FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 16, 2012
SCHUMER INTRODUCES BILL MAKING IT A FEDERAL CRIME TO TRY TO GET AROUND NEW STOLEN PHONE REGISTRY BY TAMPERING WITH A STOLEN CELL PHONE; LEGISLATION IS CRUCIAL PIECE OF SCHUMER- FCC-NYPD PLAN TO CRACKDOWN ON CELL PHONE THEFT
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer introduced legislation today that would impose a five year criminal penalty for tampering with the unique identification number of a cell phone as part of his joint effort with NYPD and the FCC to put a stop to the epidemic of cell phone theft in New York and around the country. In April, Schumer joined New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly to announce an agreement between the the major cell phone carriers and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to set up an integrated database of unique cell phone identifiers, known as International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers, to allow cell phone companies to permanently disable stolen cell phones once they are reported stolen.
Schumer has been leading an effort to crackdown on cell phone theft and last year called for the creation of a national database among the carriers. Schumer noted, however, that without a criminal penalty for tampering with IMEI numbers, thieves could try to get around the ban simply by altering the number to reactivate the phone. The Mobile Device Theft Deterrence Act of 2012 (S.3186) adds a criminal penalty of up to five years in prison for tampering with the IMEI number of a cell phone.
“As part of the effort to shut down the black market for stolen iPhones, we must make it abundantly clear to would-be thieves, if you try to alter a stolen cell phone to get around the ban, you will face severe consequences,” said Schumer. “This legislation will help dry up the black market for stolen cell phones by making the consequences for peddling in this illegal business so severe, thieves would think twice before doing so.”
Currently, when cell phones are reported stolen, many American cell phone companies only deactivate the phone’s “SIM” card, which is the account data storage component of the device. While deactivation of a SIM card does not allow for the device to be used with existing data and account information, SIM cards are easily removed and replaced, allowing stolen phones to be easily resold on the black market. In April, at Schumer’s urging, the industry agreed to work together with the FCC and establish a nationwide, interconnected database that will allow the carriers to share information on stolen cell phones across networks and ban the use of cell phones reported stolen. Schumer’s bill, the Mobile Device Theft Deterrence Act of 2012 will add criminal penalties of up to five years for tampering with cell phones in order to circumvent the service ban on a stolen phone. The bill has the full support of CTIA, the Wireless Association, who have joined forces with Schumer and the FCC to implement the national database.
According to the New York Police Department, 42% of all property crimes of individuals in New York City in 2011 involved a cell phone. Cell phone robberies in New York are being fueled in large part 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. Cell phone theft and its resultant violence is a growing problem in the New York metropolitan area. Just several weeks ago, a 26 year old man, returning home from work as a chef at the Museum of Modern Art, was murdered in the Bronx for his smart phone.