phone)
  • Non emergency number: 020 7679 3108
  • You can also download the SafeZone app, which puts you in touch with UCL Security at the touch of a button
  • Follow UCL Security on Twitter and Instagram @UCLSecurity

Any crimes off campus call 999 if it is an emergency. Call 101 if it is not an emergency or you can report online.

Sophie Bimson, UCL Crime Prevention and Personal Safety Advisor