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iPhone Users Sue AT&T For Letting Thieves Re-Activate Their Stolen Devices

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the your-phone-is-not-very-loyal dept.

AT&T 197

An anonymous reader writes "Following on the heels of the FCC and U.S. mobile carriers finally announcing plans to create a national database for stolen phones, a group of iPhone users filed a class action lawsuit against AT&T on Tuesday claiming that it has aided and abetted cell phone thieves by refusing to brick stolen cell phones. AT&T has '[made] millions of dollars in improper profits, by forcing legitimate customers, such as these Plaintiffs, to buy new cell phones, and buy new cell phone plans, while the criminals who stole the phone are able to simply walk into AT&T stories and 're-activate' the devices, using different, cheap, readily-available 'SIM' cards,' states their complaint. AT&T, of course, says the suit is 'meritless.'"

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197 comments

Only if they reported it. (4, Insightful)

DurendalMac (736637) | about 2 years ago | (#39679633)

If customers reported their iPhones as stolen and had all of the necessary details (serial number, IMEI number, etc) that could uniquely identify their phones, then this suit may well have merit. This info is likely in either their system or Apple's system, especially if they both track serial numbers through sales and registration. If thieves are bringing stolen phones in and that data is in their system then they damned well should be doing something about it.

Re:Only if they reported it. (0)

thechemic (1329333) | about 2 years ago | (#39679745)

I fail to see how these companies could validate with 100% certainty that the device reported stolen actually belong to the owners that claimed to own them. This is important; because if you can't validate the owner with 100% certainty, then you open the door to situations where person A falsly reports persons B's phone stolen and gets it bricked. This would be a denial of service prank/attach and I'm sure it would be a much larger liability for AT&T than simply letting theives reactivate a device that was obtained nefariously. Are they going to make everyone that claims to have a phone stolen produce a receipt to validate ownersihp? To requre AT&T to get involved would be a disaster. When you require/allow corporations to get involved in things that should ONLY be law enforcement investigations, then you open a whole new can of worms.

Re:Only if they reported it. (4, Informative)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about 2 years ago | (#39679807)

I fail to see how these companies could validate with 100% certainty that the device reported stolen actually belong to the owners that claimed to own them.

It's called a police report. It's good enough for the company insuring the phone against theft, so why would it not be enough for AT&T to cut the service?

If the police report is fraudulent, well, there are already legal mechanisms in place to deal with that. The point is, obviously they could do something, they just choose not to because it benefits them financially.

Re:Only if they reported it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680073)

Exactly this.

Yes someone could file a false police report to try and abuse the system or harass someone. Problem for them is when the target comes in to complain about the bricked phone, proves it is theirs and then the false reporter is in all sorts of trouble.

Re:Only if they reported it. (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#39680235)

The point is, obviously they could do something, they just choose not to because it benefits them financially.

And that in turn benefits America, because when a corporation makes a profit, that creates jobs, which improves the economy. So why the hell are you doing your patriotic duty and stealing from your fellow citizens so you can give to the corporation?

On a less sarcastic note, the police have often refused to get involved even after a police report is filed _and_ the person knows exactly where the cell phone is (hello? They're radio transmitters). Police resources are only used in cases of violence, property damage, or theft of corporate property. Theft of private property is just... not important.

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about 2 years ago | (#39680475)

On a less sarcastic note, the police have often refused to get involved even after a police report is filed _and_ the person knows exactly where the cell phone is (hello? They're radio transmitters). Police resources are only used in cases of violence, property damage, or theft of corporate property. Theft of private property is just... not important.

Oh, I know, and I'm sure that very few people that report a cell phone stolen ever really expect to see it again. Honestly, the few times we've gotten ripped off (stuff stolen out of our garage, stuff stolen out of our car) the police themselves told us that recovering stolen property was an extremely low priority in the grand scheme of things but if the stuff turned up they'd let us know (it never did). We were bummed obviously that our stuff was stolen, but our insurance covered the theft, and that was what we were most concerned about, and what we needed the police report for in the first place. I had two bikes stolen from me growing up and we didn't even bother filing a report with the police because there was no point, the bikes were likely repainted within hours and the cops of Philadelphia don't give a fuck about stolen bicycles. If they'd been insured I obviously would have...well, my mother would have anyway.

Still, AT&T should at least accept a police report as good faith evidence that a particular handset was indeed stolen or lost and brick it. There's really no valid reason I can see why they would refuse to do so (outside of the obvious financial benefits). I'm hoping that the courts will see it the same way, but I won't hold my breath.

Re:Only if they reported it. (4, Informative)

gstrickler (920733) | about 2 years ago | (#39679823)

The carrier probably has it in their phone records for that account. The IMEI is part of how a device identifies itself to the network. It's used to prevent using stolen phones in many other countries.

Re:Only if they reported it. (2)

Dahamma (304068) | about 2 years ago | (#39679911)

then you open the door to situations where person A falsly reports persons B's phone stolen and gets it bricked.

That makes absolutely no sense. Besides the fact that they already have methods in place to verify the account owner and prevent for much more important concerns (changing service plan, cancelling the account, etc) how would it be any different from what would happen today if someone were able to convince AT&T that your phone was stolen? They already deactivate the phone from your account when reported stolen, which would cause the same level of inconvenience to the owner.

Adding it to a central database just means if the phone was truly stolen, the thief can't reactivate it on *another* account. If your phone wasn't really stolen (or you thought it was and then found it) you just have to prove that to AT&T (using the same account authentication methods they use to let you deactivate it) and they can take it out of the database.

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

thechemic (1329333) | about 2 years ago | (#39680095)

"...which would cause the same level of inconvenience to the owner."

Deactivating somebodies service to prevent a phone from making calls is NOT "the same level of inconvenience" as bricking somebodies phone to prevent it from ever being used on any network ever again.

Imagine in a world where: the cable company polices stolen TVs, the internet service provider polices stolen computers, Ford has to police stolen cars, radio stations have to police stolen radios, landline companies police stolen cordless phones, and cell phone companies police stolen cell phones. America already has enough corporations runnings the country by the balls. We don't need another one. Please think long and hard before you ask for this "Protection" from AT&T.

