Thieves get the message: Stolen mobile phones are network blocked

A 30% fall in blocking of mobile phones reported lost or stolen shows that thieves are getting the message that stolen handsets are worthless as a result of the mobile phone industry’s anti-theft program.

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) released figures showing blocks on lost and stolen mobile phones from the mobile telecommunications industry’s handset blocking program fell nearly 30.2% in the 12 months to September, 2007.

According to the official industry figures, the average daily blocking rate of lost or stolen mobile phones in the 12-month period to September was 269 handsets compared to 385 in 2006.

The industry’s anti-theft technology works by detecting a mobile phone’s electronic serial number, known as the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, then sharing this information with carriers to block handsets from use across all networks in Australia.

AMTA Chief Executive Officer, Chris Althaus, said: “The results show that the IMEI blocking program is acting as a deterrent to thieves, who are getting the message that stealing mobile phones is a bad idea because they will be blocked, making them inoperable across all networks in Australia,” he said.

“We believe this combined with people becoming more aware of the importance of protecting their mobiles from theft or loss has contributed to downward trend in IMEI blocking.

“People have a lot of valuable personal and business information stored in their handsets and are taking more care to safeguard their phones from loss and not leaving them in places such as cars, which are a target of thieves.”

The figures show there were 157,250 IMEI numbers blocked across all networks in the year to September 2007. There were 59,100 numbers subsequently unblocked.

The net result of 98,150 blocked IMEIs represents a 30.2% decrease in blocking activity compared to the same period in 2005-06.

Since the industry started the program of inter-carrier blocking in 2003 at a cost of tens of millions of dollars the carriers had received 794,000 customer requests to block their handsets.

IMEI numbers are independent of the phone number and are usually written underneath the battery or on the back of the handset. Mobile phone users can also check their 15 digit IMEI number by dialing *#06# on their mobile handset. Mobile phone owners should make a note of their IMEI number and keep the details in a safe place.

For tips on how to keep your mobile phone safe and what to do if it is lost or stolen see Consumer Tips here.

For more information contact Randal Markey, AMTA, (02) 6239 6555 or 0421 240 550