The UK’s mobile industry has pledged to cut off stolen phones in a move co-ordinated by the Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum (MICAF).

MICAF, which represents the five primary operators plus BT, Virgin, Nokia, BenQ Siemens and the biggest mobile retailers, said the new code would mean 80% of stolen phones would be blocked on all networks within 48 hours.
This approach uses the existing database of stolen IMEI numbers rather than any new technology to zap a handset permanently – entirely possible if the networks and manufacturers were to agree on it. The problem is that a large number of stolen phones go abroad, typically to Eastern Europe or sub-Saharan Africa, and the IMEI blocking won’t affect the networks there.
The Home Office has pledged £1.35m to a new national specialist mobile crime unit, which will be advised by MICAF. And MICAF itself is planning a campaign intended to make the young more aware of the dangers of using a phone in public.
And eBay has banned the sale of barred mobile phones, which might help. The initiative follows raids on premises across Greater London to arrest people trying to sell stolen phones on eBay. The National Mobile Phone Crime Unit exercise was carried out with information supplied by eBay’s fraud team; it led police to issue 20 search warrants and make 13 arrests. A total of 45 stolen mobile handsets were seized in the raids.
eBay has stopped short of asking sellers for the IMEI numbers of handsets to check against police records. Instead, eBay will remove any listings of blocked mobile phones from the auction site on the grounds that the networks have barred them because they have been stolen and they have been posted for sale abroad.
•According to researchers at Loughborough University, the Nokia 6230 is the most-stolen phone in Britain. In second place is the Samsung D500, third was the Motorola Razr. The numbers come from analysis of 112,093 crimes in London last year, and they probably signify no more than the most popular phones available for thieves to steal.
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