Consumer Law

Benefited by $30B in annual cellphone sales, industry opposes anti-theft measures, columnist says

As lawmakers and top government attorneys in a number of states push for new laws requiring a cellphone kill switch that would help eliminate a hot market for stolen electronic devices, it’s a little-known fact that there are other, less convenient, alternatives to which consumers can turn to protect themselves.

Every cellphone has an International Mobile Station Equipment Identity number, C.W. Nevius reports. If you give police that IMEI number when you report it stolen, and it matches the number of a phone in the ecoATM database, the company will return the phone to its owner free of charge. (What is an ecoATM? It’s a kiosk that allows individuals to turn in phones for instant cash; there are 900 of them nationwide.)

“But did you even know your phone had such a number? Do you know how to find it?” Probably not, Nevius writes in an article that suggests manufacturers and retailers are dragging their feet on methods to help curb rampant cellphone thefts because of the revenue generated by new purchases. In 2011, some $30 billion was spent to buy new phones to replace those lost and stolen, according to one mobile security firm survey.

“It is a crime of convenience,” says state Sen. Mark Leno, who is sponsoring a bill that would require new California cellphones sold after Jan. 1, 2015, to have a kill switch built into the device. “End the convenience. End the crime.”

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón is one of the supporters of the proposed state law.

See also: “See the video: Woman chases youth who grabs iPhone; such thefts are ‘epidemic,’ sometimes lethal”

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