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U.S. Carriers Agree to Deny Service to Stolen Phones

By - Source: Bloomberg | B 45 comments

Under the new system, a stolen phone wouldn't work on any network.

Smartphones these days are expensive pieces of equipment, which makes them attractive targets for thieves. However, if a new shared database from major U.S. carriers is successful, the market for stolen cell phones is about to get a whole lot smaller.

Bloomberg reports that AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon have teamed up with the FCC to launch a new stolen phone database. The database will contain serial numbers of all phones reported stolen and the four major carriers have agreed to deny service to any handset that turns up in the database.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said that carriers are prepared to start blocking service to stolen phones within six months. They hope that this new system will discourage cell phone thieves as well as protect victims' data.

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Top Comments
  • 23 Hide
    ksampanna , November 1, 2012 5:27 PM
    I can't believe it took them so long. This should've been right since cellphones became mainstream
  • 15 Hide
    flyflinger , November 1, 2012 5:33 PM
    Hope they will add a feature that allows all of us to access the database to check for status of a used phone before buying it.
  • 10 Hide
    noob2222 , November 1, 2012 6:13 PM
    as long as they make this database accessable to the public. Id hate to buy a phone off ebay with no way to check the # only to find out later its labeled as stolen.

    chances are thats where a lot of stolen phones are getting sold.
Other Comments
  • 23 Hide
    ksampanna , November 1, 2012 5:27 PM
    I can't believe it took them so long. This should've been right since cellphones became mainstream
  • 5 Hide
    ttg_Avenged , November 1, 2012 5:27 PM
    Good. Remember that one guy who stole a iPhone and uploaded his pics to facebook? Rofl, what a dumb little...

    However, thieves would just sell the phone, so this is nice to stop them.
  • 7 Hide
    Johmama , November 1, 2012 5:30 PM
    This is actually a really good idea. I've never been victim of cell-phone theft so this doesn't affect me right now, but it's great that they want to do this so I"m not a victim in the future.

    Plus, I gain a little faith in "the system" back every time I see big companies willing to work together, even IF it's for a common benefit. It happens once in a blue moon...
  • 15 Hide
    flyflinger , November 1, 2012 5:33 PM
    Hope they will add a feature that allows all of us to access the database to check for status of a used phone before buying it.
  • 1 Hide
    JDFan , November 1, 2012 5:35 PM
    So -- what happens if someone falsely reports someone else's cellphone as stolen or sells a phone and a few months later reports it stolen ?? I can see it now someone goes into a retail outlet or an employee in a store that gets fired writes down the serial # off all the phones in the place and then a couple months later starts reporting them all stolen and suddenly the stores customers all have their phones made useless !
  • 4 Hide
    ses27 , November 1, 2012 5:40 PM
    I wonder how long it will be before it is misused to back a phone from going from one carrier to another
  • 0 Hide
    twelch82 , November 1, 2012 5:42 PM
    JDFanSo -- what happens if someone falsely reports someone else's cellphone as stolen or sells a phone and a few months later reports it stolen ?? I can see it now someone goes into a retail outlet or an employee in a store that gets fired writes down the serial # off all the phones in the place and then a couple months later starts reporting them all stolen and suddenly the stores customers all have their phones made useless !


    I think the way it would be likely to work is that when you first activate your new phone, the carrier would collect the serial number - it has to be accessible through software for them to even be able to block a stolen phone. Then, if your phone gets stolen, they already know what the serial number for it was, so that serial number would be moved into the database of inoperable serial numbers.

