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US Carriers Finally Doing Something About Cellphone Theft

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the att-still-has-my-resentment dept.

AT&T 155

New submitter zarmanto writes "In a move that is so long overdue that it boggles the mind, the FCC and the four largest cellular providers in the U.S. state that they will be joining forces to combat cell phone theft. From the article: 'Over the next six months, each of the four operators is expected to put in place a program to disable phones reported as stolen and within 18 months the FCC plans to help merge them into a central database in order to prevent a phone from being used on another carrier's network.'"

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Fun prank of the week! (5, Funny)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633293)

Report your friends phone as stolen! Hilarity ensues.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633347)

Sadly, I expect this will become one of the many popular ways to upset an ex-spouse

Re:Fun prank of the week! (2)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634043)

Maybe they could make it harder than just a phone call. Maybe you'd have to go to a phone store with some ID or something.

Gee, I sure hope they've thought of that...

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635685)

More likely it'll be used as a way to get out of contracts.

Don't have the $$$$$ for going over your minutes/data/text?
Don't want to pay a $$$$$ early termination fee?
"OMG My phone was stolen! I didn't download XYZ apps! I didn't use XX gigabytes of data! I didn't send XXXXX txt messages or make XXXXXX phone calls!"

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634139)

Or an ex-employer. "turn in your phone to the security guard on the way out the door". Well...

Re:Fun prank of the week! (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39635119)

Sadly, I expect this will become one of the many popular ways to isolate an ex-spouse from communication to commit an act of violence against them.

TFTFY.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (5, Insightful)

jxander (2605655) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633397)

Part of me hopes, sincerely, that a process is put in place to prevent this type of action.

But in reality, I know that such a process will not exist until AFTER a couple million phones get bricked by pranksters, jilted lovers, or whatever black hat group decides to get some lulz.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

darjen (879890) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633417)

What's to stop people from selling their phone, reporting it stolen, then getting it back? I guess you will have to ask for a signed receipt?

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633567)

The system would have to know you are the owner in the first place, so however it was transferred from the retailer to you, you would transfer it to the new owner.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (2)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633735)

If you're with one of the 4 carriers you're going to be on a contract, so they will know who you are. It won't work with my company, BOOST, even though Sprint owns BOOST. Any phone you get a card at the convinience store for will keep working after it gets ripped off.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633953)

Any phone you get a card at the convinience store for will keep working after it gets ripped off.

Until the pre-paid minutes run out.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634033)

You can top off a stolen prepay phone using a prepay cash card.

The only certain way to kill a prepay phone is to port the number to a new phone / new provider. That'll zap it for sure on the old phone.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634547)

And is your phone the type of phone somebody might want to steal?

Re:Fun prank of the week! (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633605)

They guy bringing it back to you for a refund is likely to be carrying a 2x4.

Nothing in the story said the carriers are going to recover the phones. They are just going to disable them so there is no incentive to steal them or sell them and report them stolen. You aren't going to get it back.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633485)

Presumably a police report will be required.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

gatfirls (1315141) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634379)

No, just like now, a phone user will have to call his provider and using his account information report the phone stolen. It's not iron clad but I highly doubt the system would be setup to make it impossible to reverse the process in error, and if you call up and use someone else information to disable their phone I would bet there's a law covering that.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

egamma (572162) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635207)

No, just like now, a phone user will have to call his provider and using his account information report the phone stolen. It's not iron clad but I highly doubt the system would be setup to make it impossible to reverse the process in error, and if you call up and use someone else information to disable their phone I would bet there's a law covering that.

Wire fraud? Not sure.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633513)

While there is always room for abuse. However for the most part I see this a good thing. You steel a cell phone, it won't work. People will be no longer interesting in buying hot cellphones. So robbers will stop stealing cellphones. Of course I still like the find my phone features where we can get cops to raid them after they take your phone.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (4, Insightful)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633599)

It's no wonder the carriers didn't want to do anything to suppress phone theft: if your phone is stolen, you're back at the AT&T store, buying a new phone at full unsubsidized price.

Why would a carrier want to stop that?

Re:Fun prank of the week! (4, Insightful)

Lashat (1041424) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633975)

I was looking for this post so I could avoid repeating it.

