Broadcaster Magazine

Wireless Carriers Take Action to Battle Smartphone Theft

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association and Canada’s wireless carriers today announced a plan of action to assist law enforcement agencies with their efforts to combat the theft of wireless devices. By September 30, 2013, the authorization of any GSM or LTE wireless device on any Canadian network will include verification that the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number of the device has not been reported lost or stolen on any Canadian network, as well as some international networks that are available in the GSMA IMEI database.

This new device verification process, which will deny service to any device that is on the GSMA “blacklist”, is designed to help eliminate the black market for stolen devices in Canada and abroad by reducing the value of smartphones in the eyes of criminals.

“After comprehensive study, Canada’s wireless industry today is announcing what it believes is the best solution to help keep Canadians safe from cell phone theft,” said CWTA President & CEO Bernard Lord. “And with U.S. wireless carriers following Canada’s planned implementation by completing similar international database measures by November 2013, customers across North America will benefit from this added level of protection.”

As part of today’s announcement, CWTA is launching a consumer information Web site and the first in a series of broadcast public service announcements focused on reminding Canadians of the critical importance of protecting the data on their smartphones. The new bilingual Web site  is designed to act as a hub of resources for Canadians to educate themselves about how to secure their data, as well as how to help protect themselves from becoming a victim of device theft.

It is imperative that customers contact their service provider to immediately report a lost or stolen phone to have their device deactivated. Once the device has been reported, the service provider can then add the device to the blacklist. All instances of personal theft should of course be reported to local law enforcement as well.

CWTA recognizes support for this industry initiative by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and calls on the federal government to consider legislative measures that could augment industry solutions to contribute to the reduction of cell phone theft in Canada. The UK and Australian governments have each adopted legislation that makes it a crime to tamper with, alter or remove a mobile device’s identifier. Maximum penalties for modifying or reprogramming a mobile handset’s IMEI number in these countries range from two to five years in prison. Similar legislation has also been proposed in the U.S.