08/20/2013 05:08 pm ET Updated Aug 21, 2013

'Gold' iPhone Would Be Natural Target For Thieves

The new gold-colored iPhone that Apple is rumored to be working on could be a hot target for thieves, experts say.

There have been rumors for months based on supply chain leaks that Apple may be planning a gold-colored iPhone, and on Monday TechCrunch
and AllThingsD reported that they spoke to sources who confirmed the rumor.

If true, a gold- -- or as AllThingD's source said, "champagne"-colored -- iPhone, will be introduced at a time when smartphone thefts make up around 40 percent of thefts in major cities, and manufacturers are under pressure to put "kill switches" in phones to make them inoperable if stolen.

But a gold-colored iPhone would make a product that is already attractive to criminals, even more attractive, said Eugene O'Donnell, a former New York City Police officer and now a police studies professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

"There might be some perception that the gold one is the gold standard for somebody who is either planning or instantaneously decides to [steal a phone]," O'Donnell said, noting that many iPhone thefts are "opportunistic," not premeditated.

"The reality is that crime tends to mirror fashion trends," he said. "Any flashy, new, fashionable trend-setting device is going to elicit attention from consumers and criminals."

Apple's newest phone is widely expected to be called the iPhone 5S and released Sept. 10, and if Apple follows convention with its upgrades on the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4s, the iPhone 5S will be almost identical to the iPhone 5. A gold-colored iPhone, however, would make it obvious who has the latest iPhone, said Mat Mullen, the founder of iHound Software, a company that made software to help find lost or stolen iPhones.

"If you're a smart thief you know that gold is the newest version," Mullen said. "There's going to be a higher market value for gold one if you can immediately tell it's the newest version."

Mullen, who sold iHound to Experian in 2011, said that when he ran the company, the newest phones were always most in demand for thieves. According to the NYPD, thefts of iPhones tend to spike following the release of new models.

Sgt. Dennis Toomer, a public information officer with the San Francisco Police Department, said he can't speculate about a product that isn't out, but likened the potential release of a gold-colored iPhone to the release of the iPhone in 2007.

At that time, Toomer said, thieves could identify people with the new device based solely on their earbuds, which made them attractive targets. "I imagine it'll be the same thing," Toomer said. "A gold phone is pretty unique to other phones."

But since then, many people have started using different headphones so earbuds give fewer clues about the device in the person's pocket. Toomer imagines that people will adapt with the gold-colored iPhone, too.

Toomer also said that most iPhone thefts in the city are "snatch-and-grabs;" phones are stolen when people are using them on public transportation, or while walking and texting, unaware of their surroundings.

HuffPost technology reporter Gerry Smith wrote in his series on stolen iPhones that in 2012 more than 1.6 million Americans were the victims of smartphone theft, and police departments in New York, Washington and San Francisco established special task forces to combat smartphone theft.

[Image via Shop Le Monde]