AT&T Plans To Block Stolen Phones
July 7, 2012

AT&T Plans To Block Stolen Phones

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

One of the largest telecom carriers in the US is set to launch a new service for reporting and blocking stolen devices early next week, sources told Louis Goddard of The Verge on Friday.

According to Goddard, a "trusted" informant has confirmed that AT&T will launch the service Tuesday. Under the new program, customers will be able to deny voice, data, or instant messaging access to any individual smartphone or tablet without requiring account deactivation or a complete SIM block.

An internal AT&T company memo sent to employees on Wednesday "suggests that AT&T will be creating a blocklist of stolen phones and tablets," Mashable's Emily Price wrote. Price reports that any stolen device can be added to the list, and service to that phone or computer will be automatically suspended if the thief attempts to use it.

"So if a thief tries to use your stolen phone to call a friend abroad or even send a text to someone down the street, service on the phone will be immediately suspended. Likewise, if a thief tries to use your new 4G iPad to stream their favorite flick on Netflix, service will be suspended to that device," she said. "Once added to the list, a phone will be unable to be used on AT&T´s network until the person who initiated the block contacts AT&T to remove it."

CNET reporter Roger Cheng said that the new initiative is part of the Dallas, Texas-based corporation's efforts to cooperate with other carriers and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the creation of a national stolen handset database. Company representatives told Cheng that this is AT&T's "first step" in that process, which will ideally make stolen phones unusable, eliminate their resale value, and deter would-be thieves.

As noted by technology writer Suzanne Choney, Sprint and Verizon Wireless already have similar services, while T-Mobile currently deactivates the SIM cards of stolen phones but has not yet agreed to take steps to prevent those devices from being used.

"By this fall, each of the carriers are to create their own databases, and in the next year, link those databases nationally," Choney added. "Similar programs exist in other 19 other countries, which in turn have linked their databases to an international one to help stop the transportation of stolen phones across borders."