Last Wednesday some U.S. wireless carriers implemented the first part of a national strategy to deter cell phone theft: a joint “blacklist” database of identifying information about cell phones reported lost or stolen.
As of now, cell phone dealers are supposed to check this database before honoring requests to reactivate allegedly “locked-out” phones, in order to prevent people from using stolen phones.
It used to be that when you reported a phone lost or stolen, your carrier would suspend service to that device. But the person who stole your phone (or someone who bought it from the thief) could still walk into a cell phone dealer and get your phone reactivated under a new account.
Chris Guttman-McCabe, vice president of regulatory affairs for CTIA (a global association of wireless carriers), explained: “The point of the blacklist database is to dry up the aftermarket for stolen phones. If you can’t reactivate a stolen phone, it’s just a worthless hunk of plastic and metal…”
…Under this plan, U.S. carriers that use GSM network technology (that’s AT&T and T-Mobile) committed to launching their databases by October 31…The other U.S. carriers, which operate CDMA-technology networks, still have over a year to get their lost/stolen phone databases up and running… According to CTIA, Sprint/Nextel has already implemented its database.
At first these CDMA databases will be carrier-specific; later the blacklists from all carriers will be integrated into a single database…
One factor slowing the implementation of a centralized cross-carrier database of lost or stolen phones is the uneven pace of LTE network rollouts across the U.S. Some of the identifying information listed in the database is derived from wireless networks, and variations in network technology make it difficult to create consistent and reliable listings for individual devices.
So, while the carriers work to dry up the stolen phone aftermarket, take a moment to set up remote wipe service for your phone, remember to keep it locked, and beware of low-cost used phones available for sale on eBay, Craigslist, and elsewhere. If you purchase a device that turns out to be stolen and therefore can’t activate it, you won’t get your money back.
Turning an otherwise profitable product – therefore worth stealing – into a chunk of valueless plastic and electronics is the best way to end almost all theft of this type. Remove the market that rewards theft and you take away all the motivation for a thief.
Kind of like legalizing marijuana. The easiest way in the world to get gangsters out of the loop is to rrmove the profits they derive from scarce goods.