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Attempt to Criminalise IMEI Swapping

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A US politician is making another attempt at passing a law that would make it illegal to modify a mobile phone's serial number. Although the mobile networks block stolen handsets by their serial number, there is nothing stopping a criminal from reprogramming the handset with a different identity.

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer's reintroduced bill adds a criminal penalty of up to five years in prison for tampering with the IMEI number of a cell phone.

"These 'apple-picking' crimes of stolen smart phones are rapidly rising and we must make it clear that if you alter a cell-phone identification number of a stolen phone, you will face serious consequences," said Schumer. "This legislation will make it a federal crime to evade the police the cell phone registry, making it much less likely for these sometimes violent crimes from occurring."

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 FCC, approximately 40% of thefts in major American cities involve cell phones. According to the NYPD, "apple-picking" or stolen Apple products, including iPhones, made the city's overall crime rate increase last year. "Apple picking" makes up 14% of all crimes in New York.

CTIA said that it urges the Senate to act soon to approve Senator Schumer's bill.

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Tags: imei  USA