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All major US carriers agree to build a database of stolen phones to prevent theft

Posted: , by Victor H.

All major US carriers agree to build a database of stolen phones to prevent theft
US biggest wireless carriers have struck a deal with the Government over the construction of a massive database of all stolen phones, a big move towards preventing phone theft that has boomed recently.

Handsets reported to be lost or stolen will be added to the database, and will be denied voice and data service. Thus, it will become impossible to actually use a stolen cell phone, which should discourage thieves.

"New technologies create new risks," Federal Communications Commission Julius Genachowski said. "We wanted to find a way to reduce the value of stolen smartphones."

Two of the big four carriers - Verizon Wireless and Sprint - are already taking some measures by blocking phone service for devices reported to be stolen or lost. AT&T and T-Mobile on the other hand don’t.

The agreement allegedly comes after pressure from frustrated police officers that find it hard to solve the quickly growing number of stolen phone cases. In New York alone there were 26,000 stolen electronics in the first 10 months of 2011, and 81% of those cases were for cell phones.

Weirdly, phones are now the most stolen item, more sought after by thieves than cash.

It will take around a year for the whole database to be built and centralized. Separate carriers are expected to finish creating or updating their own databases within 6 months. One loophole that thieves can use is that while the handsets will be blocked in the US, they could work on carriers operating overseas.

Do you expect this to work? And what do you think is the solution to phone theft? Of course, you can also check out our advise here or follow the one from the video bellow, which seems to be the best one.

source: WSJ

19 Comments
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posted on 10 Apr 2012, 03:59 2

1. darktranquillity (Posts: 284; Member since: 28 Feb 2012)


Good move, wish indian carriers also follow this.

posted on 10 Apr 2012, 06:36 2

2. TrainFromUkraine (Posts: 63; Member since: 26 Mar 2012)


About damn time!

posted on 10 Apr 2012, 08:10

3. remixfa (Posts: 13902; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


VZW and Sprint can easily block handsets and have for years since they are CDMA. The phone has to register on the network to make it work.. keep it from registering and there is no service. A GSM phone is a much trickier proposition since the service is tied to the sim and not the phone. If the phone can only be locked by the US carrier and still used over seas, it sounds like if you SIM unlock the phone it might bypass the anti-theft device. Its an interesting proposition, but I dont think its going to go very far in the real world.

posted on 10 Apr 2012, 08:38 1

4. jaytai0106 (Posts: 1185; Member since: 30 Mar 2011)


Actually every phone has an its own ID number. Once a stolen phone is reported along with its ID number, then all carriers will receive this information. From there, all carriers can block this phone from their service. Therefore, CDMA and GSM don't really matter.

This is such great move, but wish they would have done it sooner. A lot of European countries already have this in place, which helps to reduce the number of stolen phones.

posted on 10 Apr 2012, 09:29

7. atheisticemetic (Posts: 377; Member since: 18 Dec 2011)


untrue jay...i've taken a phone reported stolen and unlocked it and i was able to use it on a different carrier. The Sim Card dictates your service not the IMEI with GSM carriers.

the IMEI on GSM carriers is strictly used for manufacturer warranty or for unlocking the device

@remix you stole what i was gonna say! :P

so in short this wont do them much good. Hopefully ATT and TMobile find a way to just remotely lock the SIM using the IMEI remotely to lock it down from use. (i still wonder if that's done what unlocking the device would do however)

posted on 10 Apr 2012, 12:15

12. remixfa (Posts: 13902; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


remote locking the SIM is useless, you only need to activate another sim and your back in business. If its an automated computer that continuously locks it down... maybe.. but i really doubt they will put that much money into it. These things are more for show than anything. Sprint and VZW already have lockdown procedures in place and there isnt much ATT/Tmobile can do about it.

posted on 10 Apr 2012, 14:07

14. atheisticemetic (Posts: 377; Member since: 18 Dec 2011)


was looking more along the lines of shutting down the SIM capability remotely (if that's possible).

should have inserted 'slot' after the word SIM. I'm not sure it's even possible, but that's the only way i see them being able to shut down those type of phones.

either way, it seems futile for them to try. They have to use money and resources to make this happen which in turn makes cost go up..i dont see a win win here :)

posted on 10 Apr 2012, 08:44

5. PhoneLuver (Posts: 462; Member since: 05 Jul 2010)


EIR is a standard feature used by most operators. I'm very surprised that the operators in the U.S. haven't been using it..

posted on 10 Apr 2012, 08:57

6. -box- (Posts: 3706; Member since: 04 Jan 2012)


Several things...
1) AT&T & T-Mobile don't do that because they use SIM cards, whereas Verizon and Sprint use programmable modules built into the phones, so they do have the capability of preventing a phone from receiving new programming for a new number
2) People will claim their phones are stolen just to get a new one, and/or after selling them. IF the phones are sold by the original owner, validly and legally, then reported stolen, the purchaser would get severely messed over if the carrier blocked it from being activated.
3) People should only buy used phones if they have the original box and the seller can provide a proof of purchase. Whenever I've purchased phones (or posted them for sale) I've always stuck by this
4) More people should use cell locator services. Many Androids come with a security program with that feature available at no cost. I know my HTC Sensation came with Lookout. First day I activated the locator service. All iphone users should get the Find My iPhone service enrolled, as they're the most sought-after device for a quick resale by the thief

posted on 10 Apr 2012, 09:58

8. TrainFromUkraine (Posts: 63; Member since: 26 Mar 2012)


Oh boy, where do I start with this..

