Looking after your cellphone in Buenos Aires

By Tracey Chandler

Foto by Baraderohoy.comBuenos Aires is, like most mega capital cities, a place where petty crime is always a possible threat, particularly when it comes to mobile phone theft.

However, it’s debateable whether Buenos Aires is more or less dangerous than other capital cities in the world, as a huge part of how you might feel wandering around the streets of Buenos Aires depends on where you grew up and on the experiences that you have had to live through.

What is evident is that mobile phones in Buenos Aires cost a lot of money, thanks to the instable nature of the peso and rising inflation. The cost of mobile phones in Buenos Aires, particularly those which are unblocked, is high when price-comparing with other major cities in the world.

 For instance, the cost of an unblocked Samsung Galaxy S4 in Buenos Aires (if bought on the high street) comes in at about 6000 Argentine pesos (US$730). This conversion is going by the “official exchange rate.” If you find yourself faced with the drama of having to buy one of these cell phones using the “blue” rate, you’d be looking at about 8750 Argentine pesos. In the US, you might be able to pick one up for about US$500, AUD$665 (US$580) and in the UK for about £400 (US$665).*

 *These prices are accurate at the time of writing and based on the prices as laid out by various national and multi-national technology stores across the world.

 The undeniable worth of a high quality cell phone in Buenos Aires is one of the reasons why cell phone robbery happens to be one of the main forms of petty street crime in Argentina’s capital at present. The OSAC Crime and Safety Report for Argentina in 2013 states that in Buenos Aires, “thieves specifically target expensive looking jewellery, watches, cell phones, cameras, and backpacks/bags.”

Foto by CambalacheBlog

 According to a report conducted by the OEA, the number of robberies which take place across the whole of Argentina doubles the average of robberies which take place within 28 other countries across both North and South America. The report states that every 973 out of 100,000 inhabitants in Argentina have been robbed. In Brasil, the numbers reveal a huge difference – 456 inhabitants out of 100,000 have been robbed. In Chile, 542, in Uruguay 410 and in the US 123.

 A second issue to be aware of relating to cell phone robberies in Buenos Aires is that thieves have developed some pretty nifty ways of getting hold of your high quality cell phone; impressive tricks that are characteristic of the Buenos Aires thief. Take the following situations and advice on board to do everything possible to avoid being the victim of cell phone street crime…

The clever distraction

One tourist whilst visiting Buenos Aires on VirtualTourist.com describes two incidences of cell phone theft which reveal highly astute, calm and well-practiced cell phone thieves in action. The first incident was when the tourist in question happened to be on the subte (subway/metro/tube), “He came and sat beside me on the train, pretended to cough badly and to vomit while stealing my smart phone.”

The helpful stranger

When describing the second incident, the tourist remembers that “we were targeted while walking on the street. Something was spilled on us from above and two people (a man and a woman) started to clean us with their tissues.” Managing to gain your confidence by any means possible is one of the best ways for a cell phone thief to steal your phone directly from your pockets, so take extra care.

 The artful dodger

These cell phone thieves must practice perfecting their aim and quick grip for hours. Be careful not to take your cell phone out close to the kerb late at night. You might be passed quickly by a thief on a bicycle who will just snap that cell phone right out of your hands. The same goes for being on a bus. Avoid chatting away on your cell phone by the bus exits as thieves are quite adept at snatching cell phones out of their victim’s hands before handily exiting the bus in a flash.

 A few final considerations

Tourists are a high target for smart phone theft because most tourists who are seen using a smart phone are normally using an unblocked phone. Unblocked phones in Buenos Aires are also even more expensive to buy and therefore petty thieves can make a great deal of cash from selling them. Anyone can buy these stolen phones and begin using their phone with any cell phone provider. This kind of consumer freedom is not so easily achieved in Buenos Aires on the whole, so there’s always someone willing to buy – irrespective of where they believe the phone might have come from (ie: someone else’s bag).

 It’s also really important to state that, even while the statistics are unfavourable and even while cell phone theft is definitely one of the main risks to be aware of in Buenos Aires, if you are careful and you don’t flash your personal possessions around for all to see, there’s less of a risk that you’ll end up being a target. Avoid taking your phone out in public, particularly at night, and be very careful that zips which open your bag or wallet are not easily accessible to those around you in busy places (like on public transport).

 If you travel consciously, you probably won’t run into any problems. Just be aware and avoid drawing attention to what you might or might not have on you.

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