The FCC has leaned on North American cell carriers and forced them to agree to permanently disable any phone that has been reported stolen. The proposed system is already in use across Europe.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said in a statement late Monday that major cellphone carriers and the Federal Communications Commission have agreed to set up a database of identification numbers that are unique to each phone. Using the list, cellular carriers will be able to permanently disable a phone once it’s been reported stolen. Until now, U.S. carriers have only been disabling so-called “SIM” cards, which can be swapped in and out. That’s enabled a black market to exist for stolen phones. Schumer said that the goal of the agreement is to make a stolen cellphone “as worthless as an empty wallet.”
As I’ve reported here recently, New York City is presently enduring an epidemic of cell-snatching on the subway. Typically thieves will reach into the car just as the doors are closing. Before the victim can react, the train is already in motion. The MTA has issued advisories warning riders not to reveal their phones while near the doors.