Experts Say If You Choose To Do It You Absolutely Must Read The Fine Print

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — These days, everyone has a cellphone, but what happens when it’s lost, or worse, stolen?

As CBS 2’s Maurice DuBois reported Wednesday night, insurance is an option — as long as you make sure to read the fine print.

Stealing a cellphone is easy. A brazen thief was recently spotted on camera snatching a cellphone right out of an unsuspecting woman’s hand while she was in the middle of a conversation.

“Forty percent of all robberies last year included a smartphone,” said consumer expert Jessica Patel.

With the price of smartphones reaching nearly $1,000, police are warning users to be on guard.

“Think if you took $300 out of the ATM machine, you would not walk down the block for several blocks counting the 20s,” said San Francisco Police Capt. Joe Garrity.

Margaret Laster’s phone was stolen, prompting her to buy insurance.

“I think I left it in a taxi cab,” she said.

And when the replacement was misplaced, it should have cost her $600 for a new one. But with her insurance, she only had to shell out about $200.

“Much cheaper than buying a new phone,” she said.

Experts say as many as 80 million phones are lost, stolen or damaged each year. So now, more and more people are opting to pay for insurance.

“The cost usually varies between $8 and $12 a month, plus a deductible, and the deductible could be anywhere from $199 to $50 depending on your provider,” Patel said.

Each wireless provider offers their own insurance plan, but all pretty much work the same way: you file a claim, pay the deductible, and a phone of equal or greater value will be sent to you.

“They’re going to ask you how it happened — was it lost or was it stolen,” Patel said. “If it was stolen, you’ll need to provide a police report to verify that it was stolen.”

But at a cost of an average of $10 a month, is cellphone insurance really worth it?

“You really need to look at the cost of your phone, how much it would be to replace it, how long is your contract for and how far into your contract you are,” Patel said.

Patel said insurance makes the most sense for people who are prone to losing or breaking their phones, or are worried about theft. But again, experts warn, be sure to read the fine print.

“You can’t lose your phone five times or break it five times,” she said. “There’s usually a limit.”

For Laster, she said insuring her smartphone was ultimately a smart move.

“It’s funny how we now have to insure our phones,” she said, “but I think in hindsight, I’m really glad I did it because it paid off in this instance.”

There are other options, including checking the phone’s warranty, and considering filing a claim with your homeowner’s insurance.

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