Re:Only if they reported it. (2)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about 2 years ago | (#39680267)

All of those things you mention are pretty much completely untraceable. Obviously, this is not the case with the iPhone, since the service requires the handsets to be uniquely identifiable at all times on their network.

Besides, go ahead and try and register a car reported as stolen with your local DMV. Watch what happens.

No one expects AT&T to do anything that is not already completely within their power to do, nor is it something that any reasonable person would consider out of line at all.

Re:Only if they reported it. (0)

thechemic (1329333) | about 2 years ago | (#39680425)

There are dozens of posts here from "resonable" people that do not want AT&T to perform this service for them. Keep reading.

This is a scenario in your world, "Great news, the police recovered your $500 smartphone after a 2 day investigation. Too bad it's permanently bricked though. Here you go. Have a great day."

Those things are not "pretty much completely untraceable." Cars can be located and disabled with onstar. Computers can be located by their IP address and globally unique MAC address. There are some people here that do not want to live in an orwellian society where corporations control things they should not have control over. I happen to be one of them. It's obvious we have a difference of opinion so further discussion is a mute point. Enjoy your bricked phones and your Corporatocracy.

Regards,

Re:Only if they reported it. (2)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 2 years ago | (#39680469)

Because after they add it to the "do not use" list because Account Holder X reported it stolen, they'd never be able to remove it from the "do not use" list when Account Holder X reported it recovered. That would be impossible.

Now sure if Account Holder Y wants to use it then no go, until they can convince Account Holder X to report it recovered.

Re:Only if they reported it. (0)

thechemic (1329333) | about 2 years ago | (#39680533)

I can certainly appreciate your sarcasm. I enjoy it too. Here's some back at ya! The article summary clearly states, "refusing to brick stolen cell phones". Do you know what a bricked phone is? I can tell you what it's not; it's not a "do not use list".

Re:Only if they reported it. (4, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#39680745)

I'll wager the are using the term brick in modern usages, and not archaic usage(5 years ago)

Making rendering it unable to make calls or connect.

Disable would have been a better term for them to use.

I know I know, we have are precise language, and then non nerds get a hold of it and butcher it to the point where hacking is using a facebook account that someone didn't log off from.

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

suutar (1860506) | about 2 years ago | (#39680783)

At this point, 'brick' doesn't have a clear enough definition to assert that flatly. It ranges anywhere from "internal components melted to slag" to "I can't figure out how to turn it on because I forgot to charge it" depending on the understanding of the speaker. On the other hand, a reversible disabling process doesn't seem like it would slow down thieves much, and an irreversible one makes life hard on the owner if it gets recovered... unless insurance pays out anyway, which doesn't seem unreasonable as long as if you get it back it becomes the insurance company's property to recycle as they wish. But for that the insurance company would have to want to.

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#39680709)

Sigh, another Slashdot user who doesn't understand '1984'.

Corporation can already turn your phone off, so you better get rid of it.

AT&T netwrok is what the phnoe ueses. It is not unreasably to ahve them turn off a phone when they have a police affidavite stating it was stolen.

You go you At&T.
You make the request
You show the affidavit You made.
They turn it off for You, the person paying the bill.

In no way is that unreasonable or Orwellian.

Re:Only if they reported it. (4, Interesting)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about 2 years ago | (#39680799)

Cars are located and disabled with OnStar, but all vehicles do not have OnStar. If a car with OnStar is reported as stolen, OnStar will work hand in hand with police to get the car recovered. This is a core feature that sells the OnStar service. Ditto with services like LoJack (which they provide for computers now, I used to sell it myself). However, you cannot register a stolen car with any DMV in this country. They check their databases specifically for this reason. The DMV is not a police officer, but I'm betting most reasonable people are cool with them electing not to register cars reported stolen.

For one thing, 99 times out of 100, the police do not recover the phone at all. If it's not resold and reactivated, it either ends up a toy for some thief's kid to play with or broken into a million pieces or rotting at the bottom of a lake or river. How many reasonable people have ever lost or had stolen something like a cell phone and actually expected to see it again? Stolen property, especially stolen property that's relatively cheap like a cell-phone, is not a priority for any police department in this country. If they come across it while investigating other crimes, they'll be good enough to give you a ring and have you come pick it up (unless they need to keep it as evidence), but they don't actively check personal electronics to see if they're stolen unless they have a compelling reason to do so. They don't have the time. No police force in this country has that kind of time, obviously.

Your only recourse now if your phone gets stolen is to call the police and buy a new one. Nobody is expecting anything any different there. All they're asking is that the thief not be able to take that stolen cell phone into another store and reactivate it when AT&T can tell perfectly well that it is a stolen phone. AT&T is not being singled out here. Any time a person has a reasonable suspicion that a good may be stolen they're required to act accordingly regardless of their relationship with that person. If someone offered to sell you a brand new PS3, still in the box, for $50 out of the back of a van, for instance, and it turns out it's stolen, you can't feign ignorance because a reasonable person would have known better and you are guilty of a crime. If a used car salesmen agrees to buy a car with scratched off or non-matching VINs, they are guilty of a crime.

Your "Orwellian society" and "Corporatocracy" claims are pretty ridiculous when people are trying to make a corporation be accountable for once, and requiring them to brick phones they know to be stolen is part of that. As I said above, there is plenty of precedent already covering this, the concept is not new.

What exactly is it that you're worried about here? That AT&T is going to vindictively brick cell phones? That they're going to just let any old person call up and brick any phone he wishes? You can't even talk about your fucking bill without giving them a whole bunch of personal information first, so what exactly are you worried about here? What power is this going to give the corporation to abuse? They've already got this power, so if they were going to abuse it, they would have long before now...

Re:Only if they reported it. (-1, Troll)

thechemic (1329333) | about 2 years ago | (#39680931)

You have valid points: sure. You want to talk about ridiculous? What is truly ridiculous is frivelous lawsuits such as this one that cost taxpayers MILLIONS of dollars. The premise of the lawsuit is simply this, "AT&T didn't spend millions of dollars to protect me from myself, and now I'm sad so i'll sue the fuck out of them."

I worked for AT&T for seven years. The majority of cell phone "thefts" were idiots that left their phone in a bar and somebody else "found" it. The money that corporations have to put into systems like this to protect idiots from themselves are passed on to responsible consumers like myself. Then those idiots sue AT&T and those costs are passed on to responsible taxpayers like myself.

