FCC tags US smartphone thefts at well over 1M a year

FCC tags US smartphone thefts at well over 1M a year

05 DEC 2014

A new report from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) indicates the huge number of smartphones stolen in the US but admits an accurate figure is hard to nail down.

The FCC’s working group on Mobile Device Theft Prevention said there are no official statistics for the crime, either in the US or internationally. While there is an industry database in the US, it is not fully subscribed to by all operators. Plus the database is not widely known among law enforcement agencies, it said.

Nevertheless the working group estimates smartphone thefts “considerably exceeding” one million per year (although this figure is far lower than the three million claimed in a Consumer Reports survey).

And the working group was more troubled about the lack of knowledge about where stolen smartphones go. Some are being exported from the US, it believes, emphasising the need for international action. “Especially given this point, it is important that the FCC provide national leadership in addressing this critical global issue,” the group notes.

On the positive side, the working group says industry groups such as CTIA and GSMA-North America have developed voluntary commitments and best practice on smartphone theft mitigation.

And great progress has been made with technical solutions that reduce phone theft.

Part of the working group’s remit is to come up with recommendations for action.

Further strengthening IMEI security is one. And more operators should be encouraged to participate in initiatives such as the CTIA’s Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment. The initiative encourages operators to take certain networked based actions, such as the GSMA’s IMEI database, to deter theft. And law enforcement agencies need a better understanding of the anti-theft tools available. Finally, consumers need to be more aware of deterrent measures. That will also have an effect in reducing phone theft, says the working group’s report.


Richard Handford

Richard is the editor of Mobile World Live’s money channel and a contributor to the daily news service. He is an experienced technology and business journalist who previously worked as a freelancer for many publications over the last decade including...

Read more