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An Easy Way To Curb Smart-Phone Thieves, In Australia 234

First time accepted submitter xx_chris writes "Cell carriers can and do brick jail broken cell phones but they won't brick stolen cell phones. Except in Australia. The Australians apparently have been doing this for 10 years and it reduces violent crime since the thieves know they won't be able to sell the stolen phone. The article points out that cell carriers have a financial disincentive to do this since a stolen phone means another sale."
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An Easy Way To Curb Smart-Phone Thieves, In Australia

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  • Re:Disincentive? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@b ... u d s o n . c om> on Saturday December 03, 2011 @11:19PM (#38254656) Journal
    ... except that now the thieves have an incentive to buy the higher-operating-margin pre-paid phones when they need a "burn phone" to discuss illegal stuff.
  • Re:Violent (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @11:36PM (#38254726)

    I've lived in two of those cities and never been mugged. I'm not saying they aren't dangerous, but it's not a part of every day life.

    You don't have to have been mugged to have violence be a part of everyday life. There are many parts of my city that I refuse to go to at night, because it's known to be dangerous. There are other parts that I avoid even in the daytime for the same reason. There are many nice ethnic restaurants in those areas that I'd like to go to but in general, I don't because I don't want my car broken into or to be mugged myself.

  • by clockt ( 882520 ) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @11:42PM (#38254748)
    I occasionally browse through the pawn brokers shops, looking for old hand tools. A few years ago it was common to see 3 or 4 display cases filled with second-hand mobile phones stacked 3 deep. The Motorola Razr was popular then, and well represented. Over the course of about one week they all went away; I wandered in to one shop not far from the centre of town to be greeted with a desert of black, dusty velvet. Not a single phone left in the place.

    Two things occurred to me then: The government had done something good (!) and pawn brokers are a thinly disguised mechanism for returning stolen goods to the economy.

    I'd known about the ability to block a digital phone since the change from analogue, and it always struck me as ridiculous that the telco wouldn't do that as a matter of course: they are service companies, they lock the asset into their system, and they make the contract a personal thing. Isn't it good customer service to say "Sorry your phone got stolen, but rest assured the thief will get no benefit from it. Come to the show room and lets talk about a replacement..." Yes, you may end up paying for two phones and might feel personally disempowered, but the knowledge that the long arm of the telco can reach out to the thief and stop his gloating in a heartbeat has some real value.

    Credit Card companies do it with stolen cards don't they? What's the difference? The stolen item has a unique identifier, the database has a flag on said number and when it appears in the system the alarm bell rings and it refuses to service it. The stolen asset is suddenly less valuable, or possibly even a liability if we take it to it's logical conclusion.

  • Re:Disincentive? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @11:58PM (#38254820)

    It sounds like the carriers have an incentive to brick stolen phones, not a disincentive as the summary states. If a stolen phone results in another phone sale (to the person who's had their phone stolen) this doesn't sound like a disincentive to me.

    Don't underestimate the cell phone carriers - if such a stolen phone registry were to be implemented in the USA, the carriers would make sure that all off-contract phones got put on the list automatically, eliminating the used phone market. They'd justify it with some reason like "to prevent fraud" or "old phones cost too much to support on our network" -- kind of the same reasoning they use to justify high ETF's that still cost over $100 one month before the contract ends.

  • Re:Disincentive? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 04, 2011 @12:25AM (#38254948)

    Don't forget that the parts of a phone sell for more than the phone can give, especially an Apple device. Take the front/black glass, digitizer, and iPhone case. Even if the electronics are shot, just the other stuff can easily sell for a couple hundred bucks easily. As far as I know, Apple doesn't use Gorilla Glass, so there is a thriving secondary market for replacement panels, especially factory grade as opposed to Chinese knock-offs, and you can't get any more factory than stuff from a stolen device for the most part.

    This is the same with laptops and bicycles. These get stolen, broken up into components, and sold for a nifty haul (cash for the fence, meth rocks for the tweakers.) Serial numbers are not really going to matter -- Shimano XTR or Dura-Ace parts are not numbered, and just breaking off and selling a complete set is more lucrative by far than trying to find a buyer for a stolen bike. With this in mind, it is no wonder why people will break a carbon fiber frame in half just to get the bike off a lock, or just go and steal the fork and wheels, leaving the frame locked in place.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 04, 2011 @01:16AM (#38255142)

    Spanish numbering, for example is backwards. for six thousand with 2 decimals, they would say 6.000,00. of course, they would say that we're backwards, so w/e. i'm guessing cyrano isnt a native english speaker, instead one that numbers like that.

  • Uhh, Japan? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kagetsuki ( 1620613 ) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @02:54AM (#38255486)

    In Japan as soon as you contact the service provider they remotely lock the phone, start tracking it, and if you've reported it stolen they report its position to the police.

  • Re:Violent (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @04:42AM (#38255702)

    Thats just because you're a bigoted idiot :) Even the most dangerous parts of DC aren't really all that dangerous when you look at the actual numbers rather than sensationalist media reports and the odds of anything actually happening too you are slim to none ... well, unless you do something to cause someone to beat the shit out of you because they realize how you look down on them.

  • Re:Phone Tracking (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @05:08AM (#38255780)

    As of today, I have not heard about a single case where the tracking was used for the phone owners benefit, and every time I have called 911 from my cell phone, the person on the other end needed me to give them my location.

    Sigh, you're confusing procedure and reality.

    I hit a deer about 3 weeks ago in a rural area of North Carolina at about 1am, hilly area with bad reception. Took 3 911 calls just to get the conversation going. When finally connected you are asked your location (even when you're at home) as confirmation to make sure they don't blindly send someone to the wrong side of town while you die. The same thing happens at any major medical procedure for instance, you'll be asked several times what procedure you're having to make sure no one fucked up and is going to cut off you're leg when you were supposed to have your ingrown toenail fixed.

    Needless to say, before I could actually tell them my location, the cop showed up.

    Regardless of where you call 911 from, they're going to ask you where you are. Address records can be wrong, they want to confirm. Its common sense really.

  • Re:Disincentive? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 04, 2011 @06:29AM (#38256052)

    The problem with big government -- and I know this is a shock to everyone who wants to make big government a party-lines issues -- has nothing to do with regulation and everything to do with redundancy. In the US we have the FDA, DEA, and the ATF (and probably other agencies) regulating what I can eat or otherwise put into my body. Why do we need 3+ agencies? Why do some of them need law enforcement capabilities? Doesn't the FBI/Marshal Service/Secret Service/etc. provide sufficient enforcement of federal regulations? Why does the DEA get to make rules about what doctors can prescribe -- isn't that why we have the FDA? Why does the ATF get to bypass FDA labeling rules for products intended for consumption by humans? My problem is big government has little to do with regulation and everything to do with redundancy.

    I also wouldn't mind mandatory sunset on all new laws, to be sure that we still care about past regulations/agencies/etc. enough to affirmatively renew them, but the problem I se with "big government" is much more about the plethora of independent agencies than whatever specific rules they've been authorized to create.

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva