US creating cell phone database to fight phone theft

Krystal Peak · April 10, 2012 · Short URL:

FCC, police, major carriers ban together to curb the number of stolen phones reactiviated


Almost everyone at this point has experienced the extreme frustration, anguish and even panic of losing their cell phone -- and to make matters worse, most of us were shocked to learn that there was no centralized database that could stop anyone who stole or found our phone from reactivating it and using it as there own.

Other countries, such s the UK have created a database that allows all the major carriers offered in the country to black list cell phones that have been reported lost or stolen and on Tuesday, the major US carriers and the FCC will announce a similar system to help curb cell phone theft, and hopefully increase the number of people that get reconnected with their mini computers.

Wireless carriers representing 90% of subscribers will announce this new database of unique cell phone IDs to help prevent theft and reactivation of stolen or lost devices, according to published reports.

FCC officials are hoping that having a centralized database will allow consumers to notify their wireless provider of a theft and, in turn, their provider will block the device from being entered back into any major carrier system. The carriers signed on for this plan include Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA. 

Also, legislation backed by Sen. Charles Schumer would make it a federal crime to tamper with the unique IDs in an effort to deter attempts to evade the database -- since that would be one major way to get around this database blacklisting.

This effort to reduce the number of phone-related crimes that occur comes just as FCC officials report that cell phones were taken in 54% more robberies last year in Washington, D.C., than in 2007, and are targeted in 38% of all robberies in the capital.

And an increasing number of reports from metropolitan areas are popping up with serious injury or death tied to the attempted robbery of cell phone or other wireless devices.  To many criminals, holding your cell phone or tablet out in public is like waving around several hundred dollars and crimes of opportunity have become more brazen and common.

While this database can't actually stop a crime from occurring, official hope that it will help catch people in possession of stolen phones as well as deter future crimes because the value of a stolen phone will drop dramatically. 

More details about the FCC's study on cell phone theft and the database will come out later on Tuesday when Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the F.C.C., is scheduled to join police chiefs from New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland and representatives of a wireless industry trade group to announce the new plan.



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