NZ telcos mull blacklisting stolen cellphones

By Hayden Donnell

Vodafone, Telecom, 2degrees and Telecom have joined with Paymark to launch a 'mobile wallet' joint venture to allow people to pay for goods and services with cellphones. Photo / Thinkstock
Vodafone, Telecom, 2degrees and Telecom have joined with Paymark to launch a 'mobile wallet' joint venture to allow people to pay for goods and services with cellphones. Photo / Thinkstock

Major Kiwi telco providers are looking at working together to implement a new nationwide system aimed at stopping thieves using stolen cellphones.

US wireless companies agreed earlier this month to disable cellphones after they are reported stolen in a bid to stop them being used again or sold on.

The system relies on providers having access to a central database which recognises and blacklists stolen phones.

It was established in response to rising rates of cellphone theft, with criminals stealing devices to resell them, sometimes overseas.

Vodafone said it had the technology today to consider a similar national shared database of stolen phones to blacklist.

It was investigating the system with the Telecommunications Carriers Forum, which fosters cooperation between telco companies, and other providers.

Telecom spokesman Richard Irvine said the company was also interested in a collaborative industry response to cellphone theft.

"We may look further into this idea in the future, but we are not currently working on an initiative like this."

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen said telco companies needed to work together to set up a nationwide blacklist of stolen phones soon.

He had received reports thieves were increasingly targeting cellphone handsets around New Zealand.

"Absolutely we do need it because without it there's nothing to stop you taking a phone from one network, putting in another network's SIM card and selling it quite happily. I think the telcos will rally round on this one. It's for the customers. We'd like to see them develop a blacklist."

Both Vodafone and Telecom already have some measures in place to stop stolen cellphones being used again.

Vodafone disables stolen phones' SIM cards and blocks the handset from its network after receiving a report of a theft.

Telecom bars stolen phones from any outgoing activity and allocates customers a password to reactivate the phone if it is recovered.

Neither system can stop phones being sold on or used again on another network.

The rise of smartphones has seen rapid growth in cellphone thefts in major US cities including New York and Washington.

New York Senator Charles Schumer called smartphones "catnip for criminals"' because they were valuable, exposed and easy to steal.

A police spokesman said cellphone thefts were not tracked under New Zealand crime statistics.

- Herald Online

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