Mobile

Carriers Must Stop Phone Thefts, Says FCC

The Federal Communications Commission wants wireless carriers to do more to stop the million-plus smartphone thefts in the U.S. every year, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A report issued last week by an FCC advisory panel, which looked at how the wireless industry can make stolen phones less useful, recommended making remote locking and phone wiping a mandatory feature. It also argued for somehow tying each phone's unique "fingerprint" to its owner so that the devices can't be reused by thieves.

The FBI estimates that more than 10 percent of of U.S. thefts and robberies in 2013 were associated with mobile devices. The FCC report also said anecdotal evidence indicates that some of the millions of stolen phones are sent overseas.

The report said the main barriers to theft prevention are insufficient data and the fact that carriers don't verify whether a phone is stolen when it's brought in for activation or service. An industry database meant to track stolen phones hasn’t been fully adopted by all wireless carriers or widely used by law enforcement.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, speaking last Thursday (Dec. 4) at a meeting of the panel, called smartphone theft a national problem" requiring a national solution. Wheeler said he planned to write to the CEOs of the wireless carriers, sending them a copy of the report and asking to hear back within 30 days on their plans for implementing the recommendations.

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