The Plan to Stop the Jerks Who Stole Your Phone

Locked PhoneAttention, anyone who ever lost a cell phone and never got it back: All major U.S. carriers are joining forces to create a merged database of stolen mobile phones to block the devices from being used on other carriers.

Even if the measure comes a little bit late in cell phone history, it’s great news for those who lose a phone from here on out. It appears that police chiefs from major cities and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission asked telecom carriers to find a way to combat cell phone theft. A solution was found, and by the end of 2013, all four major U.S. carriers as well as the smaller ones will merge their databases to prevent the use of any stolen mobile phone.

The idea behind the database is very simple. Each phone is assigned a unique International Mobile Equipment Identity number. You may have heard people saying, “Write down your IMEI number and never share it in case you lose your phone.” Once the databases are merged, carriers will be able to block stolen cell phones, identified by their IMEI, making it practically impossible to get service on another network. Until now, if you lost your phone in the U.S., carriers could only block your SIM card from being used by the thief.

It’s a good plan that could discourage thieves and give real owners the satisfaction that their phones can’t be used by other people—at least in theory. I don’t know what would happen if you tried to unlock a stolen phone using various secret techniques, or whether a blocked phone could be used in another country.

I’d advise every smartphone owner to install a paid app that gives them the option to track the position of their device in real time. In the event of a theft, they could either find their phone (and the thief), or remotely wipe their personal data and block the phone.

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2 Responses to “The Plan to Stop the Jerks Who Stole Your Phone”

  1. This sounds like a great idea, but I see a host of problems with it.
    1) How do you know the IMEI if you never wrote it down?
    2) what if you have a pay-as-you-go play?
    3) What if you thought it was stolen/lost (and you reported it as such) but you later find/recover it?
    3b) what if a thief claims that it was stolen/lost but now was found/recovered?

    I suspect these issues were never addressed and will cause growing pains, but I suppose we’re going in the right direction.

    • I think they addressed these issues, but they just forgot to tell us about. Maybe they want to apply some fees.
      1) It is not necessary to know your IMEI. It was one of those unuseful tips that were shared many years ago. Nowdays operators can easily find and block your phone if you prove that you are the owner.
      2) I don’t know what would happen if you have a pay-as-you-go plan. I think if the phone was bought from a carrier they should match it with your pay-as-you-go plan. And if something bad happens they could intervene.
      3) The carrier can easy unblock your IMEI. I guess that you just have to show them the phone and tell them that you got it back and you need it restored.
      3b) Same thing.