Online database tracks stolen phones in Canada

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A custom online database designed to help track stolen cell phones has launched in Canada, providing people who buy phones on the secondary market with a way to avoid an unpleasant surprise when they attempt to activate their purchases.

The online database will let people who are considering purchasing a used phone check the device’s status to see whether it has been reported stolen or used in a fraudulent manner, according to The Toronto Star. Wireless carriers receive theft reports from the phone’s owners and won’t activate devices entered in the theft database. People who unwittingly buy phones that have been reported stolen are therefore stuck with a device they can’t use and have lost money on the deal. Phone thefts in Canada topped 263,000 in the first nine months of 2012. Reported thefts have dropped and are on pace to fall below the more than 400,000 reported in the two previous years.

The online database application provided by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association lets users search for phones bought in Canada by entering their International Mobile Equipment Identity numbers. People can make two such queries per day.

Similar online database considered in U.S.

Wireless carriers in the U.S. worked with the Federal Communications Commission to launch a similar service last year, according to PC Magazine. That online database provides wireless carriers with the means to learn about cell phones and other devices reported missing or stolen by customers. Consumers have the option of reporting stolen phones by calling their service providers, going online or visiting a store. The U.S. database does not yet have a search feature for purchasers to use.