IMEI Blacklist

I got an interesting comment on one of my really old blog entries from Michael: Ink all over my pants. He stated:

You do know that each GSM phone has an IMI IMEI number? If you report it stolen they can lock this number world wide and the phone becomes useless to the thief. Sure, you won’t catch him, but at least he won’t have a lot of fun with the phone either.

At first, I confused this with just disassociating my account with the SIM card, but it turns out there’s actually a global blacklist based on the phone’s IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity). From Wikipedia: When mobile equipment is stolen or lost, the operator or owner will typically contact the Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) which blacklists the device in all operator switches so that it will in effect become unusable, making theft of mobile equipment a useless business. The IMEI number is not supposed to be easy to change, making the CEIR blacklisting effective. However this is not always the case: IMEI may be easy to change with special tools and operators may even flatly ignore the CEIR blacklist.

If what they say is true, then it appears all or at least most major networks will follow this blacklist in order to try to deter people from reselling stolen cell phones. Now both the phone and the SIM card are rendered useless, which is quite interesting and I wonder if they actually did that for me when I reported my phone was lost last time. The CSR (customer service representative) didn’t even mention about this and only seemed to want me to purchase a new phone.

However, I could totally see why phone companies would look the other way. Every stolen phone actually means more revenue for them. Since most phones are stolen when under a contract, there’s no longer any need to entice the customer. Either they buy a new phone at the full price or pay the heft cancellation fee.

I wonder if there’s a way to get off the blacklist. One day, I should call T-Mobile and report my stolen phone and see how long it takes them to take my phone off the network. Then I call back and tell them it was a mistake and I had found my phone. Maybe I’ll do it when I get a new phone just to test this.

9 thoughts on “IMEI Blacklist

  1. you only need to buy new phone from the provider if you use CDMA. Since you and me are currently dealing with T-mobile, so if we lose our phone, just simply call them you need a new SIM card since you lost that one, and buy an unlocked GSM phone, which is much better than the POS phones they’re selling in America (from provider) then swap the SIM card in. THere we go 🙂

  2. If you are talking bout T-Mobile in the US, neither they, nor any of the other US GSM carriers, participate in any blacklist. They do nothing to prevent the use of stolen phones.

  3. Did you ever try your experiment?

    I also wonder if, as stolen phones could provide substantial revenue to operators, that even after blacklisting, maybe the blocking is unofficially temporary (a few months or something like that?)

    I just bought a second-hand phone and the seller insisted the phone was a gift. Whilst it appears to be working fine, it occured to me that it could still be stolen from and blacklisted, overseas. Hopefully when comes the day of international cooperation on imei blacklisting, my expensive phone won’t suddenly stop working. I hope not…

  4. Ok i left my 800$ nokia 8800 in a cab.
    Called t-mobile explained CSR that i want to ban the IMEI.
    First she didnt seem to understand. Then she was like we dont do it.
    I told them that legally you are responsible to do it. She wasnt ready to agree.
    I talked to her manager. He didnt agree too. I literally threatened them to cancel my t-mobile account and goto cingular and get a free phone and plan (and pay $200 cancellation instead of paying $200 for a phone). He seemed undettered.

    I hope some lawyer takes this up sometime. I dont feel sad about the phone as much , as I hate t-mobile.

    PS: My average phone bill is ~200$ (Minutes+Web+LongDistance+Messaging)
    So I gave up. Just called the cops and reported a lost phone and gave them the IMEI number. Well Well Well. I think this was my best way out.

  5. Guess what T-Mobile doesn’t have a service to help find the lost mobile using IMEI. I lost my backberry pearl and that sucks.. that they don’t have the sevice.

  6. Hi,

    not all operators use this CEIR. That means that phone can be normaly used in some countries with some operators.

    One of the options after reporting to police, operators etc… is to submit your lost or stolen phone to IMEI database. That will help others that checks the database before buying a phone.

    You can also check your phones model and manufacturer from IMEI and see if it is the same or fake.

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