Undercover Camera Crew Highlights AT&T's Stolen Phone Complicity
Company Profits on Both Ends of Phone Theft...
A recent lawsuit filed against AT&T
accuses the company of intentionally doing nothing about stolen cell phones in order to force theft victims to buy new devices, and to profit from the thieves coming in looking for new service with the stolen device. A news crew in Salt Lake City heard about the suit and went undercover in an AT&T store to see how much AT&T tried to do when presented with a stolen phone -- and the answer is absolutely nothing
. When they ask a manager to comment, he says he can't:
Tuesday ABC 4 confronted the manager at the AT&T store just outside Valley Fair Mall, in West Valley City. 24 hours earlier ABC 4 went undercover to show you how easy it was to bring a possibly stolen cell phone to that store and have it reactivated without any fuss....Tuesday when our reporter asked the manager about it, he refused to answer our questions.
While nobody expects AT&T store employees to tackle phone thieves, keeping a list of reported stolen devices then blocking them from re-activation is the very least they could do -- and it's something companies like Verizon already do. One user wrote in to tell us they know that Cingular's old systems used to make this rather easy:
Back when the company now calling itself AT&T was Cingular, the company did disable stolen cell phones permanently. In the Telegence billing system, back then when a customer reported a stolen phone, the IMEI of that individual phone was permanently disabled in Telegence so that it could never be used again. If the original owner brought the phone into a corporate owned store in person with ID, then that IMIE could be re-enabled. When the company became AT&T, it became corporate policy to stop doing that. That program function is still in Telegence unless it has been intentionally disabled.
AT&T appears to be getting growing political heat lately, as they've finally volunteered to participate in a national stolen phone database with other carriers. They've also launched a new website
that provides users tips on how to deal with cell phone theft.Update
: Another reader offers his personal experience with AT&T systems:
You cant disable IMEI's in Telegence. Atleast when I started using Telegence from 2005+. The person must have been thinking of the TDMA days before SIM cards. Even if you could disable the IMEI from being added to Telegence it would not have an effect as the service is tied to the SIM not the IMEI. The only thing ATT is doing is called a POSA hotline. When an IMEI is not checked out of store inventory (AKA STOLEN) it "hotlines" it and all calls on it are directed to customer service. They care about their stolen phones. Just not yours.