Op-ed: A new tool to further deter smartphone theft

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Enlarge / The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.
Andrew Cunningham

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Meredith Attwell Baker is the president and CEO of CTIA, the mobile phone industry grade group.

www.stolenphonechecker.org, this simple web-based tool empowers consumers, as well as police departments and businesses in the mobile device market such as retailers and resellers, to easily verify if a mobile device has been reported stolen or lost.

Think of it as Carfax for phones.

To use the Stolen Phone Checker, consumers or law enforcement simply enter the mobile device’s unique ID, which can be found on the device or in the device settings.

If the device has been reported as lost or stolen, the device status on the website will be red, noting that phone has been reported lost or stolen and wireless service on the device may be blocked.

By helping consumers make an informed decision about the status of a device, particularly before purchasing one second-hand, the Stolen Phone Checker is aimed at removing an incentive for mobile device theft.

Curbing mobile phone theft is a long-standing priority of the wireless industry and law enforcement nationwide.

To help stem the flow of stolen devices, the wireless industry partnered with policy leaders across the country five years ago to make additional protections available to consumers – at no cost – in the event their smartphone is lost or stolen.

More recently, 16 of the nation’s largest wireless companies signed up to the “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment” in July 2015, which makes anti-theft tools available for free on all new smartphones manufactured after July 2016 for sale in the U.S.

As a result, smartphones now come preloaded with—or offer a free download of—an antitheft tool that enables consumers to remotely lock or wipe their device.

And we’ve also made consumer education a priority, offering best practices and useful tips that help consumers deter device theft and better protect the data on their phones.

If you are not using a passcode or have not activated lock-and-wipe capabilities on your phone, take a few minutes to do so today. You should also ensure you save any cherished photos, videos or contacts and back them up on the cloud or your computer.

It’s also important to be aware of your surroundings and how you use your smartphone.  Like your purse or wallet, don’t call attention to your smartphone, or do things like leaving it on a restaurant table or allow strangers to “borrow” it for directions.

Thanks to these collective efforts, incidents of mobile device theft are on the decline.

In New York City, for instance, the New York Police Department has reported a 35.6 percent decline in robberies of personal electronic devices since 2013.  While in the nation’s capital, DC Metro Transit Police data show a decline of more than 51 percent in cell phone theft from 2013 to 2015.

The Stolen Phone Checker aims to build on this momentum in further deterring smartphone theft.

The launch of the Stolen Phone Checker represents another milestone in the wireless industry’s commitment to better safeguarding American consumers. Whether you are shopping for the latest model or an older phone, we want to make sure you have a positive and safe wireless experience.

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