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IMEI blocking a success? - What's New? IMEI blocking a success?

25 November 2002
Written by Richard Browning

It’s happened to us all at one time or another. That feeling inside that creeps up as soon as you realise you can’t find your phone. For some, a quick call from someone else’s phone is all it takes to make the phone appear and the feeling subside.

But for tens of thousands of people every year, that feeling is followed by the realisation of the fact that their valuable phone has been lost or stolen. Earlier this year, Telstra introduced ground-breaking technology to combat phone theft (you can refer to our previous article "Theives off the air!") - but has it made a difference, or are there many out there still suffering?

Since 15 August 2002, when IMEI (serial) number blocking was introduced, more than 10,000 handsets have been blocked when reported lost or stolen. These are still very early days also. As more people use the service, word of this will spread and more people will utilise it.

But has it worked? Has blocking IMEI numbers deterred your common garden variety phone thief from pinching the handset? According to Telstra Mobile Managing Director Products, Rick Wakeham, “The additional security features available on the Telstra network are clearly benefiting our customers with the reported incidence of lost and stolen handsets falling approximately 23 per cent in 12 weeks…”. This is an encouraging figure, but again it is early days. Thieves may have just been having a spring holiday or people being overly paranoid around September 11 - or perhaps these statistics are a true indicator of the downward spiral of mobile phone theft we are about to experience. Only time will tell.

One thing is for sure. This is a very useful service in enhancing the security of our expensive investments. Combined with a phone lock and SIM card security, this should make theft a lot more taxing on the thief, hopefully making it not worth the effort at all. If you are unaware of these locking possibilities, like 30% of the people surveyed in Telstra’s market research, it would be a wise move to find out. These built-in features of your phone are an easy way to prevent your phone being used illegitimately, and more importantly being charged to your account, in the event that is stolen or lost.

Don’t forget our own Dr. Mobile is always able to help with questions like this, and others.

For those who can’t get enough of those encouraging statistics here are a few more for your reading pleasure:

  • 69% of handsets blocked on the Telstra network were reported as stolen while 31% were reported lost;
  • 32% of blocked phones were from Victoria, 27% from NSW, 18% from Queensland, 14% from Western Australia, 6% from South Australia, 3% from Tasmania and 2% from the ACT;
  • Most phones are reported as lost or stolen on Monday, suggesting that most phones go missing over the weekend;
  • 1167 handsets were subsequently unblocked at the request of customers when they later found the handset. This suggested that people must ensure that their phone is gone before reporting it lost or stolen; and
  • Mobile phones are most likely to be stolen from cars (28%) or social venues such as restaurants, pubs and clubs (20%). However, a substantial number of thefts are from the home (9%) and the workplace (8%), according to Telstra’s research.
So while the new security measures seem to well and truly be cutting back in the area of theft, a longer term study of the problem will truly show their merits. At the same time though, well done to Telstra; this service costs a fair amount to implement and it only serves to help the customer. Hopefully this is a benchmark for the other networks to aim at - fighting theft as thoroughly as possible.

Also, as I said last time, prevention is the best cure: don’t leave your phone unattended and be sure to report it lost or stolen as soon as you know that it is so.

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