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Londoners top world in leaving laptops in taxis

Mister, you've left your hamster in my cab

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Thousands of valuable mobile phones, PDAs and laptops are forgotten in taxis every day, according to a survey out today. The international survey of 900 taxi drivers reveals that absent minded passengers are leaving sensitive information up for grabs because they fail to use password and encryption facilities on mobile devices.

In the last six months in London, 63,135 mobile phones (an average of three phones per taxi), 5,838 PDAs and 4,973 laptops have been left in licensed taxi cabs. Cab drivers in Helsinki, Oslo, Munich, Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Chicago and Sydney also took part in the study which revealed wide international differences.

Londoners left more than double the number of laptops in the back of taxis compared with other cities. In Chicago, the mobile device most likely to be left behind were PDAs, with one taxi driver reporting finding 40 in his taxi in the past six months. Danes were most forgetful when it came to mobile phones, leaving seven times as many in the back of cabs as Germans or their Swedish neighbours.

The survey in London was conducted by TAXI, the magazine for the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association magazine, and sponsored by Pointsec, a mobile security outfit. Pointsec carried out a similar study in London three and a half years ago and recorded 71 per cent fewer PCs left in the back of cabs.

Magnus Ahlberg MD of Pointsec commented "It is alarming to see that the problem of losing mobile devices has accelerated so dramatically since 2001, with more people than ever losing their mobile devices in transit. In fact, mobile users are in a worse position now, because they are far more reliant on using their mobile devices to store massive amounts of sensitive information, with very few concerned about backing it up or protecting it."

With such forgetful passengers it’s just as well that taxi drivers are generally an honest bunch. According to the survey, an average of 80 per cent of passengers were reunited with their mobile phones and 96 per cent with their PDAs and laptops - with the cab drivers in almost all cases tracking down their owners.

However, the case was very different in Australia, with only 46 per cent of laid-back passengers bothering to reclaim their mobiles and only 18 per cent being reunited with their laptops.

Stuart Pessok, editor of TAXI commented: "Often people are working whilst being driven around in taxis and its common-place for them to forget their mobile devices. Luckily if they forget them in a taxi, there is a good chance they'll get them back, but will they be so lucky if they forget them in an airport, restaurant, train or tube? “

When asked what about the strangest items left in their taxis, London and Munich cabbies both reported finding a large number of sex aids. Taxi drivers everywhere found a large number of forgotten condoms.

UK taxi drivers reported finding a "harp, a throne, £100,000 worth of diamonds, 37 milk bottles, a dog, a hamster, a suitcase from the fraud squad and a baby" in their cabs. Extraordinary, if true. ®

Related stories

Old PCs are goldmine for data thieves
PDA security still dismal
UK military bans iPods - some places

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