FCC and carriers team up for stolen cell phone database

The Federal Communications Commission has teamed up with the largest wireless carriers in the USA to develop a database of stolen mobile phones, in an effort to curb theft of the gadgets, reports PC Magazine. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint have pledged support to the FCC's effort, which is called the PROTECTS Initiative.

The PROTECTS Initiative will work like this when it launches within six months: owners of stolen cell phones will be able to call their provider and report their device as stolen, and then the carrier will lock the stolen device down and prevent it from being used. And within 18 months, stolen cell phones will be listed in a common database.

The FCC's initiative follows similar programs in the U.K. and other parts of the world, where those countries are already using databases of stolen devices to cut down on crimes related to cell phone theft. Julius Genachowski, chairman of the FCC, said at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year that he saw such database programs working in those countries.

"With today's announcement, we're sending a message to consumers that we've got your back, and a message to criminals that we're cracking down on the stolen phone and tablet re-sale market and making smartphone theft a crime that doesn't pay," Genachowski said.

According to the FCC, about 40 percent of robberies in major cities like Washington, D.C. and New York City involve cell phones. Cell phone-related crime has gone up 54 percent since 2007 in Washington, D.C. alone.

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10 Comments

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When will something like this come around for laptops? I'm am astounded that after all these advances in technology, there is no simple way to track a stolen laptop, even the most expensive ones that cost several times the cost of a smartphone, especially soon after someone has stolen it.

There is LoJack for notebooks, but is only supported in a few popular countries. Other solutions will not get cooperation from the local police.

wrack said,
Also I heard somewhere that IMEI can be changed? May be I heard wrong or was smoking something!

True indeed but I was too high to remember the address when I read the article at that time.

wrack said,
Also I heard somewhere that IMEI can be changed? May be I heard wrong or was smoking something!

The ESN can, and it's a 'common' method of using an otherwise 'unsupported' phone on a pay-as-you-go carrier (get one of their free android phones, put its ESN on your preferred android device and away you go), or dealing with getting screwed over on a used handset that doesn't have a clean ESN.

Despite the fact that a SIM-card based network allows you to swap out SIM cards to your hearts content, however, other networks that rely entirely on syncing the device's ID to a user's account (Sprint, Verizon, etc) have essentially tied the act of swapping identifiers like that to felony fraud and lump people who do it in with the likes of terrorists.

tl;dr: It's possible, and technically the only way to use whatever device with a compatible modem you want to use, but is illegal because you would obviously only do it to help terrorists smuggle blond college girls into slavery.

Unless it's a global thing and uses the same system (like IMEI) then the system is pointless.
I.E. nick phones from USA and europe and sell them to russia.

"With today's announcement, we're sending a message to consumers that we've got your back, and a message to criminals that we're cracking down on the stolen phone and tablet re-sale market and making smartphone theft a crime that doesn't pay," Genachowski said.

Uhh... yeah it will. Consumers are dumb. Those that would buy from these types are even dumber. So the thief will get paid by the reseller, the reseller will get paid by stupid consumer, consumer will be without a working phone.

Not that I don't think it's a good idea. It is, but it will be the idiots that don't know better that suffer, not the other way around.

Eventually even 100% stupid people will learn, if nothing else it will benefit the rest of us if stolen cell phone market becomes non-existent as a result

This took long enough. It should have been done a long time ago, but since it took the government to force it it shows that carriers enjoy the business they gained from stolen cell phones.