A stolen cell phone will soon be as useless to a thief as a cancelled credit card.
New York Senator Charles Schumer and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly announced Tuesday that most major cell phone providers and the FCC have agreed to disable cell phones that are reported lost. An integrated database of unique cell phone identifiers, called International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers, will be used to track every cell phone entered into the system. IMEI numbers work similar to Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) which provides a unique number to every car in the country and allows law enforcement to track them if stolen. Schumer says smart phones are a high ticket item for thieves.
“Smart phones and iPhones cost about the same as a flat screen TV and can be sold for about as much on the black market,” Schumer said, “but it’s a lot easier to steal a small phone.”
The system works much like the process of cancelling a credit card. Once a cell phone connected to an IMEI number is reported stolen or lost, the phone is remotely disabled by the phone company, rendering it useless in the black market. Schumer believes the instances of stolen cell phones will drop.
“Once [cell phone thieves learn] you can’t activate a stolen phone, they aren’t going to steal it, because no one is going to want it anymore.”
Schumer also introduced legislation making it a felony to tamper with a cell phone’s IMEI number.