Industry leaders are taking measures to combat the rise of stolen mobile devices. A database of phone IDs and a public awareness campaign may deter potential thieves from stealing these gadgets.

Wireless Industry Forms a Campaign to Discourage Mobile Device Theft


Cell phones and smartphones theft has been on the rise for several years now, and has become a serious concern – the FCC refers to it as an epidemic. According to the Federal Communications Commission(FCC), 40% of all robberies in New York “involve a smartphone and other cell phones,” 38% in DC, and this figure generally varies between 30% and 40% in other United States cities. In Washington DC, the number of robberies involving a cell phone has increased by 54% from 2007 to 2011. The wireless industry (ATT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint), police departments from several US cities and the FCChave decided to work together in order to fight this “massive smartphone and data theft” (PDF). The initiative wants to prevent theft and educate the population.

A common database of stolen smartphones

The major result of this joint initiative is the development and implementation of a centralized database of “unique identifiers of stolen wireless devices.” If their cell phone gets stolen, owners will be able to call their carrier, who can then block the device from network usage and therefore prevent thefts of using the device. This shared database is meant to help wireless carriers and police departments collaborate and “make it harder for thieves to resell wireless devices.” In the next six months, wireless providers will roll out support for this plan, and Americans will be able to call and activate their phone on the database.

Public education and industry accountability

Carriers and manufacturers will spread education and consumer empowerment to help deter theft and secure their own data. In the future, smartphones will more actively encourage users to activate password locks by means of user guides and notifications. Providers will also directly inform their customers about password usage, security apps and how to locate and remotely wipe data from their devices. The wireless industry at large will support this campaign with media buys to spread awareness on the robbery issue and how owners can protect themselves. The FCC plans to monitor progress on this initiative - the industry will publish quarterly updates and submit them to the Commission.

By Ivory King