What exactly is it that you're worried about here?

I am afraid that responsible individuals will have to unjustly continue to pay for the irresponsible actions of idiots. Be a big boy, and hang on to your little smartphone real tight now.

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

SCPRedMage (838040) | about 2 years ago | (#39680481)

Deactivating somebodies service to prevent a phone from making calls is NOT "the same level of inconvenience" as bricking somebodies phone to prevent it from ever being used on any network ever again.

Actually, in the example that you quoted from, it kind of is. First, you have to realize that what we're talking about doesn't "brick" the phone; it actually doesn't do ANYTHING to the phone itself, it just makes it so that the carrier's systems won't allow them to reactivate a phone marked on their end as stolen.

Second, the discussion here was about the inconvenience the user goes through when someone else falsely reports the user's phone stolen. In this case, the user already has to call AT&T and convince them that someone else made a false report; in the version where they don't let you reactivate a stolen phone, it adds a single step (remove that phone from the "stolen" database) to the carrier's job, but the user goes through the exact same process: call AT&T and convince them that someone lied to them.

Imagine in a world where:

Except in all of those cases, those companies would have to develop some new technology to track and disable all of those items.

Cell phones already identify themselves to the network with a unique ID called an IMEI. When you deactivate a cell phone, for any reason, the carrier removes the authorization for that IMEI to use their network. All AT&T and other carriers have to do is add this to a "do not activate" database when users report them stolen.

Re:Only if they reported it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680539)

But.....

Isn't that exactly what all those "Bad ECM" phones on ebay are? Phones which have been reported stolen, or which haven't been paid for, and so are blocked from the issuer's network. Right now, I don't think cell companies share this data (so you can root a stolen T-mobile phone and use it on AT&T, but not on T-mobile). Is that not the case?

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

jaca44 (2557600) | about 2 years ago | (#39679931)

Read "and had all of the necessary details (serial number, IMEI number, etc) that could uniquely identify their phones" Seems clear cut to me!

Re:Only if they reported it. (4, Insightful)

Shoten (260439) | about 2 years ago | (#39680263)

I fail to see how these companies could validate with 100% certainty that the device reported stolen actually belong to the owners that claimed to own them. This is important; because if you can't validate the owner with 100% certainty, then you open the door to situations where person A falsly reports persons B's phone stolen and gets it bricked. This would be a denial of service prank/attach and I'm sure it would be a much larger liability for AT&T than simply letting theives reactivate a device that was obtained nefariously. Are they going to make everyone that claims to have a phone stolen produce a receipt to validate ownersihp? To requre AT&T to get involved would be a disaster. When you require/allow corporations to get involved in things that should ONLY be law enforcement investigations, then you open a whole new can of worms.

It's been done in just about every other country in the world for some time now. The process works, and it also cuts WAY down on smartphone theft. In Washington, DC (where I live) there has been a rash of armed holdups for smartphones for some time now, and the chief of police has been begging AT&T (because iPhones are the prime target...sorry Android users) to do this. Police departments in cities all over the country have been calling for this to be done.

Yes, it's possible to cause trouble for someone else by filing a false police report. It's also a felony, and quite certain to get you caught. I could cause trouble for you by claiming you stole my phone. But then, AT&T would happen to have that phone associated with your name, SSN, credit card, address, and blood type...and would have had that association for quite some time. So, I would go to jail instead. Following your logic, we shouldn't allow people to say that their cars were stolen, either, because I could just walk up to you in your car and say "THIEF!" and send you to prison while I drive away in your vehicle.

Re:Only if they reported it. (2)

laughing rabbit (216615) | about 2 years ago | (#39680303)

Our company uses Sprint for wireless service. When I call and report a phone stolen, I have to use the account PIN to complete the transaction. The phone is logged to a lost and stolen database and if the phone shows up again, I have to get the phone removed from this database before reactivating it.

My users bring me grey market phones to activate for them on a regular basis. I call Sprint and often they tell me that the phone is in the lost and stolen database and cannot be reactivated unless the original owner contacts them and releases the phone. I hand the phone back to the user and tell him to get his money back, that the phone is hot.

Most insurers of cell phones have a policy that states if the reported phone is reactivated at any time after the claim is processed and a replacement issued, the insured will be billed the retail cost of the phone minus any deductible paid.

There are a lot of identifying codes that phones use to authenticate on the network, and they are strongly linked to the account holder. AT&T is lying like a dog, plus just being cheap.

They are the Evil Empire® after all.

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 2 years ago | (#39680431)

Because AT&T most likely sold them the phone in the first place. And the id was associated with their account. And then reported lost/stolen by that account holder who had AT&T remove access to their line from that phone.

Then someone else wanders in a week later and activates the exact phone on a different account and AT&T couldn't care less.

Now obviously there's the case in which someone gives/sells a phone to someone else and then tells AT&T that the phone was lost/stolen. That seems a rare enough situation, and one that is easily avoided - have the phone disconnected from the account before you accept it/buy it from someone and that way they can't report it stolen/lost in the first place.

All the other DOS pranks work just like reporting the phone lost/stolen now and having the line turned off, so nothing is added. OK "all" might be too strong, but I can't think of any.

There are already remedies againt this - mainly sending people to prison for fraud.

Of course I don't know if that does as far as making AT*T complicit in the theft - that seems quite a stretch.

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

FunkDup (995643) | about 2 years ago | (#39680471)

I fail to see how these companies could validate with 100% certainty that the device reported stolen actually belong to the owners that claimed to own them.

Since most phones are sold on plans, they know the IMEI before you do. They already have all the information they need.

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

Skapare (16644) | about 2 years ago | (#39681001)

They bought the phone from AT&T or from Apple. They have a record of this. That and we can presume that whoever first signed up the phone for an account is the original owner. Of course, a few phones might be stolen before the buyer gets them activated for the very first time. But, other than this, it's easy check the IMEI number.

The receipt is only needed if AT&T is too stupid to keep records. Are they? Are they that stupid? Even if they are, that doesn't justify the stupidity.

This is simple. If the phone is reported stolen while plan is active, lock out the IMEI. Then if another party trying to activate it claims they legally purchased it, THEY have to produce the receipt.

