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AT&T Sued For Enabling, Profiting Off of Cell Phone Theft
Suit Claims AT&T Lies About Ability to Track, Disable Phones
by Karl Bode 12:39PM Thursday Apr 12 2012
AT&T is facing a new class action lawsuit (despite attempts to ban such suits in fine print) accusing the carrier of aiding and abetting cellphone thieves -- while at the same time using cell phone thefts to drive additional revenues. The suit alleges that not only does AT&T do little to nothing to stop thieves from re-activating stolen phones, but the company lies to consumers as well, claiming they're unable to block calls to and from the stolen phones -- or track the phones if they're returned to the store (using a fifteen-digit-long IMEI number and store databases). From the lawsuit:
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"Defendants actively have, for years, participated in this practice in order to make millions of dollars in improper profits, by forcing legitimate customers, such as these plaintiffs, to buy new cell phones, and buy new cell phone plans, while the criminals who stole the phone are able to simply walk into AT&T stores and 're-activate' the devices, using different, cheap, readily available 'SIM' cards (computer chips)...

"Plaintiffs have repeatedly asked defendants to track, record, and simply refuse to 'activate' these stolen iPhones, however, to date defendants have refused to do so, even though it is readily, easily able to accomplish, because if they take said proper action, their sales of new iPhones and plans will be reduced and diminished."
The timing of the lawsuit comes just as AT&T this week finally announced they'd start blocking stolen cell phones after some nudging by government, something both Verizon and Sprint have been doing for some time. It certainly wouldn't be difficult for AT&T to store a database of flagged IMEI numbers used to block and/or help law enforcement confiscate stolen goods when presented in store, but giving a damn would rather clearly cost AT&T millions in new phone and plan sales.

This isn't the first time in recent history that AT&T has been accused of turning a blind eye to fraud and crime in order to make an extra buck (or billion). The Department of Justice recently sued the carrier for all-but encouraging IP relay fraud in order to rake in millions in crime-driven revenues. Such decisions speak rather clearly to the values (or lack thereof) of AT&T executive leadership.

73 comments .. click to read

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Binghamton, NY

2 edits

3 recommendations

reply to Oh_No

Re: confiscate stolen goods?

said by Oh_No:

if you are so damn scared then you take the customers information try and activate it, then after they leave give the information to the police.

It's not about being "so damn scared". It's about risk vs. reward. Do you seriously think that a lousy stinking smart phone is worth the risk of a physical confrontation in the middle of an AT&T store? Do you honestly believe that AT&T trains its employees to handle such a contingency and pays them a sufficient wage to compensate them for the risks they'd be assuming? What about the other customers in the store? Do you suppose one of them might sue AT&T if he gets injured in a tussle over a smart phone? With that in mind do you really think AT&T's lawyers would condone a policy of seizing stolen devices?

There's a reason why bank tellers are taught to GIVE UP THE MONEY even though it's worth far more than a smart phone. I've got self-defense training and a concealed carry license and I'm STILL not willing to risk an altercation over something as trivial as a phone. It simply isn't worth it.

I do concur that they should attempt to obtain relevant information to pass along to the police but that's the extent of their civic responsibility. They certainly aren't obligated to do anything that puts their customers or employees in harms way.


2 recommendations

Were I the manager of a retail outlet I would not expect nor require my employees to "confiscate" a device from someone whom has already displayed a willingness to violate the law. Asking AT&T to blacklist stolen devices is reasonable. Asking them to seize stolen devices at the risk of a violent encounter with the would-be thief is not.