I want to add another wrinkle. Not only does AT&T sell you a full priced replacement phone AND a new lost/stolen insurance policy, they also make money from the new owner of your old phone as AT&T will likely connect their new service.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (2)

JazzLad (935151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635451)

Perhaps with GSM systems, but CDMA (VZW, Sprint) locks the ESN so that it can't be used on their system (and neither of them will use a phone from the other system). This is one of the reasons Cricket Wireless is so popular, it is a haven for stolen CDMA phones.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (2)

neo8750 (566137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634689)

This being true but you can always cancel your contract. Its the one loophole. Report phone as stolen tell the provider you refuse to take the cheap ass replacement phone and refuse to pay full price for a replacement. once contract is void goto another provider get the deal they have in place. However if its a fancy dancy high end phone you wont get a discount so it is what it is.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (3, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633815)

Of course I still like the find my phone features where we can get cops to raid them after they take your phone.

This assumes that the cops actually care about 'small' crimes like stolen cell phones.
Spoiler Alert: There are far too many police forces who wouldn't arrest someone even if you gift wrapped the case for them.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633519)

Only if you know their IMEI code. Most likely even they don't have it.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

tacarat (696339) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634487)

You can get it when you call in to temporarily suspend service on the stolen phone.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635487)

If you own the account, you can see the IMEI in your account settings on most GSM carrier's web site.
If you don't own the account, you have no way to get your friend's IMEI to pull the prank, unless he leaves his phone sitting around.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (5, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633565)

This just doesn't happen. Look, people, the vast majority of carriers in the world already to this, and they have no such problem.

There are checks and balances. Some require a police report, others simply require you to appear in person, show your ID and match it to your account credentials.

Contrary to popular opinion, this scheme wasn't dreamed up by 7th graders, Its built into the GSM spec and widely used.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633645)

Its built into the GSM spec and widely used.

You must be new here. Carrier's #1 and #3 (by subscribership) are not using GSM at all...

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

upside (574799) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633825)

It might originate from GSM but isn't unique to GSM.

The International Mobile Equipment Identity or IMEI (/ami/) is a number, usually unique,[1][2] to identify GSM, WCDMA, and iDEN mobile phones, as well as some satellite phones.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Mobile_Equipment_Identity [wikipedia.org]

Re:Fun prank of the week! (2)

B1 (86803) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634797)

WCDMA, and iDEN are basically variations of GSM. Traditional GSM phones run on a TDMA air interface... WCDMA is the use of a CDMA air interface to provide GSM service. It is *not* the same thing as CDMA2000, which is traditionally called "CDMA" here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WCDMA#Deployment

The GSM standards define a database called the Equipment Identity Register (EIR), which is what carriers would use to blacklist stolen equipment. GSM network elements already know how to query an EIR to see if a handset is marked as stolen / etc.

CDMA2000 phones have something similar to an IMEI, called a MEID. Unfortunately, the standards used in CDMA2000 networks have no concept of an EIR, let alone any way of querying one. I have no idea how much is involved to retrofit CDMA2000 networks to support an EIR or what components need to be upgraded, but it would definitely include updates to standards, software changes across all equipment manufacturers, and then coordinated deployments across all carriers. It's technically feasible, but I don't see that happening quickly. Remember how long it took operators to adopt number portability in North America?

Re:Fun prank of the week! (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635331)

But since all the CDMA carriers are adopting LTE, which pretty much included GSM, won't this problem be solved for the newer LTE phones anyway?

Just askin, I have no real knowledge on this point.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

kb7oeb (543726) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635461)

CDMA phones have to be activated so I would think they just won't activate them.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39635033)

... the vast majority of carriers in the world already do this...

Since you're familiar with "the world" you must not be an American and perhaps you even live in a society where government "kinda just works"

Well, Americans are so phenomenally bad at designing, creating and running government that we've all developed an instinctual fear and loathing for not just government but any collective thought or action.

The summary rang that Pavlovian anti-collective bell just by mentioning the FCC. And I would bet that most Americans would rather the kids from Who's Smarter than a Fifth-Grader were running the program than any of those useless, hopeless, faceless, godless, genitalia-lacking federal bureacrats.

Not that I'm bitter. I live in the greatest country on Earth! USA! USA!

Re:Fun prank of the week! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633631)

Report your friends phone as stolen! Hilarity ensues.