Re:Only if they reported it. (4, Funny)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 2 years ago | (#39679747)

Which is more likely?

That a company that puts someone in a 3-year contract worth thousands of dollars per customer has no record of what they are selling or they figured that they could get away with selling the same service twice to two different people?

"Your phone was stolen? It's only $550 to get another one, or we can just charge you for the services. Hang on, I've got a Mr. Crowbar McGee on the other line, how odd, same phone as you but no receipt."

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

Githaron (2462596) | about 2 years ago | (#39680005)

Which is more likely?

That a company that puts someone in a 3-year contract worth thousands of dollars per customer has no record of what they are selling or they figured that they could get away with selling the same service twice to two different people?

"Your phone was stolen? It's only $550 to get another one, or we can just charge you for the services. Hang on, I've got a Mr. Crowbar McGee on the other line, how odd, same phone as you but no receipt."

You are forgetting there is a second-hand market. They have no way of even knowing if the person who reported the phone stolen is even the one who currently owns the phone. The original owner could have sold the phone without notifying the carrier. i could see the carrier possibly disabling the phone if someone attempts to use the phone on a different customer without the phone first being de-registered with the carrier by the previous customer. Unfortunately, that would probably cause another group of people to attempt to sue the carrier for disabling phones they legally purchased (that the previous owner forgot to de-register.

Re:Only if they reported it. (2)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | about 2 years ago | (#39680135)

That is why a police report is filed. If the information about a stolen phone is good enough for a police report then it should be good enough for AT&T. Their truculence is merely a matter of profiteering on stolen merchandise.

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

Githaron (2462596) | about 2 years ago | (#39680243)

If they are given a copy of a police report as evidence of theft, I can see some merit.

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 2 years ago | (#39680295)

The original owner could have sold the phone without notifying the carrier.

There are only two situations where the original owner could have sold the phone:

1. The original purchaser bought a new phone. 99% of the time, this comes from the carrier, but either way, there's a new phone talking to their towers with the old SIM card. No mugger steals the phone but leaves you your SIM card, so this is an easy one to catch.

2. The original purchaser stopped using that company's service. This also can't happen usefully without notifying the carrier.

In other words, for all intents and purposes, the scam you're describing is infeasible. If the customer reports the phone stolen to the carrier, it's pretty safe to say that the phone was stolen... unless, of course, they merely reported it stolen so that they could claim that they were not at the scene of a crime, but that's another matter entirely....

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

puto (533470) | about 2 years ago | (#39680079)

As much as I might not like the polices of the T, as I work for them, let me correct a few things. I have never seen a three year contract, a 1 or a 2 but not a three year. We do track imeis but customers tend to pull their sim cards and hop from phone to phone, sometimes on a daily basis, that we have do system sweeps to update the imeis, because customers do not actually call us and tell us when they do. Also, I can imagine the indignant customers who want to activate an old iphone or one they got as a gifts righteous indignation if we asked to see original proof of purchase. I think the majority of the stolen phones are left in taxis, bar stools, bathrooms, and park benches. so they are not stolen. The new database will take care of this. But if you lose your phone, you don't have to buy another iphone...

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about 2 years ago | (#39680275)

Why would you need to see original proof of purchase? When a phone is reported stolen, stick its IMEI in a "banned" list. When someone brings the phone in to have it activated, take it from them and store it. Tell them they are in possession of property reported stolen and that the phone can be returned to the prior owner or they can leave their contact information and hash it out with the cops over who it belongs to.

Playing Devil's Advocate (1)

pkinetics (549289) | about 2 years ago | (#39680547)

Just because this example is simplified...

1. Sell iPhone to unsuspecting customer

2. Report it stolen.

3. Receive returned phone.

4. Repeat steps 1-3, until finally arrested.

Just being a wise a$$. But what authority does a pimply faced sales clerk have to seize and hold a potentially stolen device? Much less detain an individual while waiting for the Police.

Some people would threaten to sue for defamation and etc for being accused of having stolen a product.

Re:Only if they reported it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680601)

. I think the majority of the stolen phones are left in taxis, bar stools, bathrooms, and park benches. so they are not stolen.

Yes they are. It's called "theft by finding" and is still theft.

Re:Only if they reported it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680899)

I think the majority of the stolen phones are left in taxis, bar stools, bathrooms, and park benches. so they are not stolen.

If you find a phone in a taxis, bar, bathroom or park and keep it as your own, you are a thief. At least in just about every state in America you would be. Just because someone made a mistake doesn't give you the right to steal from them. "Finders keepers. Losers weepers." isn't law. It's what bullies say when they steal something.

Re:Only if they reported it. (0)

mcavic (2007672) | about 2 years ago | (#39679773)

Just because AT&T can block the phones from being re-registered doesn't mean they're required to. If my car is stolen, it's up to the police to track it down, not the manufacturer.

Re:Only if they reported it. (4, Insightful)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about 2 years ago | (#39679887)

No, but if the thief tried to register that car, it would show up as stolen and the DMV would not allow him to register it under his name. They call the police.

Why is it so unreasonable that AT&T do the same? They can tell the damn phone is registered to someone else, they can't take a minute to see if it was stolen or not? How many people sell cell phones to strangers with all their personal information on them? I mean, really?

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

eepok (545733) | about 2 years ago | (#39680395)

It looks like my mod points expired today else I would have kicked this post up a notch.

Re:Only if they reported it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39679901)

U are correct. Was gonna say the same thing with the car. It ur fault u lost your fone. They disable access to ur service account. But they are not responsible in preventing the reuse of the stolen property. In fact, allowing them to stop phones from being reused, has more negative implications than anything positive that could result.

-HasHie @ TrYPNET.net

Re:Only if they reported it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680061)

If that car only drove with the express involvement of the auto manufacturer, I would certainly expect the manufacturer to act.

But for the most part, cars operate just fine without the involvement of the manufacture.

Now if that car was brought in with its VIN intact to a dealer for a service recall, and it flagged up as stolen, I surely would want them calling the police.

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

thechemic (1329333) | about 2 years ago | (#39680681)

The manufacturers? Now Samsung, Apple, Nokia, Motorola, Sony Erricson, Siemens, Qualcom, HTC, Dell, HP, LG, Palm, and RIM have to be involved too???!!! How many multi-million dollar companies does it take to get one idiot to hang on to his phone?

