Stolen Cellphones Will Be Blocked From Major Networks

Major U.S. carriers have switched on a database to block stolen handset from their networks. Pretty soon that stolen cell phone, won’t be much good to anyone.

Thefts of cell phones and other devices are on the rise. In New York (according to the IDG/Network World article) cell phones represented up to 40% of thefts. So even if you’ve wiped your phone remotely (Find my Phone FTW), thieves still had a valuable device to sell.

Until now.

AT&T and T-Mobile turned on their database on Wednesday, Verizon and Sprint will have their own database coming soon, and by November next year they will have a combined database. Smaller carriers have plans to get on board as well. So, how does the list work? Like this:

With the introduction of the database, carriers will be able to block stolen handsets from being used on their networks. Until now, such blocking had targeted the SIM card, so unauthorized calls could not be made on stolen phones, but putting in a new SIM card meant the phone could still be used. That meant a stolen phone could be sold on the second-hand market.

The new database blocks the IMEI number, a unique identification number in the cellphone akin to a VIN (vehicle identification number) in a car. The ID number remains with the cellphone no matter what SIM card is used.
Via: Stolen cellphone databases switched on in US

Just like each device on the Internet has a unique MAC (hardware) address, a phone does too. The carriers, obviously, know what all the IDs are and can just block that device from connecting to or using the network. What about people stealing U.S. cell phones and sending them elsewhere? Officials have that covered as well:

There are also plans to link it with an international database maintained by the GSM Association to stop stolen phones being shipped overseas and used on foreign networks.

This is great new for folks in the U.S. I’m reaching out to the major Canadian carriers and industry group to learn if there is a similar plan in Canada. If there were to be a U.S.-Canada-Mexico database of stolen phones, that would also help stem the tide of stolen phones.

See also our previous post about AT&T starting this on their own last summer.

Brick image from Flickr by nottsexminer.

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Categories: Carriers

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  • http://twitter.com/progreenbychris Chris Neufeld

    Finally!! The thefts don’t know how to hack IMEI. Blocked IMEI become useless :D Thanks to major carriers. They will afraid being steal and become useless within 24 hours :D

    • Steven

      You know bad esn iPhone 4s for Verizon are still on sale on eBay for well over 200$?

  • sam12

    thats great but won’t hackers find a way to alter an IMEI number? or is that impossible to do?

    • http://trishussey.com Tris Hussey

      That’s a good question. I’d say, like hacking a MAC address, it’s not a small challenge.

      • moe22

        spoofage.

    • Kiwiholden

      It is possible when the 3GS first came out there was a jailbreak hack that could change the IMEI.
      But it is illegal and the jailbreak community are very much against things like this.
      The thief is better off threatening the person not to report it then spending the time and energy trying to hack it.

    • Guest

      ehmm ! You must be a kid . the only powers in any democracy is in the hands of a parliament, then government and then magistrates. now , we can argue a parliament is actually representing the citizens who participate at the election but again considering call center operators are mostly immigrants and not represented then in almost any parliament as a party for immigrants, they have no power at all in the any circumstances.(being immigrants who do not send any representative in the parliament). You lack of solid school-age background. marc

      • Kiwiholden

        You must be high

  • AT&T Rapes Me

    About damn time Will this work with 3G iPads too

    • http://trishussey.com Tris Hussey

      Not unless it’s the cell data model.

      • moe22

        he just said it is.

    • Kiwiholden

      If they are smart they won’t put a SIM card in it

  • tanoz

    They have had this in Australia for years…. It works within the country fine but once its out of the country it works as a normal phone. IMEI alteration is also against the law, its hard to do and has very severe punishments dealt with it.

  • sfdsa

    i think you have a grammar mistake. i think it should be great news on the bottom not new.

