AT&T to launch stolen phone database

AT&T to Block Stolen Phones
Use a stolen phone and AT&T will disable the phone, text, and SMS capabilities

Lose your smartphone? It happens to the best of us, but a new AT&T service allegedly set to debut on Tuesday is going to make life fairly difficult for anyone who picks up the device you lost - especially if they swiped it.

According to recent reports, an anonymous but allegedly reliable source at AT&T maintains that a new AT&T stolen phone repository - launching Tuesday - will allow customers to kill the voice, data, and text messaging on any device they've reported as stolen.

Instead of just issuing a full SIM block or otherwise forcing a phone theft victim to cancel his or her account and subscribe anew, AT&T will merely add the device to alleged "block list."

Presumably, AT&T will use the phone's IMEI, or International Mobile Equipment Identity, to match the block with a unique device regardless of whatever SIM card gets used with the phone.

Block listed

Should the device eventually turn up, the owner will only need to contact AT&T to have the phone removed from the company's blocking service.

One kicker, warns AT&T in a leaked memo, is that smartphone owners will need to perform any remote-wipe features they might have on their phones (or installed via a third-party app) before contacting AT&T to issue the block.

Additionally, it appears that users will in fact have to speak directly to a customer service representative at AT&T to issue or release the stole phone blocking service – there's no automated way to do this or some little "block/unblock" button that an owner can hit within their profile on AT&T's website.

While The Verge's source says that AT&T won't keep a centralized directory of "blocked" devices, it remains to be seen just how the process would work otherwise – stolen phones have to be matched to users somehow.

Planning ahead

AT&T's new blocking service fits the goals of the Federal Communications Commission's recently announced national stolen phone database.

The FCC's hope is that all LTE smartphones across all carriers will be able to receive a system-wide block, if the device is reported as stolen, by late 2013.

Individually, AT&T is allegedly working to ensure that its yet-to-be-announced blocking service will work across all carriers by later this year.

Via TheVerge