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | about 2 years ago | (#39680171)

No one is asking AT&T to track down the phones, just to stop re-licensing them to the theives. Also, you can't purchase a car from the DMV, but most people usually buy their phones from an AT&T retailer. You're really making a false equivocation.

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

NardoPolo88 (1417637) | about 2 years ago | (#39680631)

Really? Ever heard of a service called "On-Star?" When you climb out from under your rock head down to the nearest GM dealership and ask them about the benefits of On-Star should your new GM ever get stolen. Granted they charge a premium for this after the first year. But during that first year the manufacturer (GM) will track down your stolen car, disable it from running, and alert the police of its location. I should also point out that AT&T did not manufacture the phone, Apple did. AT&T is more akin to the DMV and everyone else has already set you straight on the fact that the DMV will *NOT* allow a stolen vehicle to be registered. You may now open your mouth and insert your foot.

Re:Only if they reported it. (1)

thechemic (1329333) | about 2 years ago | (#39680833)

AT&T is more akin to the DMV

AT&T is NOT akin to the DMV. AT&T is a corporation and the DMV is a State Department. The two should never be compared. When you ask corporations to police the world and protect you from yourself, you're asking for a very bad place to live my friend. Now please take your foot out of your mouth and use it to walk to another country. We don't need a Corporatocracy in The United States; we have enough problems already.

Hoist by own petard (0)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#39679647)

Quote TFA:

“Plaintiffs have been told by AT&T representatives that they will not, and ‘cannot,’ block and effectively kill usage of such stolen cell phones by thieves and criminal organization, however, such representations are false and fraudulent,” states the complaint.

Law Suits is what happen when you finally admit it is possible to disable a phone by knowing its IMEI (as is common in many other countries),
after years of denying they had that ability.
AT&T now joins other carriers to put it in place. (As simple as tying their stolen phone database to the GSM infrastructure, since this capability has long been part of the GSM spec.

Without proof in writing that AT&T said they could not do this, I suspect it will be hard to prove they lied.
That leaves the aiding and abetting claims. The legal team is composed of personal injury lawyers, so unless they get some better hired guns, I don't think this goes too far. Can Shell or Exxon be sued for selling you gas for your stolen car, or Ford be sued for selling you spare parts, simply because they don't want to look up every license plate or VIN?

I suspect this is going to be a very difficult case to win.

Re:Hoist by own petard (2)

zentec (204030) | about 2 years ago | (#39679855)

The ability to keep track of stolen IEMI numbers and not activate a phone on that list is elementary, and in an age where you can track an iPhone across the planet via GPS, such a simple detail screams that they simply did not want to do it. Worse for AT&T, is the fact that they look up the IEMI to enforce customer use; just try to use an iPhone on a non-Iphone data plan. This check is done autonomously.

There are plenty of instances where registrations are checked to assure that they're not stolen. At one time, cell phones that were stolen were indeed blacklisted. And while I agree that AT&T may not have had a legal obligation to do so, with their customers being robbed, it certainly seems easy to say they have a moral obligation to blacklist the phones.

Of course, the consumer outrage is now full scale, and I'm sure legal requirements may indeed be forthcoming.

Re:Hoist by own petard (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680097)

Quote TFA:

“Plaintiffs have been told by AT&T representatives that they will not, and ‘cannot,’ block and effectively kill usage of such stolen cell phones by thieves and criminal organization, however, such representations are false and fraudulent,” states the complaint.

Law Suits is what happen when you finally admit it is possible to disable a phone by knowing its IMEI (as is common in many other countries),
after years of denying they had that ability.
AT&T now joins other carriers to put it in place. (As simple as tying their stolen phone database to the GSM infrastructure, since this capability has long been part of the GSM spec.

Without proof in writing that AT&T said they could not do this, I suspect it will be hard to prove they lied.
That leaves the aiding and abetting claims. The legal team is composed of personal injury lawyers, so unless they get some better hired guns, I don't think this goes too far. Can Shell or Exxon be sued for selling you gas for your stolen car, or Ford be sued for selling you spare parts, simply because they don't want to look up every license plate or VIN?

I suspect this is going to be a very difficult case to win.

I think your analogy is wrong.
Would the DMV be liable if they licensed a car that was reported stolen....I think so.

Re:Hoist by own petard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680129)

Even further, where I live, bike stores will run you're serial number with the police on any bikes you try to trade in or leave to get serviced.

Re:Hoist by own petard (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#39680193)

Would the DMV be liable if they licensed a car that was reported stolen....I think so

The DMV is required to do this by law, because they are creating a title to real property of significant value.
AT&T isn't required to do that.

They are not granting you a title simply because they are selling you a service.

Re:Hoist by own petard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680181)

Can Shell or Exxon be sued for selling you gas for your stolen car, or Ford be sued for selling you spare parts, simply because they don't want to look up every license plate or VIN?

A poorer excuse for a car-analogy one will not find.

1) The IMEI has ALWAYS been known to the carriers. I used to work for Sprint. One day, my development phone was stolen by a grounds keeper. Within the week, they'd pinpointed that he was on the property. Campus security found him doing, surprise!, grounds-keeping on Sprint's property. He was among a group of guys so security called the number associated with the phone. When it began ringing, they pulled him aside. He confessed. That was 2007 or 2008.

The device had a phone number that was associated *with it's own development team!*. They ditched the associated number and let this phone on the network anyway with a new number!

2) Your analogy fails because the car operates no matter who has a "key". Same with a phone, right? Sort of. The difference is, is the device has to AUTHENTICATE with the carriers servers *before* the device is even put 'on the network.' So, no, the two are not the same. The authentication isn't some sort of magical ether. It happens every time you make a call, every time you turn on your phone and every time your cell goes in or out of range of a tower. Just because that authentication cant "be seen" doesn't mean it's automatic or granted.

Your argument is a straw man. A diversion from the truth of it - nothing more.

3) Criminals aren't concerned with "allowances." They take them. Whether you approve or not. The carriers are the one's approving that the device be allowed "on the network" therefore, they are culpable (in effect - collusion) for additional damages to society because if they know a phone is stolen and allow it anyway....do I even *need* to finish this sentence? Of course, that's *if* the phone had been reported stolen. If.