I find it funny that i see this every time, this is mentioned. In the UK this has been available for as long as i have been using some form of mobile phone (about 10 years). And when you block a phone here you don't use the phone number its the IMEI Number that belongs to your handset...which is a lot harder to just get off your friend and then have blocked.

Also in this country on top of that if its a contract phone, at least on the network im on (T-mobile), i had to do the same authentication that you normally have to perform to get into your account. This is also reversible if you are on contract if you recover the phone it can be unblocked, but only by the account holder.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635575)

this is mentioned. In the UK this has been available for as long as i have been using some form of mobile phone

Perhaps you can shed some light on the degree to which this helps prevent phone theft in the UK.

The BBC seems to think [bbc.co.uk] the problem of stolen phones is still rampant.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633707)

Except for the filing a false report charge...

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633747)

There are standard identity checks that can get performed, even over the phone. Although it's not impossible that a person sufficiently close to you would know all of that information as well, presumably if they are that close to you, they aren't going to want to jerk you around and cost you any real money that you can't afford.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (4, Insightful)

Artraze (600366) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633821)

Just like when you report your (friend's?) car as stolen when it's not? Is it hilarious before or after you're arrested for filing a false report?

Just as a car has a serial number identifying it (VIN) that is registered with the current owner, the cell phones have a number (IMEI) that identify it which can be linked to an account owner. They would simply check the database and confirm that the phone is running on the proper account.

The trouble is that cars have very specific rules regarding their sales which handle re-registering with the new owner. This proposal, however, doesn't seem to cover transferring ownership in the database, so if your friend bought the phone secondhand, then there could, indeed, be trouble.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633869)

at least one uk company had to make up a new company rule that it was inztant sacking offence if you got caught reporting rival sales employees phone as stolen, as in one case they had 3 working phone left out of 15

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634331)

Just as fun as reporting their car stolen or that you saw an armed man breaking into their house or reporting a crack house at their address.

You end up getting charged filing those false police reports, wasting police time, perjury, lieing to the police, or whatever you jurisdiction likes to stick on such cases.

And of course if you have all the details required to tell the phone company such a thing you have all the details required to cancel their service which would seem just an simple a way to go to jail for fraud without these changes.

Re:Fun prank of the week! (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634435)

I would hope they would require at least an official report of the theft, i.e. a police report, not to mention have some way of contesting it by emailing a copy of your photo ID or something.

I would hope. Based on my experiences with a few of the major carriers here in the U.S., I'm not going to waste time hoping for a system that either makes sense or is effective in almost any way.

FIRST! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633305)

FIRST!

Re:FIRST! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39635705)

FAIL!

US Carriers? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633315)

Isn't it a bit overkill to use the USS Nimitz to do something about cellphone theft?

Re:US Carriers? (2)

macromorgan (2020426) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633493)

You're right. I'm glad the US is always restrained in their use of force.

Re:US Carriers? (2)

jxander (2605655) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633625)

Overkill? I don't think so ... in fact, it might not even be sufficient.

What we really need to do it setup a orbital nuke; as we all know, it's the only way to be sure.

Re:US Carriers? (1)

IceNinjaNine (2026774) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634709)

That's exactly what I thought. Kinda like "you want to pwn my phone there, Ahmadinejad? We got something for that.."

(Nimitz to an F-18): Burly brawler, this is flaming parrot.. mission is a go.

Couldn't play the terrorism card this time eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633343)

So now were doing in the name of preventing cell phone theft. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against the proposal, it just seems to me that this could have been done years ago in the name of fighting terrorism. Cell phone theft must be costing someone money.

Re:Couldn't play the terrorism card this time eh? (0)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633661)

Cell phone theft makes money for the manufacturers and cell carriers. People who couldn't afford one otherwise get one for free, and the subscriber buys another.

That is why its not implemented in the US.

Try to focus. This has nothing to do with terrorism and can't be used to prevent it.

Re:Couldn't play the terrorism card this time eh? (2)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633817)

If that were the actual reason, then it should follow that it would not ever get implemented in the USA. Except that it *IS*.

Re:Couldn't play the terrorism card this time eh? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635343)

If that were the actual reason, then it should follow that it would not ever get implemented in the USA. Except that it *IS*.

By government edict.

