The new website is designed to provide peace of mind to consumers who are increasingly buying used or refurbished smartphones. It will also benefit law enforcement by allowing police departments to quickly verify the status of a recovered phone.
“The launch of the Stolen Phone Checker represents another key initiative in the U.S. wireless industry’s commitment to safeguarding American consumers,” said CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker. “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.”
“Empowering consumers to ensure their refurbished cell phones aren’t stolen is a win-win. I applaud CTIA for its work on this issue and hope to do what we can at the FCC to raise awareness of this tool, which can provide peace of mind to consumers and decrease the incentive to steal mobile phones,” said Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai. “This is another area where consumers, industry, and the FCC are all pulling in the same direction and getting results.”
Consumers will be able to verify if a device has been reported stolen or lost before making a purchase by entering a device’s unique ID at the GSMA Device Check-powered website. The unique ID - an IMEI, MEID or ESN code - can be located on the device, in device settings or on the device packaging. If a device has been reported as stolen or lost in the database, it will show a red status, and note that wireless service may be blocked from the device.
“The Police Foundation appreciates the wireless industry's leadership in creating the Stolen Phone Checker tool. 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.”
The nation’s wireless carriers have worked closely with law enforcement and other stakeholders in recent years to clamp down on smartphone theft with considerable success. Smartphones now come preloaded with easy-to-use features that enable consumers to remotely lock or wipe their device, and consumer education efforts have made people much more aware of the importance of setting passwords and pins to better safeguard their devices.
These efforts have helped lead to significant declines in mobile device theft. Since 2013, thefts of personal electronic devices in New York have fallen 35.6 percent, according to the NYPD’s crime complaint database. In Washington, DC, Metro Transit Police data show a decline of 51% in the theft of cellphones from 2013 to 2015.
The stolen phone checker website aims to build on this momentum to further reduce the incentive for phone theft. The site has a separate, free portal solely for law enforcement.
The website also provides commercial features to provide stronger protections to businesses such as device resellers or retailers, insurers, repair centers, recyclers and other companies in the device market.
Resellers, for example, will be able to check stolenphonechecker.org, before agreeing to purchase devices in the secondary market, while insurers will be provided better information on loss and theft claims.
“This service empowers consumers, law enforcement agencies and businesses by giving them the information they need on the status of mobile devices,” said John Hoffman, CEO, GSMA Ltd. “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.”
CTIA® (www.ctia.org) represents the U.S. wireless communications industry and the companies throughout the mobile ecosystem that enable Americans to lead a 21st century connected life. The association’s members include wireless carriers, device manufacturers, suppliers as well as apps and content companies. CTIA vigorously advocates at all levels of government for policies that foster continued wireless innovation and investment. The association also coordinates the industry’s voluntary best practices, hosts educational events that promote the wireless industry and co-produces the industry’s leading wireless tradeshow. CTIA was founded in 1984 and is based in Washington, D.C.