4) Stop paying your bill. See how fast they terminate the device's connection.

5) It's completely unethical. To whomever doesn't think so, I recommend re-enrolling in kindergarten.

Re:Hoist by own petard (1)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#39680289)

2) Your analogy fails because the car operates no matter who has a "key". Same with a phone, right? Sort of. The difference is, is the device has to AUTHENTICATE with the carriers servers *before* the device is even put 'on the network.' So, no, the two are not the same. The authentication isn't some sort of magical ether. It happens every time you make a call, every time you turn on your phone and every time your cell goes in or out of range of a tower. Just because that authentication cant "be seen" doesn't mean it's automatic or granted.

Wrong-o me bucko.

You can (and I have) removed my sim from one phone and put it in another phone, (totally different make and model that never once crossed AT&Ts doorstep), fired up the phone and it works out of the gate. The beauty of GSM.

As long as the SIM is good, the carrier does not care about the phone's serial number. You are confusing the authentication between the carrier and the Sim card, with the unique serial number burned into the phone. I ran that new phone for a year, when AT&T only had the IMEI from the old phone in their records.

Sprint phones don't have IMEIs. They have IMEDs. [wikipedia.org] I should have stopped reading your reply as soon as you started talking IMEIs with Sprint. Its clear you have no clue.

Say what you will about Telstra... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39679651)

in Australia, Telstra have a bad rap for fucking over customers, but this isn't an issue with them. A year back I lost my iPhone, reported it stolen, and within a week another Telstra customer began using it. Telstra stopped their service, had them come into a store, and simply took the phone from them and let me know I could collect it. As gravy, the idiot who'd been using it caused a scene in the Telstra store and had the police called on them - they were known to the cops and arrested for other reasons.

On the bad side, I'd already bought another iPhone in the meantime. Win some lose some.

This should be criminal, not civil (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39679653)

If I call AT&T or its agent and tell them that my phone has been stolen, then they are engaging in a criminal act when they reactivate that phone. There are no legitimate excuses for this behavior.

If somebody steals a car that is equipped with a kill-switch in the engine and I, knowing that it is stolen, disables the kill switch so that the thief can drive the car, then I'm going to go to prison. The only difference between my behavior and AT&T's is that I am not a massive corporation, so I am subject to the laws of the United States.

Re:This should be criminal, not civil (2)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#39679707)

If I call AT&T or its agent and tell them that my phone has been stolen, then they are engaging in a criminal act when they reactivate that phone.

NO, they are not engaged in a criminal act. You made that up.
If these plaintiffs win their case, then it might be considered a criminal act, but until then there is no specific law that covers this.

Its not just AT&T, its ALL carriers that do not block IMEIs. (MEIDs for CDMA phones).

Re:This should be criminal, not civil (1)

truedfx (802492) | about 2 years ago | (#39680347)

Huh? Whether the act is criminal will not be affected by a civil suit.

Re:This should be criminal, not civil (1)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#39680455)

I was merely responding to the GP who alleged it was a criminal act.

If there was a finding that they did violate specific laws, even if by a civil jury, you can expect it will go to precedence if the inevitable appeal is upheld.

Re:This should be criminal, not civil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680615)

Accessory to the theft, aiding and abetting, wire fraud, etc.

If you can commit three felonies a day without trying (http://www.amazon.com/Three-Felonies-Day-Target-Innocent/dp/1594032556) then AT&T can clearly commit a crime by helping a phone thief reactivate their stolen phone.

Re:This should be criminal, not civil (2)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about 2 years ago | (#39680083)

Not necessarily, it has to be proven that the person receiving the stolen goods knew they were stolen, or at the very least that a reasonable person would have known or suspected. For instance, if someone sells an intact, but stolen, TV at a pawn shop the clerk isn't on the hook. However, if the person is trying to sell a TV with the serial numbers scraped off or wants next to nothing for what otherwise would go for a lot more, then the clerk should have reasonably suspected it was stolen and, at the very least, refused the sale, if not reported it to police there and then. Either way, most pawn shops are very strict about things like this because stolen property just ends up confiscated by police and the pawn shop ends up with absolutely nothing 99% of the time. Reputable ones, anyway.

It's kinda like if someone offered to sell you a brand new Escalade for $100 at the parking lot of your local Walmart. If you took the person up on that offer, you would likely be charged with a crime because a reasonable person would have been suspicious.

If it were to come out that specific people at AT&T knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they were enabling the sale of stolen phones (say, an email saying "Hey, let's not brick any phones reported stolen because that way they'll have to buy a new phone, HA HA") then those specific people would be guilty of a criminal act. That's just never going to be proven, obviously, so civil is the best we can hope for.

Still, it would be hysterical to see some C-levels at AT&T being led out in handcuffs, I admit. That company has been thieving from people for 100 years...

Re:This should be criminal, not civil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680359)

You seem to be missing the point. His example IS about the scenario where they KNOW it's stolen and activate it anyways. It's like having a list of stolen devices and simply refusing to look at it. That's negligence, which can slap you with accessory charges.

Re:This should be criminal, not civil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680363)

AT&T knows it is stolen if you tell them. Not having a database doesn't get them off the hook.

You try using that excuse. "Oh, I was told that the car I was buying was stolen, but I don't have a very good memory and I haven't taken the time to buy a notepad to write things down."

AT&T was told. Therefore they know. They don't get to claim some special forgetfulness privilege because they're large and it's expensive to keep records.

Re:This should be criminal, not civil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680673)

have you been paying attention to the US legal system? corporations are immune to the law.

Re:This should be criminal, not civil (1)

Spykk (823586) | about 2 years ago | (#39680813)

Yeah, but who has ever heard of a class action criminal suit? Won't somebody think of the lawyers?

Re:This should be criminal, not civil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680823)

I agree. It should be criminal. Thy are making money off people being violently attacked. They have blood on their hands.

Meritless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39679657)

Of course they said it's "meritless:" this cast cannot possibly do anything good for them. It'll be great when the class action judgment comes out and they all get $20 discounts on their next cellphone bill ::rolls eyes::.

