Gardaí have issued a warning to mobile phone users after new figures revealed a significant jump in the number of mobile phone thefts in the first seven months of the year.

Official garda figures provided to RTÉ News show that 5,989 phones were stolen between the start of January and the end of July.

That compares to 5,002 in the same period last year and represents a 20% increase year-on-year.

The average value of the phones taken was approximately €250, nearly double the average value of the handsets taken during the same period last year, reflecting the increasing popularity and cost of smart phones.

According to gardaí, around 20% of mobile phones that are stolen are snatched from the owners.

More than 30% are stolen from a vehicle, while one in every six is stolen in restaurants, shops or pubs.

The figures also reveal that if your phone is stolen, it is unlikely the culprit will be caught, with a detection rate of only 20%.

Gardaí say there are a number of steps that mobile phone users can take to protect themselves and their phones.

These include being vigilant and aware of their surroundings when out in public, not leaving a phone in an unattended vehicle and knowing your device's IMEI number.

This number can be used by your service operator to block the phone when stolen.

Reacting to the data, the Irish Cellular Industry Association, which represents service providers, said the figures highlight the importance of having a mobile device insured, especially for those on long-term contracts.

It said that during a typical year, up to a third of insured smart phone customers make a claim, although only a small number of these are for theft.