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Each year, over 100 million mobile phones are thrown away in Europe. In most cases they are thrown away or left lying around in drawers and cupboards gathering dust.

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Facts about Mobile Phones


Note that falsely reporting a lost mobile phone as stolen is a crime - see Out-Law.

A staggering 28% of all robberies involve a mobile phone - Some 2,000 handsets are lost or stolen each day. The loss of your phone can cause huge problems.

Not only that, but do you have a record of all the phone numbers you have stored in your phone address book? How will you ever contact your friends and colleagues again?

You may not realise but whether you have the phone in your possession or not, you are still liable for the line rental for the full term of the contract. This can mean up to 18 or 24 months of line rental that you will have to pay, without seeing any of the benefits.

You are also responsible for any calls made using your SIM until you tell the network operator it is lost/stolen. For example see - £1,000 bill for a stolen mobile phone

When you buy a mobile phone on contract, the price is heavily subsidised by the network but when it comes to buying a replacement this doesn't apply. The actual cost of a mobile phone can reach up to £500 or more without a contract. However, if you know where to look, there are ways to get cheaper phones.

IMEI Database

The new shared database set up by all UK mobile phone operators and the Global System for Mobiles Association (GSMA) in November 2002 means stolen phones can now be barred on all networks, by reference to the phone's unique identifying code (IMEI number - International Mobile Equipment Identity). Amazingly, over one million mobile phones were reported lost or stolen and subsequently 'blocked' in the first year (2003).

The Industry's shared database (Central Equipment Identity Register) makes it possible to bar mobile phone handsets across all networks - once a phone has been reported stolen or lost to the user's mobile phone network operator. The Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) is a shared database of blacklisted International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) handset numbers. All mobile phone network operators in the UK will disable the phone by reference to the unique IMEI number of the handset. This means that the handset itself (not just the SIM card which can easily be swapped) will be barred and will be unusable on any network, even if a new SIM card is inserted. This should make them less valuable to steal. So make sure you report a lost or stolen handset and get it blocked.

The Law

The Mobile Telephones (Re-programming) Act 2002 came into force on October 4 2002 in the UK, and makes offences of:

  • Changing, without the authorisation of the manufacturer, the unique identifying characteristic of a mobile phone - i.e. the IMEI number; and
  • Possessing, supplying or offering to supply the necessary equipment with the intent to use it for re-programming mobile phones.

The offences carry maximum penalties of five years' imprisonment or unlimited fines or both.

Register Your Phone

On 12 January 2005 a new police-endorsed National Mobile Phone Register was launched - Immobilise. This is free and replaces the old MendUK database.

It was set up because details of lost or stolen property were only available to the local police force - there was no coordinated centralised database that police could search to track down owners outside their local area.

It's worth registering your phones, PDAs, laptops, MP3 players etc, basically all your valuable mobile gear. It's free.

Apart from your name, address and contact details you'll need the serial number of your device (IMEI number in the case of a mobile), make and model. You can also edit the register to add descriptive info e.g. the colour of the device, any custom covers etc.

What is an IMEI?

The International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number is a unique number encoded into each phone. It is used by the networks to uniquely identify each handset. It is independent of the SIM and remains the same even if the SIM is changed. Thus the IMEI uniquely identifies your phone.

Whenever a phone registers with a network to make or receive calls, the IMEI number is sent to the network and the phone is registered. If the IMEI has been listed as stolen (Blacklisted), it is at this point that the phone can be prevented from making calls. The location of the handset can also be determined and passed to the police.

Note that for 3G (CDMA) Users, there is no IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number, but instead an ESN number. To all intents and purposes however they are the same and it is obtained in the same way.


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Please note that the comments above are not financial advice and are only based on generalised research.  Therefore they may not be appropriate to your circumstances. Always ensure any decision is made with regards to your own individual circumstances.   LostMobile.org.uk cannot be held responsible for the content of external links.

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