CHARLOTTE, N.C. — You’ve probably heard reports on thieves targeting cell phone stores, grabbing phones from the shelves and making a run for it. Now crooks are looking to snatch your phone -- right after you get it.

One moment, James Wright was at Verizon on Tyvola switching his family over to a new carrier. The next minute, as the clerk was almost finished, he said a man near him reached for his phone.

“We wasn’t really paying him much attention,“ Wright said. "Next thing you know, he got up grabbed my phone...he just looked around, and he shot out the door.”

Thieves are now targeting customers’ cell phones inside the store after the phones have been activated. A manager told NBC Charlotte cell phone stores have seen a recent spike in thefts of this kind.

Verizon is working with Apple to shut down the stolen phones -- making them about as useful as a brick.

“Pretty much, he just got him a decent phone but it’s locked now,” said Wright, who now know to pay closer attention to his surroundings, even when he’s off duty.

“I was in a state of shock and for me to be a security officer and never ever in the last five years any kind of situation like that,” Wright said.