April 8, 2015 - 1:41 pm
By Kris Monteith | Acting Bureau Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

Combatting smart phone theft is a multi-faceted challenge that requires the efforts of and coordination among industry, consumers, law enforcement and others.  Part of the equation is enforcing the rules the FCC has in place today to protect private customer information.  Second, we must continue to inform consumers of ways to guard against phone theft.  And lastly, we can continue to adopt policies to discourage cell phone theft by preventing re-use.

The FCC has been proactive and strong in its enforcement of our consumer privacy rules.  Just today, the Bureau announced a record-breaking settlement with AT&T to settle an investigation into a data breach that affected nearly 280,000 consumers.  Read more about the settlement: here.

To discourage re-use of stolen devices, Chairman Wheeler has encouraged the industry to make lock/wipe/restore functionality operational by default on all devices.  To help guide us in future policy efforts, Commission’s Technology Advisory Committee compiled a report on smart device theft prevention.

Consumers are encouraged to take the following actions to avoid becoming a victim of smart device theft: 

  • Take some time to familiarize yourself with the anti-theft features available through your smart device.  Besides passwords, new devices typically offer the ability to remotely lock a device and even delete personal data.
  • Protect your device by setting a strong password or PIN or take advantage of newer features such as fingerprint or other biometric identification features.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings.
  • Do not lend your mobile device to a stranger.
  • Do not leave your mobile device unattended.
  • Always back up data.
  • Install anti-theft software that offers additional security features beyond standard pre-installed device options.

Most importantly, record your device’s unique identifier, also known as its IMEI or MEIDnumber (tips for doing this are available here).  If your device is lost or stolen, provide this information to your wireless carrier, as well as to local law enforcement, and ask that the device be added to its blacklist.

By adopting these few simple measures, you can help protect yourself and your personal information from smart device theft.  Remember, if you are a victim of smart device theft, contact your service provider and report the theft to the police immediately.  And never try to recover a stolen smart device alone.