Lost or stolen mobile phones will now become almost worthless, because once reported as missing by their owners they will be blocked on all digital networks across the country.
Each year in Australia more than 100,000 mobile phones are reported lost or stolen. This equates to 2000 each week or one mobile phone handset every six minutes.
From April this year all mobile phone carriers have been actively blocking lost and stolen phones on their networks, however inter-carrier blocking wasn’t possible until now.
From 15 September Australia’s GSM network providers – Optus, Telstra and Vodafone – have agreed to send a list of lost, stolen or found mobile phones to each other every day so the identified mobile phones can be blocked or unblocked on all digital networks within 36 hours.
The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) operates the system which allows the sharing of a phone’s unique electronic serial number, known as the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, between carriers.
“We expect this to significantly reduce the level of mobile phone theft because law enforcement agencies will now be able to find out who has attempted to connect a lost or stolen mobile phone on any network,” said AMTA Chief Executive Officer, Mr Graham Chalker.
“Anyone thinking about stealing or receiving a stolen phone will now have to think twice before getting it reconnected,” he said.
The mobiles industry has spent more than $7 million on technology to block IMEI numbers. This includes the development of technology to block IMEI numbers on each GSM network and for AMTA to share the information between the carriers.
AMTA uses a messaging platform which was developed by the Australian Communications Industry Forum to streamline industry business processes called the Electronic Information Exchange (EIE). The hosting, operations, support and maintenance of the EIE are provided by Paradigm One Pty Ltd.
The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, welcomed the introduction of inter-carrier IMEI blocking on all GSM networks, which is a world first initiative for Australia.
“This is an excellent example of the mobile phone industry working together and with government, law enforcement agencies and consumer groups to achieve a better social outcome,” Senator Alston said.
The Australian Government is currently working on legislation to make it an offence to ‘rebirth’ stolen mobile phones by modifying their IMEI. The proposed Commonwealth offence will complement State and Territory theft offences that already cover the act of stealing mobile phones, he said.
Under the proposed legislation it will be an offence to possess or control data or a device with the intention of it being used, by that person or another, to illegally modify or change the IMEI of a mobile phone. The maximum penalty for the proposed offence would be two years imprisonment.
“Inter-carrier IMEI blocking will make mobile phone theft less attractive, but it is up to individual mobile phone owners to look after their phones and minimise the risk of them being stolen,” Mr Chalker said.
More than 50 per cent of stolen mobiles are taken from cars, so never leave your mobile in the car and never put it down in a public place or leave it unattended, he said.
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.
In the event of a lost or stolen phone, notify your network carrier and the police immediately and provide the IMEI number, serial number and any other information that will help to identify the phone such as phone model, engraved names and colour. Your network carrier will put a block on the phone using the IMEI number, rendering it useless on all GSM networks.
For more information on mobile phone theft prevention and security see: http://www.mindyourmobile.com/
The mobile phone industry is making a huge investment in developing more effective security features that make the theft of mobiles fruitless. By making use of these features and by observing a few simple guidelines you can help put thieves out of business - and save yourself a lot of inconvenience and expense. Mobile security is in your hands.