Home Office crime statistics confirm a wave of iPod thefts across the UK, as criminals learn to target music lovers who wear white headphones.

Muggings rose by almost 40 per cent in some parts of the UK last year, The Sunday Times reported yesterday. In London, such crimes have increased for the first time in three years.

Across the nation, mugging rates climbed an average 5 per cent, with figures higher in some areas,

Chief superintendent Paul Forrester of Merseyside police said students and teenagers are particularly affected by the new crime wave: "Some children carry phones and iPods worth over £600 and they are making themselves walking targets," he said.

Metropolitan police chief Sir Ian Blair observed: "It is very obvious when someone is wearing an iPod. That is what is fuelling this."

One insurance company replaced 36 lost or stolen iPods between January and September 2004, but replaced 1,721 iPods in the same period this year.

Apple's black iPod nano ships with mugger-attracting white headphones.