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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