Unsurprisingly... (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633391)

The long-overdue part is that the carriers will share this data so that one phone can't simply be switched to a different network (they have all already done this for their in-network phone database. However, given that most phones are only going to work when operating on the originally designed network anyway (given the patchwork of different standards and frequencies in use among the carriers) how many phone thefts is this really going to affect?

Re:Unsurprisingly... (1)

b0bby (201198) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634321)

If you search for "Bad ESN" on ebay you'll see tons being sold; I imagine that lots of them are Verizon being flashed to Sprint, or vice versa as you say. The numbers to me seem high enough that it's worth shutting down.

Re:Unsurprisingly... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39635547)

Neither VZW nor Sprint can have their phone flashed to the other, but there are many small CDMA carriers that can use them. source [wikipedia.org]

Anecdotally, I have seen Cricket used this way many times when working for Sprint.

Aircraft Carriers??? (-1, Offtopic)

dryriver (1010635) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633449)

Am I the only one who read this as "U.S. Aircraft Carriers Finally Doing Something About Cellphone Theft"?

Re:Aircraft Carriers??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633505)

Actually, I thought the same thing.

Re:Aircraft Carriers??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633533)

somehow I saw this too..

Re:Aircraft Carriers??? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633549)

You bet. You cell phone gets stolen you have a bunch of war jets over your head bombing you to kingdom come.

Re:Aircraft Carriers??? (1)

Psion (2244) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633685)

What timing! And here they're gonna be retiring the Enterprise soon.

Re:Aircraft Carriers??? (3, Funny)

maroberts (15852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633761)

I was hoping that a squadron of F-18s were on Combat Air Patrol just waiting to drop a laser guided bomb on the miscreant who had your stolen phone.

Re:Aircraft Carriers??? (1)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635097)

... which is great fun, unless your phone happens to be lost under your bed/car seat/desk/etc...

Why 18 months? (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633479)

Long overdue, this technology has proven to reduce phone theft in places like Australia. Getting mugged for your phone [sfgate.com] is rapidly becoming very common in the US. There is a switch in every GSM system database designed for precisely this purpose. Its in the GSM specs. All these carriers are running the same call connection software. (Most of them are too clueless to have developed their own).

Why not turn it on WITHIN carriers in 45 days flat, and between carriers within 90 days? Some say there is money to be made by selling you a new phone, and the carriers were unwilling to forego that revenue stream. The thief (or the people who buy from the thieves) have to sign up for service, but they won't be buying any new phone with that service. Many also suggest that a good portion of the non-contract market is using stolen phones.

But turning this on is not hard. Carriers have been dragging their feet on this for decades.

The tinfoil hat in me expects the carriers to turn this into another way to make money, if not by charging a fee, then by using it as an excuse to not accept phones purchased elsewhere, or by insistin you bring your phone in for them to record the IMEI, and charging a fee to record it.

Re:Why 18 months? (4, Insightful)

jomegat (706411) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633621)

The tinfoil hat in me fully expects them to use this to kill the used phone market, jail breaking, and any number of other things that are consumer-unfriendly. "Oh, you lost your phone and don't qualify for a new free one yet? Sorry, you can't buy a used one from your bud. You have to buy a new one from VZW/ATT/etc." This is a solution rife with problems for the consumer.

Re:Why 18 months? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39634971)

Just curious, what happens if the thief pulls the GSM and replaces it? Does that circumvent these measures? My GF had her phone "misplaced" by subordinates at her workplace. Honestly, I think they stole it to snoop on the boss's doings.

Re:Why 18 months? (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635363)

The GSM (by which, I assume you mean the sim card) does not hold the IMEI, a unique id of the handset, which is fixed at date of manufacture.

Isn't that MEID/IMEIs are for???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633515)

Last I checked. MEID/IMEIs reported as stolen are useless when trying to activate.

I bought a used cell phone long ago and come to find out it was a stolen phone and I could not get it activated.

Plus these identifies are easily cloned as you can buy MEID cloned phones in the black market.

Catching up with the UK... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633597)

We already have this type of system in Britain. Here we require the IMEI number http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Mobile_Equipment_Identity to report a handset stolen. It's not something you typically have to hand.

If you don't have your IMEI number your carrier will have (last IMEI your SIM was attached to), and they can block the handset if you call up from another phone and authenticate with them like you usually would ("who do you call most?", "what's your mothers maiden name?", etc.) or report online from your carrier account.

