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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 17, 2012

WITH iPHONE & SMARTPHONE THEFT EXPLODING IN NY, SCHUMER CALLS ON AT&T TO INCLUDE NYPD REPRESENTATIVES AT KEY INDUSTRY MEETING ON CELL PHONE THEFT AND FRAUD NEXT WEEK; SENATOR WANTS NYPD AT TABLE TO MAKE PITCH FOR TECHNOLOGY THAT WOULD PERMANENTLY DISABLE STOLEN CELL PHONES



Half of All Property Thefts in NYC Are Related to Cell Phones, Yet Major Carriers Like AT&T and T-Mobile Use Technology That Only Deactivates Memory Card in Phone, Allowing Thieves to Replace Card and Then Sell Stolen Cell Phones; In August, Schumer Called on Carriers to Deactivate Entire Phone If It’s Stolen
AT&T Is Set to Host Key Meeting of Major Cell Phone Carriers on Issues of Security and Fraud; Schumer Calls on AT&T to Provide a Seat at the Table for NYPD to Discuss Need for Carriers to Implement Technology to Help Crack Down on Rising Cell Phone Theft
Schumer: Carriers Need to Hear Directly from NYPD on Strategies for Cracking Down on iPhone Theft

 

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on AT&T to ensure that the New York Police Department has a seat at the table for the upcoming meeting of the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) Association’s North America Committee on Security and Fraud, to give a firsthand report on the rapidly rising rate of smart phone theft in New York City and strategies to crackdown on the theft of iPhones and other cell phone devices. Cell phone companies that do not block the use of stolen phones will be holding a meeting of its Security and Fraud committee on January 23rd, and Schumer is pressing the Association to hear-out the NYPD on the need for carriers to implement technology that permanently disables stolen cell phones. In August, Schumer sent a letter to the major carriers urging them to implement technology, already in use overseas, to permanently deactivating stolen cell phones to make them useless after they are stolen.

 

“Theft of iPhones and other smart phones is rampant in New York. We have the technology to make phones worthless to criminals – and kibosh this rapidly expanding criminal market – but too few cell phone firms are incorporating this device-disabling technology,” said Schumer. “By adopting the latest technology that allows companies to disable phones after they’ve been stolen, companies like AT&T could reduce cell phone theft dramatically. With more and more phones stolen every day, it’s crucial that we act immediately, and that’s why I’m urging AT&T to consult with the NYPD about how to best crackdown on cell phone theft.”

 

According to the NYPD, almost half of all property thefts in New York City are related to cell phones. A major cause for the theft of iPhones and other smart phones is the ability to resell the phones on the black market. Currently, many American cell phone companies that use GSM technology, including AT&T and T-Mobile, only deactivate the phone’s “SIM” card once the phone is reported stolen. While deactivating a SIM card protects user account information, SIM cards can be easily removed and replaced, allowing stolen phones to be resold and used on the black market. In August, Schumer called on the major carriers who rely on SIM card technology to adopt a more sophisticated security protocol that can permanently shut down stolen cell phones. AT&T, which chairs the GSM Association’s North American Committee on Security and Fraud, is holding a meeting of carriers later this month, and Schumer is urging the company to have representatives of the NYPD join the meeting to make the case for the use of disabling technology to permanently shut down stolen cell phones.

 

Instead of relying on the deactivation of a SIM card, Schumer urged the major phone carriers in August to deactivate stolen phones based on a unique number assigned to individual devices, called an International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number.  IMEI numbers, unlike SIM cards, are assigned exclusively to each cell phone and are not replicated. In the United Kingdom, carriers have the ability to disable handsets based on IMEIs, serial numbers, or other unique identifiers. This prevents criminals from swapping SIM cards to activate a stolen cell phone. Verizon already uses this on its own network in the United States.

 

According to the NYPD, cell phone robberies in New York are being fueled by the fact that stolen phones, like the iPhone and Android phones, are easily resold on the black market because they use SIM card technology. A recent NYPD study found that half of the nearly 16,000 robberies in New York over the first 10 months of 2011 involved technological gadgets, most of which were cell phones. 70% of the cell phones stolen on subways and buses this year, according to the NYPD, were iPhones.

 

On January 23rd, AT&T will meet with other GSM carriers at the GSM Association’s North America Committee on Security and Fraud to discuss ways to combat cell phone theft. Because of New York City’s epidemic of cell phone theft, and the NYPD’s unparalleled experience attempting to fight it, Schumer noted that the agency would be uniquely qualified to consult with the cell phone companies on how to find a solution to the crisis.

 

Schumer, in a letter to AT&T Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President Randall L. Stephenson and Executive Vice President of Federal Relations Timothy P. McKone, called on the company to extend an invitation to the NYPD to join the cell phone companies at the January 23rd meeting. Schumer noted that these preventable thefts expend valuable Police Department resources, both because they are so frequent and because each theft must be investigated via a subpoena or a search warrant. Schumer said that bringing together law enforcement and the cell phone companies could be a huge step forward in the fight against cell phone theft. 

 

A copy of Schumer’s letter is below.

 

Randall L. Stephenson

Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President

AT&T

208 South Akard Street

Dallas, TX  75202

 

Timothy P. McKone

Executive Vice President, Federal Relations

AT&T

1133 21st St., NW

Suite 900

Washington, DC  20036

 

Dear Mssrs.  Stephenson and McKone:

 

I write today to follow up on our previous communication regarding the rampant theft of wireless devices.  I understand that AT&T currently serves as the chair of the GSM Association’s North America Committee on Security and Fraud, and that your committee will be meeting shortly.  Therefore, I am requesting that you invite representatives of the NYPD to meet with you and other GSM carriers at your January 23rd meeting, and that you consult in some detail with them and other members of law enforcement to arrive at a cost-effective and safe solution to this rampant problem, such as the system that is in place in the United Kingdom.

 

A recent NYPD study found that half of the nearly 16,000 robberies in New York over the first 10 months of 2011 involved technological gadgets, most of which were cell phones. 70% of the cell phones stolen on subways and buses this year, according to the NYPD, were iPhones. I, and they, remain interested in exploring the implementation of the system that is used in the United Kingdom, in which GSM carriers are able to share information about the serial (or other corresponding numbers) of handsets in order to disable them.  Without this system, or something similar, the following consequences result:

 

(1)   There is virtually no deterrence to stealing GSM-network handsets, because it is easy either to replace to SIM card or to unlock the device on a different GSM carrier’s network;

(2)   These preventable thefts expend valuable Police Department resources, both because they are so frequent and because each theft must be investigated via a subpoena or a search warrant.

 

In short, the ability simply to shut down each handset once it is stolen will protect the original purchaser’s privacy, conserve police resources, and deter crime—crime that can and does lead to personal injury. 

 

I am happy to facilitate your meeting with the NYPD in any way that would be helpful to you and the department.

 

Sincerely,

 

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer

 

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