Hard luck for cell phone losers

No smart app can restore your snazzy phone or your sanity. Heres why

Hard luck for cell phone losers

Your cell phone may be the snazziest thing you possess, the most advanced model available in the market or hold your most valuable data; but once it is stolen or lost, you can be sure that it will never find its way back to your hands.

Recently, a gang was caught in a popular mobile market in Noida, which specialised in changing the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number of cell phones. The IMEI number, unique to every cell phone, is usually the last resort to trace a missing phone since the SIM card is anyway changed by whoever seizes the phone. However, with the emergence of software and criminals, who change even the IMEI code, chances of recovering a lost mobile are almost lost.

Made-in-China trouble

A mobile phone dealer, who did not wish to be named, informed Metrolife, “The
software emerged from China and was used to alter IMEI numbers of Chinese-make cell phones. The Indian government banned such phones a few years ago. But lately, these programmes are being used to tamper with non-China-made cell phones as well.”

“Mobile companies keep coming up with applications such WaveSecure, Blackberry Protect, Find my iPhone to help people track their lost phones. But even if you are able to locate your phone, say in some other State or neighbouring country, you will have to rely on the police to recover it for you. So such features and apps also don’t prove to be of much use.”

'Cops can’t help'

On the other hand, the police does not boast a great reputation when it comes to finding lost cell phones. According to figures provided by Delhi Police, in reply to an RTI application in 2010, a whopping 56,841 cell phones were reported stolen from year 2008 to 2009. Of these, only 1,208 (approx 2 per cent) were recovered.

Rakshit Tandon, a cyber security expert and consultant with the Internet And Mobile Association of India, says: “The law enforcement agencies of our country are lackadaisical when it comes to finding lost cell phones. Even in cases where the IMEI may not have been changed, since it is both difficult and illegal, the police hardly ever puts the number on surveillance immediately after it is reported stolen. Very few people, with connections in the police, get back their lost phones.”

He continues, “In other countries, there are dedicated police wings for finding lost cell phones, but here the authorities wake up to a lost phone only if it is used in any major crime or act of terror.”

Then, there is the issue of selling and purchasing stolen cell phones. In places such as Gaffar market, one can easily sell a phone without having to show documents such as phone bill and identity (ID) proof. Also, unsuspecting customers purchase such phones, without bills, guarantee cards or knowledge of the phone’s past history, just because they get it cheap.

When Metrolife contacted Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat in this regard, he said: “As and when we get a lost or stolen mobile phone complaint, we put the IMEI number on tracking, but if the phone is switched off or the IMEI number is changed, there is little we can do. It’s like an untagged handbag. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.”

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