A new website from CTIA, the U.S. wireless industry, will help consumers, businesses, and police identify lost or stolen smartphones available for resale.
Smartphones are a prime target for thieves: They hold mass amounts of personal data and offer the opportunity for a quick profit. While there’s been a decline in thefts recently, there are still lost or stolen phones out for resale.
To help consumers avoid purchasing these smartphones, CTIA, the U.S. wireless industry association, has developed Stolen Phone Checker, a website allowing individuals purchasing refurbished smartphones to check the status of the device.
“The launch of the Stolen Phone Checker represents another key initiative in the U.S. wireless industry’s commitment to safeguarding American consumers,” CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker said in a press release. “Much how consumers can check sites such as Carfax prior to purchasing a used car, we hope consumers will empower themselves by using the new website before buying a used phone.”
Using the device’s unique ID code—called an IMEI, MEID, or ESN code—consumers can check whether the device was reported lost or stolen, and therefore unusable, through the website. If that phone has been reported, it will be given red status in the database.
Beyond serving independent consumers, the commercial area of the site allows resellers, retailers, insurers, repair centers, or recyclers to also determine if a phone they’re purchasing has been reported. And a section for law enforcement helps police identify and track lost or stolen phones in the hopes of returning them to their owners.
“This free resource for consumers and law enforcement agencies across the country will certainly help counter smartphone thefts,” said Jim Burch, vice president for strategic initiatives at the Police Foundation. “The stolenphonechecker website will save valuable police time and resources and will also assist officers in apprehending criminals seeking to profit from smartphone theft. Just as important is reuniting owners of lost or stolen smartphones.”
In recent years, wireless carriers and manufacturers have been working to reduce smartphone theft through features that allow users to remotely wipe or lock their phones, as well as through password-, pin-, and fingerprint-protection capabilities. According to the Consumer Reports National Research Center, the number of stolen smartphones dropped from 3.1 million to 2.1 million between 2013 and 2014.
The Stole Phone Checker site—run by GSMA, which represents mobile operators—will continue the effort to reduce smartphone theft and protect consumers buying used devices.
“This service empowers consumers, law enforcement agencies, and businesses by giving them the information they need on the status of mobile devices,” GSMA Ltd. CEO John Hoffman said in the statement. “As the trade association for the global mobile operator community, we are uniquely positioned to deliver reported lost or stolen phone data from the operators to deter crime. Broad access to our data by the mobile ecosystem will make it much more difficult for criminals to profit moving forward.”