TELUS leads charge in war on smartphone theft

Maple leafTELUS is part of a national coalition of carriers taking a bite out of smartphone theft today with the new IMEI blacklist database.

You may be thinking, what is this IMEI you speak of? Let me explain. Every smartphone has an IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number, very much like a serial number. The IMEI is unique to each device, usually under the battery and listed within the device itself. As of today, before anyone can activate a smartphone brought into one of our stores, we will check its IMEI against a database of stolen and lost handsets. Initially the database will include reports from all participating Canadian carriers and will be expanded to U.S. carriers in the near future as they join the international database. We’ll add lists from other participating countries in the near future, as we continue integrating this new system.

Smartphone theft has emerged as a real problem in Canada over the last few years. It is a major issue for both the wireless service provider and the consumer. There are countless stories in the news of Smartphone theft from individuals to large scale break-ins in retail stores. Hundreds of thousands of smartphones are reported lost or stolen in Canada every year. Smartphone theft has emerged as a global problem because today’s devices can be worth anywhere between $750 and $1,000. These powerful computers that fit in a pocket or purse are valuable liquid assets that appeal to criminals, whether they’re looking at stealing them from stores or individuals.

Over the last few years, TELUS has been taking a strong independent action to combat this issue – we keep logs of devices reported to us as stolen from TELUS and share that information with other carriers, and refusing to reactivate any device reported as stolen. We are pleased the larger Canadian industry has moved on this as well. Efforts to assist law enforcement agencies combat the theft of wireless devices has resulted in TELUS and the other members in the CWTA joining forces to implement this blacklist of lost and stolen devices so they can’t be activated on CWTA member networks in Canada and soon across North America and around the world.

Any handset reported stolen to a participating Canadian carrier will be logged in the database so no other participating carrier in Canada will be able to activate it. By making stolen handsets hard to activate they will become less attractive to steal. For those times when a phone is reported stolen but is actually just lost – and the owner subsequently finds them – those phones can be taken off the list and reactivated.

As I mentioned off the top, smartphone theft is an issue for both the provider and the consumer. You can take some common sense steps to be part of the solution, too. One way the consumer can help is to  think carefully when they are  buying second-hand phones from online “sell-it-yourself” websites and instead of from  a verified dealer.  If you buy a phone from a classified ad it might be legitimate, but there’s a chance it could be stolen – then you will likely be unable to get it activated and you’re going to be out some hard-earned cash.  See if you can verify the device prior to a private sale by using the new ProtectYourData.ca website. The site enables Canadian consumers to enter the IMEI number of a wireless device to find out immediately if that device has been blacklisted. If the IMEI number has been blacklisted, that device will not be able to be used on any Canadian network. The site also includes info on how to protect the data on your smartphone and avoid becoming a victim of device theft.

At TELUS we take the issue of smartphone theft to heart, and we pressed the industry to get involved in this important database. Today, we are one step closer in successfully combating this issue.