    The best thieves may find a way to change the serial numbers, but it would probably be an effective deterrent for the common thief.
  • 2 Hide
    bak0n , November 1, 2012 5:42 PM
    It took them so long because they saw $$$ profit from thieves, but not themselves thieves, the other ones, who steal the phones.
  • 0 Hide
    rebel1280 , November 1, 2012 5:43 PM
    freaking awesome, im not going to say about time or anything just, congrats on getting together and laying down some much needed ground rules! :) 
  • 8 Hide
    cyberthug , November 1, 2012 5:45 PM
    Only now?
    I am from Israel and we had this policy for years now..
  • 1 Hide
    g-unit1111 , November 1, 2012 6:06 PM
    Excellent! I've had a phone stolen, I know how horrendous it can be dealing with that.
  • 10 Hide
    noob2222 , November 1, 2012 6:13 PM
    as long as they make this database accessable to the public. Id hate to buy a phone off ebay with no way to check the # only to find out later its labeled as stolen.

    chances are thats where a lot of stolen phones are getting sold.
  • 0 Hide
    dauntekong , November 1, 2012 6:14 PM
    Finally! some action is going on with the carriers...
  • 4 Hide
    hate machine , November 1, 2012 6:15 PM
    They must have figured out a way to get money out of this, it is the only reason it is coming around.
  • 4 Hide
    lockhrt999 , November 1, 2012 6:29 PM
    twelch82I think the way it would be likely to work is that when you first activate your new phone, the carrier would collect the serial number - it has to be accessible through software for them to even be able to block a stolen phone. Then, if your phone gets stolen, they already know what the serial number for it was, so that serial number would be moved into the database of inoperable serial numbers.The best thieves may find a way to change the serial numbers, but it would probably be an effective deterrent for the common thief.


    Well this serial number is hardcoded in hardware. On most phones you can check it out by dialing *#06#. Every phone has it. And you got the wrong impression that carriers would block the phone, no they just block service to the phone which means you won't get signal on stolen phone.

    This system will discourage the thieves only up to some extent because these stolen phones still be fully operable outside US.

    New system will emerge for thieves, phones stolen in US will be exported to Canada and phones stolen in canada will be exported to US. :D 
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , November 1, 2012 6:34 PM
    IMEI number blocking has been happening in UK for a long time!
  • 1 Hide
    unoriginal1 , November 1, 2012 6:34 PM
    Cell companies have been "denying" service for stolen for phones for a while now. I worked for a cell company (no names to try to stay professional) while going through college for two years. When we activated a phone we had to input the serial # of the phone and the IMEI number of the SIM card in order for the device to work. When we did this we were "supposed" to run a search on the serial number to make sure it doesn't show as in use or reported as stolen on any other accounts. (how many agents actually did this who knows). Of course if it came up as stolen we were supposed to politely ask the person to return the device to the nearest company store.

    The question i have.. Is what is going to stop people from just swapping the Sim into their stolen device and never updating the serial # in the system? This was very very common with non smart phones swapping to smart phones to avoid the mandatory data plans. I know for certain the cell towers show the Imei and serial number in use... So assuming they are going to implement something in the software to block the phone if the serial number matches in the database?

    Agree with the rest of you on needing a public access. Sure would suck to buy a new phone on ebay/craigslist only to find out it's useless.

  • 1 Hide
    COLGeek , November 1, 2012 6:36 PM
    Good, about dang time.
  • 1 Hide
    unoriginal1 , November 1, 2012 6:37 PM
    lockhrt999Well this serial number is hardcoded in hardware. On most phones you can check it out by dialing *#06#. Every phone has it. And you got the wrong impression that carriers would block the phone, no they just block service to the phone which means you won't get signal on stolen phone. This system will discourage the thieves only up to some extent because these stolen phones still be fully operable outside US.New system will emerge for thieves, phones stolen in US will be exported to Canada and phones stolen in canada will be exported to US.



    Thats a good point. Also people are still going to steal them for having a glorified ipod as well :/  and or parts like screens. A galaxy s III screen is $250-$300ish new? I can see people stripping them for parts now too.
  • 1 Hide
    yarmock , November 1, 2012 6:41 PM
    Sprint and Verizon have been doing this for awhile. They ban the ESN and you cant use that phone on their network. Possibly on a partner network, not sure of this.

    But im sure they could all do this before. Maybe the government gave them an incentive to make this alliance, and database.
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