Disabled IMSI search (5, Informative)

doston (2372830) | about 2 years ago | (#39679663)

When I worked at AT&T as a systems engineer in SMS a few years back, we and anybody in customer care were able to perform a search by IMSI (sort of like a MAC address for cell phones). One day the IMSI search feature was suddenly yanked. Thought it was a bit strange, because one time I was able to use the IMSI search to find the new MSISDN (phone #) for a friend who'd lost his phone and it helped him recover it. Makes me wonder if AT&T just didn't want to be involved in stolen iPhonery, or if they yanked the search feature because the profits from the process (noted in the story headline) were just too tantalizing.

Re:Disabled IMSI search (4, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#39679795)

I seriously doubt you worked as a system engineer if you don't know the difference between an IMSI and and IMEI.

IMSI [wikipedia.org] = International Mobile Subscriber Identity, allows you to find out information about the account hold. Its on the sim. It allows you to violate people's privacy, which is why Joe Tech should not be able to look this up, not without a warrant.

IMEI [wikipedia.org] = International Mobile Equipment Identity, a unique number built into the hardware. It can be used to block service to the device. That will bring the user in to complain. No warrant needed.

Re:Disabled IMSI search (4, Informative)

doston (2372830) | about 2 years ago | (#39679973)

I seriously doubt you worked as a system engineer if you don't know the difference between an IMSI and and IMEI.

IMSI [wikipedia.org] = International Mobile Subscriber Identity, allows you to find out information about the account hold. Its on the sim. It allows you to violate people's privacy, which is why Joe Tech should not be able to look this up, not without a warrant.

IMEI [wikipedia.org] = International Mobile Equipment Identity, a unique number built into the hardware. It can be used to block service to the device. That will bring the user in to complain. No warrant needed.

It was IMEI, you're right. I'm not as much into cell phones..unix, linux, and the actual messaging systems in the background (SMTP email schleping). Was just a tool I had access to. My actual title was Engineer IV. I reported to Kevin Tromp, still the director of Messaging. Yes, I did work there. ;-)

Re:Disabled IMSI search (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680723)

Can you ask him why it sometimes takes 20 hours for an SMS, made from an at*t phone on an at*t tower, to a likewise phone/tower, to deliver?

Re:Disabled IMSI search (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680375)

If he was a sys eng at AT&T and didn't know the difference between IMSI and IMEI, that would explain a lot about AT&T...

Re:Disabled IMSI search (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680567)

You're talking about Snooper?

This suit is bad for the market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39679671)

If ATT is not only allowed, but _encouraged_ to brick "stolen" phones, then there may be used phones that are bought by people (via ebay, etc.) that suddenly go bricked. This would destroy the second hand market and allow ATT to reap even more profit from people. Let's face it -- the people who steal these phones are not doing it because they want the phone. They want money. The person who really gets fucked is the one who buys it (likely unknowingly)

Re:This suit is bad for the market (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | about 2 years ago | (#39679737)

RIght, because of course when someone sells a phone they're going to immediately report it as stolen.

It's not like any records might exist that they had put it up for sale or something...

Re:This suit is bad for the market (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39679949)

I think AC was more saying that unwitting buyers of stolen phones would be upset because their phone was suddenly bricked. I don't see that as a big loss, though: Some diligence is due before you buy that brand new iPhone for a bargain from the guy in front of the subway station.

Re:This suit is bad for the market (1)

Githaron (2462596) | about 2 years ago | (#39680167)

RIght, because of course when someone sells a phone they're going to immediately report it as stolen.

It's not like any records might exist that they had put it up for sale or something...

That would depend on how they sell it. If they meet up at the corner and everything is done with cash, what record exists? Perhaps, the seller is pissed at the buyer and the seller calls in the phone as stolen out of spite. That would be especially possible if the seller was trading the phone to relieve a debt owed.

Re:This suit is bad for the market (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about 2 years ago | (#39680327)

Demand that the seller write and sign a bill of sale. When AT&T says no dice, bring your bill of sale and watch the cops arrest your original seller for filing a false police report.

When buying phones off Craigslist I have just insisted that the transaction take place at the carrier's store so that there can be no question about what is going on - no "bad ESNs", problems with activation, etc.

Re:This suit is bad for the market (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680879)

Having lived in a Country which has a Nation wide, Stolen IMEI database where all carriers participate I can tell you.

1)People selling phones then reporting them phones just doesn't happen!

2)Phone property theft is not a problem, stolen phones have no value since they don't work.

Oh its not really bricking the phone, it just prevents stolen phones from registering onto the network(all)

What if.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39679685)

If court was to find AT&T guilty of this "aiding and abetting", would they also be liable for any non-phone related damages that happened due to the phone being stolen or how it was stolen(ie. medical expenses due to getting a bottle smashed into your head from behind)?

Re:What if.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39679765)

Since corporations are people, AT&T would be sentenced into a 250 year prison sentence for a > 1000 crime spree accross the country.

Re:What if.. (1)

cribera (2560179) | about 2 years ago | (#39679805)

If court was to find AT&T guilty of this "aiding and abetting", would they also be liable for any non-phone related damages that happened due to the phone being stolen or how it was stolen(ie. medical expenses due to getting a bottle smashed into your head from behind)?

I don't see how your post could be related to the direct crime of enabling a stolen phone, when it has been properly reported as stolen.

The car analogy is valid. Anyone helping to re-enable a stolen car is committing a crime, why in this case would be different? aren't a phone and a car stolen objects?

Re:What if.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680029)

Because the phone wouldnt be WORTH STEALING in the first place, if it wasnt for AT&T.

Car machine shops are at a much different relation because your car doesnt need to be authenticated by the providers network to be able to unlock the car doors.

Re:What if.. (1)

cribera (2560179) | about 2 years ago | (#39681023)

Because the phone wouldnt be WORTH STEALING in the first place, if it wasnt for AT&T.

Car machine shops are at a much different relation because your car doesnt need to be authenticated by the providers network to be able to unlock the car doors.

I thought you had read the original analogy a few posts above. Just in case you don't find it: ""If somebody steals a car that is equipped with a kill-switch in the engine and I, knowing that it is stolen, disables the kill switch so that the thief can drive the car, then I'm going to go to prison. The only difference between my behavior and AT&T's is that I am not a massive corporation, so I am subject to the laws of the United States."

