Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about people being mugged for their smartphones or simply getting them snatched mid-conversation with Uncle Jack. These pricey phones can cost over $500 without a contract, so they make perfect targets for thieves.
However, phone snatching isn’t as widespread around the world as it is in the United States. For example, in Australia a stolen phone is about as useful as a PDA or the equivalent of an iPod Touch. Each phone has its own unique serial number, and once it’s reported stolen, it can no longer be used to make calls or send messages with any service provider.
“What it means is that stealing a phone is a complete waste of time… although the thief could probably use it as a paperweight,” said Randal Markey of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association.
After launching this blacklisting program nearly 10 years ago, Australia has seen a drastic reduction in phone thefts, which have decreased 25%, even though the number of phones in use has more than doubled down under.
So why hasn’t Uncle Sam followed Australia’s example? According to SFGate’s C.W. Nevius, it’s very feasible – but also unprofitable – for phone companies and service providers to get with the blacklisting program.
Once a phone is stolen, the victim has to replace it, thus sending more revenue the cell phone companies’ way. The stolen phone gets used by someone else, who will usually sign up with a service provider, which isn’t bad news for Verizon or T-Mobile. If companies were to start blacklisting, not only would they miss out on additional revenue, it would also cost them to implement and manage the program.
In an effort to make customers feel like they’re being cared for and protected, the phone giants offer solutions like remote data wiping or GPS tracking of missing handsets. However, those kinds of meager security measures can’t compare to what the Australian phone companies – and providers in many other countries – are doing.
Blacklisting is being implemented successfully and free of charge to consumers in many countries around the world. The technology isn’t being used in the U.S., due mostly to corporate greed. That strikes us as outrageous. Not only does phone theft put people’s property and data in danger, it also puts their safety at risk.
So next time a guy in a hoodie offers you a stolen iPhone for a hundred bucks, think long and hard about the potential consequences.