Helps limit the value of a stolen phone and helps you avoid call charges against the account. As we're all GSM/SIM based, they usually pop a new SIM card in the post at the same time (though a new phone is obviously your (or your insurers) responsibility.

Re:Catching up with the UK... (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635655)

Your carrier probably knows the IMEI of the phone you used, especially if you bought it from them. And its on the invoice, and its on the box, and its on your on-line account. Really no reason not to have this number somewhere, but I suppose some people manage to lose all if those sources.

Still, it seems phone theft is still a big problem in the UK for some reason. Probably because I would wager the UK IMEI blocking system does not extend to the continent, and perhaps not to other carriers either. So stolen IK phones get send to France and work just fine there.

About Effin' Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633607)

Welcome to the 20th century, US Mobile phone industry!

might work for a while (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633719)

Then the bad guys will find a bad guy who buys in bulk and have a system of shipping the phones to europe or such. just a few weeks ago police here caught couple of guys acting suspicious, followed them to their car where they had 30 some iphones in a box

And in other news.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633765)

Another way for carriers to make another cockabillion dollars

About Frigging Time (2)

AnalogDiehard (199128) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633895)

For years, companies have been remotely bricking mobile devices that have been hacked. Why didn't these idiots do the same for devices that were reported stolen?!?

Re:About Frigging Time (2)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634989)

Because the customer who lost the phone was still in contract and unlikely to switch anyway. So they weren't losing a customer, and were generally gaining a customer with the new phone.

I had a similar experience with satellite radio. My receiver was stolen from my car. The local detective asked me to call the radio company and have them authorize access for the detective on the radio. The detective would then be called when someone activated the radio, and he could go question them, and also recover the radio.

The company begged me not to do this, because the new person was likely to be someone who had purchased it online or some other such thing and not the original thief, and that person would likely not purchase another radio and subsequently wouldn't subscribe.

Excuse me? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#39633915)

People on Slashdot are actually saying that the ability of a carrier to brick a telephone remotely is a GOOD thing?

My, how times have changed.

Re:Excuse me? (2)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634431)

They already have the ability. What is new here is that they are agreeing to use that ability to help customers for a change.

Re:Excuse me? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39634975)

People on Slashdot are actually saying that the ability of a carrier to brick a telephone remotely is a GOOD thing?

Only the people that don't know what IMEI blacklisting actually is.
IMEI blacklisting is not not the same as bricking. A blacklisted phone will work as normal on another network so long as they do not share blacklists, which is normal practice in the UK, and in any event will still work just fine for emergency calls. In addition, a blacklisted phone can be un-blacklisted remotely, since nothing changes on the handset: the blacklist is merely a list of IMEI held by carriers.

"Bricked" used to be synonymous with "broken"*... My, how times have changed.

*You know, meaning only useful as a brick.

WGARA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39633955)

my throwaway tracfones, which cost less than $6 a month can be shitcanned at will... smartphones are for ID10Ts

Profit Motive (2)

tunapez (1161697) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634005)

Verizon Wireless, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile are joining forces

Anytime a corp tells me they want to help, experience(and corp law) tells me philanthropy is not even remotely their motive. When multi-corps start 'cooperating' for my benefit I get as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Besides being shocked that this is not already a standard practice, I'm going to predict the overhead for this stalwart effort is going to be too large to bear so some sort of profitable fix will follow...
 
A silver bullet to kill the used-phone market sure would help protect us, the customers, right?

Re:Profit Motive (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635595)

I feel the same way about Congressional "bi-partisanship;" it seems the only time we can get these mortal enemies to agree on anything is when it is something that totally screws Americans. For examples, see:

PATRIOT Act
SOPA
FISA
STOCK Act (which doesn't actually ban insider trading by politicians, but rather requires them to report the profit they earned from insider trading within 30 days of earning said profit)
et. al.


"Bi-partisan" is congresscritter code for "fuck the people over."

abuse of power? (1)

mortonda (5175) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634161)

I thought our aircraft carriers were for protecting abroad, not for domestic problems.... seems like bombing a cell phone thief is a bit drasti... OH. phone carriers. my bad.