  • Koomoo

    well it seems like this might help, but its not gonna stop people from signing a new contract for 5 brand new phones then selling them online for near full retail and then not pay there bill/report lost stolen = locked phone (BAD ESN)

  • katsuboi

    Good. Will this deter iphone theft? A little I think. But even without the ability to use it as a phone, a stolen phone will still basically function as an itouch. I’ve had my phone stolen, so I’m all for it. This will suck if you buy a used iphone to later find out you can’t use it because it’s stolen. We’ll have to see how this all plays out.

  • m Arch Tom’s on Bar N Ass

    …. and how are we going to defend ourselves from cell networks blocking our phone eventually for a damn piece sh* of a call centre operator who, just didn’t like to confront as labor worker class member with clients paying subscriptions & also money for useless work?
    marc

    • Kiwiholden

      The law! Company policy! Bad press!
      But if you do crack it at a call Center they have the right to block your calls or put a hold on your service.
      They are the ones with the power.

    • m Arch Tom’s on Bar N Ass

      the only powers in any democracy is in the hands of a parliament, then government and then magistrates. now , we can argue a parliament is actually representing the citizens who participate at the election but again considering call center operators are mostly immigrants and not represented then in almost any parliament with a party for immigrants, they have no power at all in any circumstances.(being immigrants who do not send any representative in the parliament). You lack of solid school-age background. marc

      • Kiwiholden

        When you sigh a contract you agree to their terms it’s their service and they make the rules.
        Most of what you said was just unrelated garbage and an attempt to sound intelligent

    • m Arch Tom’s on Bar N Ass

      frankly speaking the only aim in mind here is to make a clear statement the company terms & conditions of service are necessary for the company only in order to be compliant with law and lawmakers ruling however, for any dispute bween a company and the end user , it’s the magistrates evaluating the T&C and the reasons for a dispute. ( i can also assure that over 3 mnths in a court of magistrates in London, UK, made me understand companies always end up breaching their own terms of service for lack of training among their own employees then, they always end up losing in court for any reason emerging from investigations. this is to be referred to for disputes bween end-users and companies. nothing to do with B2B disputes such as Apple inc and Samsung) marc

  • Kiwiholden

    Well this is why all phones have a IMEI that is its purpose!!
    The fact that they are only doing something about it now means up until now they have been supporting theft.

    I assumed from the day that I got my first phone that this was already a worldwide system and that is the only thing that stops me from walking up to young kids in the street and taking their iPhones.
    I’m sure in Australia that once reported the phone is bricked

  • http://www.facebook.com/beshoy.nabilkadamos Beshoy Nabil Kadamos

    I left a comment 10 mins ago, but I can’t see it , so if this is repeated I am sorry.What I was saying is this, I am a silent fan of your site but now I have some question I hope u guys can help me answer , the iPhone 5 hasn’t arrived to my country yet, and the 4s is way expensive so I thought I can buy one with contract from US Apple store, then use the Gevey Ultra S SIM to unlock the iPhone 4s but I am worried, with that new law does that give them the right to block my IMEI?? and if they does , would the iPhone still operates like a kinda of iPod touch ?? hope u guys can help me out and fast :)

    and Thanks a lot in advance for the help and for the great information that u provide :)

  • romoISdupe

    you can still sale it as parts!

    • Chris

      Require the companies that buy to check this database before buying and this is prevented as well.

  • mutzu

    buy the iphone. resell it the iphone. report iphone stolen. iphone go back to apple for malfunction. apple iphone price drop.

  • m Arch Tom’s on Bar N Ass

    You must be a kid . the only powers in any democracy is in the hands of a parliament, then government and then magistrates. now , we can argue a parliament is actually representing the citizens participating the election but again considering call center operators are mostly immigrants and not represented then in almost any parliament as a party for immigrants, they have no power at all in any circumstances.(being immigrants who do not send any representative in the parliament). You lack of solid school-age background. marc

    • Kiwiholden

      Are you high?

  • matt

    The cell phone companies liked stolen phones. It sells more new and improved phones and they get more money. It’s the consumer who gets the short end of the stick.