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
IMInumber? 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.