Thursday, September 3, 2009

(Following post is quoted from Imran Khan's blog
Strike back against phone thieves

A cousin of mine and a friend of hers recently had their mobile phones stolen in Georgetown. It was early evening and they were standing on the street chatting and exchanging phone numbers when a neatly dressed young man walked up and held my cousin’s hand, forcibly removed the phone and then snatched her friend’s phone. He then calmly walked away.

They were left helpless and mildly distraught after what was a slightly traumatic experience. Naturally when one loses a mobile phone, either by theft or otherwise, one tends to be more concerned about the valuable information stored in that phone – particularly the contact details of friends, colleagues and loved ones – than the instrument itself.

In 2005 when I worked with the West Indies team I and several of my then colleagues had our phones stolen in Sri Lanka and we had not known about the need to save our IMEI numbers. Fortunately after a month our phones were returned to us after an intense countrywide search by the Sri Lankan police and army and the offender – an army deserter – suffered a terrible fate.

After the loss of my phone and over the years I received several emails advising that I copy and store my phone’s IMEI number in a safe and secure place in the event I lose the instrument. Ever since I received the first email about this I have been keen on storing the information but thankfully I have not had reason to use it for the purpose intended. I have also forwarded this most useful email tip to others and I am certain that I forwarded to my cousin as well.

Purely by coincidence I came upon her at the very scene of the crime less than five minutes after it occurred. After a quick assessment of the situation it was agreed that there is little sense in going after the thief in the dark of night in a dangerous ghetto area in which he appeared to have entered to make good his brazen escape. We were left with two options. One was to report the matter to the nearest police station. This is Guyana, we agreed that the phones were lost for good and decided not to pursue that course of action.

We could however exact some form of revenge. I immediately asked her for the IMEI number so that we could report it to her network and have them render the phone useless. Unfortunately she did not have the number saved.

You should not make this mistake. It is easy, painless and may come in useful.

To view your phone’s unique IMEI number simply input *#06# on your keypad. The number will automatically show up. Copy it, send it to yourself and select loved ones by email and, as a back-up mechanism, it is also a good idea to write it down in a place where it will be easily accessible. Saving your phone’s IMEI is like a quasi-insurance policy of sorts.

If you suffer the unfortunate experience of losing your phone you should contact your service provider and provide them with the IMEI number. They will be able to use the number to block the handset from being used even if the thief (or new owner) changes SIM cards. The phone will become nothing more than a paperweight.

I have come to realise that many people are aware of the need to save their phone’s IMEI number but, sadly, out of pure negligence they do not save it and some are left bitter and helpless when they lose their prized handsets. If enough people all across Guyana save their IMEIs and phone thieves realise that stealing people’s phones is a worthless petty crime it could lead to a reduction in the incidence of phone snatching which seem to be at an all time high in Georgetown.