There is no money in stolen phones (2)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 2 years ago | (#39679775)

...The money is in the use of them - if someone wants something that's not traceable to them in the commission of some other criminal activity, they're gonna do one of two things: buy a disposable prepay or steal a phone. Either way, said handsets are going to be used once or twice, then disposed of ASAP. Whether that be from simply binning them or selling them on to some unsuspecting sucker.

ALL carriers should have a mandate to brick handsets reported as stolen. Yes, there is a way of reactivating most handsets (by flashing them), but I don't think $crook would bother with the expense. He'd rather go buy a disposable prepay, and everyone's a winner. You get to keep your iphone, carrier gets to sell more handsets, and GCHQ gets to track more and more unregistered gear ;)

"buy new cell phone plans", WTF?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39679789)

Why in hell would you "buy" a new cell phone plan because your phone got stolen? You just buy a new phone, get a replacement SIM on the same plan, and keep on trucking.

Re:"buy new cell phone plans", WTF?! (1)

Gonoff (88518) | about 2 years ago | (#39679857)

My understanding is that not everyone in the USA has a SIM in their phone. Am I correct?

Re:"buy new cell phone plans", WTF?! (1)

v1 (525388) | about 2 years ago | (#39680033)

There are two different technologies at work here, gsm and cdma. one requires a sim, and has the convenience of moving your sim to another phone and your service follows it. (and you can have a phone with 2 or 3 sims installed in it, each with a different phone number, so like a business and personal phone all in one) The other just goes by hardcoded sn in the phone to identify itself, and you can't transfer it.

One ties the service plan directly to the handset, the other ties it to the sim card. But both types will have a handset serial number the tower sees in either case, so you can brick a cdma or gsm phone by blacklisting it's serial number. you can't unban the one by changing the sim card.

Re:"buy new cell phone plans", WTF?! (2)

CompMD (522020) | about 2 years ago | (#39680015)

Because Sprint and a large chunk of Verizon handsets don't use SIM cards, and most people would have brain meltdowns if they saw what the actual retail price of a replacement phone would be. So, they buy a new contract to try and get the purchase price down.

reseller market (1)

VernorVinge (1420843) | about 2 years ago | (#39680053)

Many of those resellers on Craigslist today are hawking stolen wares. The new bricking process will go a long way to stop these crooks. At&T and other carriers should have been brought to account years ago. Those looking for a used phone may want to ask for proof of IMEI registration with the carrier in the future.

Yes they can (1)

garyoa1 (2067072) | about 2 years ago | (#39680329)

Just about anything electronic can be tracked. Phone, laptop, GPS... Not really rocket science for the manufacturer in this day and age. But why would the manufacturer want to track it? If they find it they can't sell you another one.

Apple Knows Too... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680377)

I worked at an Apple Store for years. iPhones, or any Apple product, can be flagged as lost or stolen by a phone call to Applecare. If someone brings such a device into a store for a service or swap, the in-store repair application (iRepair) will notify the Genius or FRS by turning red. iRepair also displays the original owner's information.

Apple's practice, while I worked there at least, was to avoid any sort of controversy or legal entaglement and give whoever brought the device in the benefit of the doubt. Since in-store repairs require you to present ID, it was quite obvious which devices had been obtained through dubious circumstances. E.g. phones from other states, other indicators which could be construed as "profiling," etc.

Why single out AT&T? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#39680509)

They all were doing it.

Re:Why single out AT&T? (1)

NardoPolo88 (1417637) | about 2 years ago | (#39680769)

And on that note why did we also limit this to the iPhone?

My guess if AT&T has probably sold the most iPhones and they are the phone that sells for the highest premium making high on the list of phones for thieves who can then try to sell them through grey markets like Craig's List or eBay. Thus it makes it the most ripe for a lawyer to take a class action suit since they too are in it only for the profit as well.

why is a phone different... (0)

alienzed (732782) | about 2 years ago | (#39680597)

from a TV set, a VCR, a car radio or any other usually stolen good. If you get your device stolen, it's completely and totally your own damn fault. Don't get me wrong, yes, it sucks, but how is it in any way shape or form AT&T's problem? WIth that said, sure, AT&T could probably come up with a solution and market it, but don't pretend criminals won't just unlock them and bring 'em to verizon, or sprint, etc... heck, iPhone are great iPod touches too. What I have a beef with is that no one is forcing anyone to buy something new. And then what's stopping someone from selling their iPhone for cash, then claiming it was stolen? No, this is going too far.

Re:why is a phone different... (1)

NardoPolo88 (1417637) | about 2 years ago | (#39681025)

A cell phone is different because it requires service and the service provider has knowledge of both the theft (you wouldn't want them calling all round the world on your dime) and the unique identifier of the phone. If some one steals my VCR...well lets face it....good for them. I'm not even sure it still works ;-) But really....if they stole some piece of electronics gear I do actually care about I would hope they took something I had actually written down the serial number of. I would then, upon reporting the break in to the police, give them a list of the serial numbers I had for the stolen property. The police would then supply that information to pawn shops in an attempt to eliminate a possible avenue for the thieves to relieve them selves of their stolen goods.

Granted the thieves will most likely turn to the grey market of Craig's List and/or eBay to rid them selves of the stolen property they do not intend to use or keep. If they do keep it it's not like they need to call some provider to make it work.

No lets look at the 2nd point. AT&T, or any provider, should require a police report. If you had sold the phone and the next person attempts to get service and is blocked by AT&T they will then have to prove they purchased the phone or risk jail time. So, for the sake of argument let us say it was easy for them to prove they bought it from the original owner. This puts the seller/owner in a bit of a pickle. See the police are now going to knock on his door and take them to the police station where they will have to answer for filing a false police report.

More likely the seller will be the thief. Since the grey markets will have a record (IP of the poster, email addresses, phone numbers, paypal info, etc) they will need to find alternate ways to sell it. This makes it harder for the thieves to sell the phones and makes them less likely to want to steal the phones.

How do I join this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39680767)

My phone was stolen. It was reported stolen to AT&T and I specifically asked them to block the IMEI, like VZW and Sprint do for ESN's on their CDMA networks. They are 100% correct. AT&T is profiting from violent criminal enterprise, and enabling it. Where do I sign up?

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  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
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