In Mexico City, armed robbers are so prevalent on public buses that commuters have to rely on clever ideas to protect their property. Many have started buying fake cellphones to hand over to robbers.
These fake cellphones cost about $15-$25 U.S. dollars and are very sophisticated. They actually have a startup screen and have metal in them to give off the same weight as a real smartphone.
These have come in handy when people need to fool gun toting thieves who regularly attack the bus while they are innocently commuting to work or home.
It happens so often, where innocent passengers are being startled by thieves wearing masks demanding valuables.
“You’re all screwed now! Don’t move or you’re dead! Cellphones and wallets!” says on a thief on a security video. Those who refuse are hit in the head with a pistol or shot and left to die.
Martha Patricia Rociles Estrada has once robbed herself and says most residents commute in fear, “Getting on public transportation is now a risk. You get on, but you never know if you’re going to return. Now you have to be careful to carry money because if you don’t, the thieves get angry and you run the risk that they’ll shoot you if you’re not carrying money.” she said.
There are almost 70 reported violent muggings on average every day in Mexico City. Almost two-thirds of those were committed towards pedestrians, and the rest being bus passengers and assaults on motorists stopped at a light or in traffic.
With smartphones playing a crucial role in everyday life, innocent people don’t realize that they own a device worth hundreds of dollars that holds a wealth of personal information.
“Axel” is someone who sells these dummy phones he says, “It’s useful for robberies, the large number of muggings happening in Mexico City. They say ‘hand over your cellphone, give me everything’, and people know now they have to hand over the phone quick, in a matter of seconds, so they hand over these phones and often the thieves don’t realize it.”
But Axel also warns that a victim of theft may be in bigger trouble if they were caught handing over a “dummy” phone.