Big Brother (3, Interesting)

MacColossus (932054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634165)

A centralized government database of all cell phones with mac addresses, imei numbers and such. Should be even easier for them to do warrantless tracking of whomever they choose.

Re:Big Brother (1)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634485)

Should be even easier for them to do warrantless tracking of whomever they choose.

They don't need it to be any easier. The only change is that while the potentially troubling uses of these technologies are already available to carriers and the government, some customer-friendly uses are finally being considered.

Lets not pretend that objecting to this program will somehow preserve customer's rights.

18 Months!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39634283)

18 months to merge?

CREATE TABLE BLOCKED_CELLPHONES
(
IMEI TYPE ANY
)

There, hurry up and move this into production today.

Re:18 Months!? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635611)

18 months to merge?

CREATE TABLE BLOCKED_CELLPHONES ( IMEI TYPE ANY )

There, hurry up and move this into production today.

Hmm... logical... efficient... reasonable...

You're fired.


Sincerely,
US cell carriers

...largest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39634315)

the four only cellular providers in the U.S.

Fixed that for you.

As long as they do the following, I'm for it! (3, Insightful)

bobbied (2522392) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634509)

This sounds like a great idea. Keep a record of all ESN's that are stolen devices and make it so none of these can be used on any carrier in the country. This would go a long way to reduce the trafficking of stolen phones. However, there needs to be some rules on what constitutes a "stolen" phone.

1. Carriers should not be able to disable a phone unless the owner has reported it stolen. (I.e. They cannot list phones that are on unpaid contracts, without compensation to the owner of the phone.)

2. The database must be available to check if an ESN was reported stolen, and if it is, return contact information for the owner or his agent.

3. The ESN must be removable from the list, if the owner of the phone requests it.

4. A means of transferring stolen ESN's between "owners" or "agents"

Somehow though, I don't think this is what the carriers have in mind. My guess is that they want to stop folks from getting expensive phones cheap on contract, then dumping the contract and selling the phone for quick cash. Being able to disable the phone on all US carriers would make this much harder to do.

You wish it was about cell phone theft (1)

Corson (746347) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634721)

Actually, it is the unexpected opportunity for the, um.. higher powers to create a database of all cell-phone owners. Without it, you could replace the SIM card in your cell phone and nobody would know who makes the call. With the database in place they will know whose cell phone a particular call was made from.

Couple of thoughts (1)

aztektum (170569) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634729)

I have worked at Sprint in their retail stores. We would blacklist phone serials if customers told us. Friends from that time migrated to Verizon and I've heard they do the same. So the ability has existed for a while. It's been up to the customer to say something.

And making sure a phone won't work on another carrier is only useful between T-Mobile and AT&T.

Verizon and Sprint maintain a DB of phones they've "approved" and will not activate a device that isn't on that list. You cannot take a Verizon phone and activate it on Sprint, nor vice versa.

While I'm sure this will help, I don't see it as having a huge impact here in the US, thanks to how the carriers do business.

Re:Couple of thoughts (1)

WilliamBaughman (1312511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635011)

After my wife's EVO 4G was stolen last year, I shopped around for a replacement. I was stunned by the number of people in the Portland area advertising EVOs, saying "like new!" and "will only work on Cricket, don't bring this to a Sprint store!" Of course I reported the phone stolen to Sprint and the police, but there's only so much that does.

Im willing to bet. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39634791)

Ill bet money that if it didnt include the ability to not use a phone from one carrier on anothers network then none of them would have done it because this means you have to buy a phone from verizon to use verizon.

Won't someone think of the thieves? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39634871)

Look, it is hard enough these days to make a living. The US is looking at 30-40% permanent unemployment today and with the illegals still streaming in you know any job they can do they are going to get. Who wouldn't hire an illegal at half the wage? So plenty of people are looking at somewhat shady practices just to pay for food. I guess one way of limiting the problem is to make sure they can't pay for food, but that is another discussion...

So today you can nick a recent phone and sell it for hundreds of dollars. The carrier doesn't seem to care that it was recently someone else's phone. And if you can snag an iPhone that can be $200 or $300 in your wallet to feed your family. Before everyone gets all upset about endorsing crime, you have to understand that not all of these are violent muggings but the sort of thing where a careless person leaves their phone on table in a restaurant or a bar. Sure there are going to be some where a person is so incredibly desperate as to beat someone to a pulp in order to get their phone. But the alternative is starving.

