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Cell phone thefts up 118% last year

Your stolen mobile often finishes up in a jail as a tool for extortionists

Your cell phone is a thief magnet, say figures presented yesterday by the Citizens’ Council of Mexico City.

The number of cell phones reported missing or stolen increased last year by 118%, from 156,681 reports in 2012 to 341,740 in 2013, said council president Luis Wertman Zaslav during a presentation of the results of the second study on telecommunications activities to inhibit mobile phone use in criminal acts.

Drawing data from the National Telecommunications Association (Anatel), Wertman Zaslav said that more mobile phones are stolen than any other personal article. And according to National Statistics Institute research, 57% of the more than 9 million thefts suffered by pedestrians in 2013 were just to steal phones.

He warned that buyers should avoid purchasing mobile phones from unauthorized dealers and not use illegal activation services such as “flexing” or “hacking,” in which the International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers are cloned.

“Those who resort to illegal activation are committing a crime and might end up being swindled, as the phone will eventually be rendered useless. We’re bringing this issue to the attention of Congress so there would be a legal framework that penalizes any kind of IMEI tampering, as it is with a motor vehicle’s serial number,” said Wertman Zaslav.

Many stolen cell phones find their way into jails where inmates have created call centers to engage in extortion. One such call that was common earlier in the year employed a recording of the voice of a girl claiming she had been kidnapped and pleading for help.

Unsuspecting victims, believing it’s their daughter, are then given instructions to deposit funds into a bank account using Oxxo, Coppel or other stores where such transactions can be made, in exchange for the release of the “victim.”

The number of telephone numbers used for illegal purposes last year was 117,262, an increase of 42%.

Source: La Jornada (sp)

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