1) Has nothing to do with SIM cards, at all. GSM phones can be flagged through IMEI identifier, CDMA phones have ESN

2) This "fraud" is easily circumvented by checking IMEI or ESN number through the carrier to see if it has been flagged, An honest seller has no problem providing you with one of these, and those who refuse should be avoided. Simple.

3) Pointless

4) Anyone who knows anytning about Android phones will tell you that these locator services, such as one from HTC are worthless and incredibly easy to circumvent.

posted on 10 Apr 2012, 11:14

9. atheisticemetic (Posts: 377; Member since: 18 Dec 2011)


they can be flagged yes...but they can be unlocked and still used

soooo it has everything to do with the SIM :)

posted on 10 Apr 2012, 13:14

13. TrainFromUkraine (Posts: 63; Member since: 26 Mar 2012)


.....what? SIM can be easily swapped while IMEI is permanent. Whan I said "flagged" I meant "banned". Banning a phone by SIM is counterproductive because it's easily circumvented.

posted on 10 Apr 2012, 14:09

15. atheisticemetic (Posts: 377; Member since: 18 Dec 2011)


so it's banned and i just put a new SIM card in or unlock it and use a different provider. There isnt much (if anything) a GSM carrier can do about stolen phones is my point

posted on 11 Apr 2012, 06:23

19. TrainFromUkraine (Posts: 63; Member since: 26 Mar 2012)


This is why I said that GSM carriers shoud ban phones by SIM. That way you can swap SIM all you want but the phone will still be banned.

posted on 10 Apr 2012, 11:16

10. ScelesticSteve (Posts: 26; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)


All carriers can still block the use of voice/data with phones. Even AT&T & TMobile since they use sim cards, they can still be blocked.

I think it will significantly help the stolen phone era, however there are a few things why phones will still be stolen.

1. People can still use the WIFI on smartphones if they are unlocked.
2. Some people are idiots and wouldn't understand until they've already stolen it that it won't work.
3. Like they mentioned above, the use of the phone abroad. I'd say a very low percentage of phone thefts actually result in this though.

Good discussion!

posted on 10 Apr 2012, 12:12

11. daxjuggalo (Posts: 4; Member since: 04 Dec 2011)


I have mixed feelings about this. As I'm a flasher, android tech and used cellphone dealer. The big 4 are always going to grill and flag the phones esn more when the person owes them money like an unpaid bill. But even tho its not stolen it will show up as a bad esn when checking. I flash for cricket they have no rules about bad esn which is why they are so popular. I must get about 50 evos a week. Now while you cannot check of its stolen or they just owe money you can always tell if there is other peoples info on the device as most criminals are not smart enough to factory delete everything after stealing. And most just want it on cricket, occasionally ill get a few trying to sell bad esn but you can always tell when a crackhead comes in.

While even a bad esn can be replaced that won't help this problem. Id like to see anti theft built in by android. So everyone has free access to remote lock, remote wipe and hopefully locate were your phone has gone. Everyone from the carrier to the smartphone maker has something to gain by your phone getting stolen and you.needing to replace it except android, the OS is free no matter what. This is the only one who I see doing something about it. As iv had about 10 phones stolen since the begging of this year and it happens so fast sometimes you forget to download and activate such 3rd party services.

posted on 10 Apr 2012, 14:57

16. Beholder88 (Posts: 80; Member since: 30 Mar 2012)


This is funny watching everyone argue. The main idea of the article is that all the major carriers will be linking to the same database of lost or stolen phones. The SIM issue is really a non issue. Once a SIM using phone connects to the carrier, the information of what kind of phone, including the IMEI is transmitted to the carrier. If the said phone is listed in the database as lost or stolen, the cord gets cut and there is no service, except e911. So you might still be able to unlock a SIM using phone and use it with a smaller, regional carrier, but what's the point there? I see that the government is involved here, so expect ALL carriers to be required at some point to link to this database.

posted on 10 Apr 2012, 15:18

17. kg4icg (Posts: 65; Member since: 18 May 2008)


There are some GSM phones that can be locked down but everyone is poopooing them. Blackberry's can be locked down from use by the 8 digit pin on the phone. That is something that cannot be changed by anyone but Blackberry.

posted on 10 Apr 2012, 18:46

18. joey18 (Posts: 500; Member since: 20 Jul 2010)


Most of stolens phones are the same owners they report stolen then they get new one and pay dedutible insurence

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