Just think of that guy in Les Miserables stealing a loaf of bread. How different is this? Besides, we aren't talking about your everyday Joe but people with high-end phones that can clearly afford to buy another one. Ooops, they didn't back up their phone and lost all their pictures - sorry, but it sucks to learn about backups a little late.

Anyway, we should be encouraging more of this, especially the non-violent sort of theft, as there are really few other alternatives for the folks out there just trying to squeek by with whatever they can do. No skills, no rich relatives, you probably are going to be stealing stuff to survive.

Stolen vs Unfulfilled contract? vs "lost" vs xfer (1)

neurocutie (677249) | more than 2 years ago | (#39634949)

I sure hope the FCC makes the carriers distinguish between truly stolen and phones that the carrier considers "bad" because they believe the contract is unfulfilled (or there is a balance on the final bill). In the latter case, it is often a dispute between customer and carrier and the carrier should NOT have the upper hand or leverage to threaten "bricking" the phone (declare "stolen") just because they think the customer owes them something.

Similarly, there needs to be a mechanism to UN-blacklist a phone. Quite often a phone is thought to be lost or stolen but then later turns up, is found or is returned by an honest finder, etc. Such phones need to be restored to usability.

Also the issue of transfer of ownership, and therefore transfer of the right to declare a phone "stolen", needs to be very carefully designed. Supposing I buy a used phone from CL or ebay. Somehow the ownership needs to transfer to me such that the seller CANNOT now declare that phone to be "stolen". However requiring that that newly sold phone be activated by a carrier to transfer ownership is NOT a good mechanism -- I shouldn't have to do that and it can cause all sorts of problems.

This wont end badly, I swear! (1)

Life2Death (801594) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635003)

A list to keep a carriers phones off a competitors network? That'll never be abused...

They have had this ability for decades. (2)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635017)

you can blacklist IMEI numbers and have been able to cince the Cellular ONE days of 1989.
And honestly I have no idea why the iphone, ipad and ipod could not be blacklisted as well. this would make the street value of the stolen i devices to go ZERO.

connect stolen ipad to itunes, screen change to black with red "STOLEN PROPERTY, call 1-800-555-1212 for more information" and it's game over for thieves.

For some reason none of these companies want to do this.

Are cars next? (0)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635025)

After all, GM, Ford etc must have a responsibility to me to disable my stolen vehicle right? And what about thte company that made the boombox I had that was stolen? Why aren't they doing more?

Re:Are cars next? (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635171)

I can't tell if you're trolling or simply stupid. I'm desperately hoping the former.

I would have thought it was obvious that, since cell phones need to use the cell network to be cell phones, the cell network can block the phone, rendering it useless as a cell phone. Boomboxes require no such cooperation from a third party in order to work, so it's not feasible for them to do anything about it. This is more like if you had the ability to report your car as stolen, and then the plates wouldn't "authenticate" (against any cop who pulls them over for anything, or sees something suspicious and has the dispatcher run the plates).

Which, funnily enough, is exactly what happens.

Better than europe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39635121)

The flaw in europe is phones are stolen, blocked and then make their way abroad south to Africa where the block does not apply.

But so long as the USA has no similar southern country it will all be just fine.

(It also makes ebay more exciting, will my purchase be blocked a month down the line?)

what laws should carriers help enforce? (1)

a2wflc (705508) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635137)

It seems "good" when they disable phones reported as stolen.

But I think most people would think it's "bad" if they disable phones reported as downloading "stolen" (i.e. copyrighted) content.

I'd prefer they only be allowed to disable phones with a court order (regardless of the reason for the order). If police and courts want to streamline a way to get the court order to the carrier in the case of stolen phones (with adequate judicial review), then I'm all for it. But I don't want carriers to become part of the policing effort. And doing it with our support and without considering our rights - i.e. disabling a phone is the equivalent of seizing our property.

Let me guess (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 2 years ago | (#39635177)

For only $14.95 per month per phone.

Been there, didn't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39635443)

Good luck with that. Mexico tried to set something like this up (RENAUT), didn't work cause carriers ended up balking, fearing it would hurt their bottom lines. After all. even if stolen and used for criminal activities, the miscreants still have to pay for their call time...

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