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The only real method of recovering a lost or stolen phone

Discussion in 'Android Lounge' started by kennynassar, Aug 26, 2011.

  1. kennynassar

    kennynassar Lurker
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    Like many of you, I've just been the victim of a stolen phone. My 2 month old Motorola Atrix 4G. Sad. No insurance. Now I have insurance on my new Atrix.

    I had LookOut installed. Thought it would be good. I've tested it before and worked perfectly when the phone was in my possession.

    But it won't work if any of the following are true:

    The SIM is removed/Replaced
    The battery is dead
    The phone is factory reset

    What we really need is a tool that will search for a phone via the IMEI. As far as I know, it's the only unique identifier.

    I've looked through the forums and checked all the apps that claim to recover a phone, but none will truly work if those points are true.

    Does anyone know anything about a tool that will actually search the location of a phone using only its' IMEI?
    (International Mobile Equipment Identity)

    I believe that anyone who could create a tool that does this, will be incredibly successful.

    Any thoughts?
     

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  2. AndroidSPCS

    AndroidSPCS Android Expert
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    Welcome to Android Forums!

    What you propose seems very difficult to implement. How would you get access to the carrier's database / network to search for the location data of the IMEI information in their database?

    There are lots of privacy issues related to this, all of which would prevent something like what you describe from working.

    The best actions one can take is to be extremely vigilent with their phones, make sure it's password protected, and monitor where you put it so it's not easily lost / stolen.
     
  3. ALBGunner04

    ALBGunner04 Lurker
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    Well, my phone has a PIN code which supposedly should give me time to use the security app remotely but someone can just remove the battery and reset the phone. What I would like is for me to be able to report my phone stolen to my operator. Once that's done, my operator shares the phones IMEI with other operators in the country and identify the SIM in the phone and who it belongs to. I don't understand why this can't be done, it seems like such a simple solution to a growing problem.
     
  4. AndroidSPCS

    AndroidSPCS Android Expert
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    It can be done, but it would be costly because the carriers would have to do additional IT work, work out who has access to their private data, and how to work around the legal issues of sharing this data with other carriers / people.

    People lose stuff. It's always been a problem. The carriers can't really do what you're proposing because of the privacy / legal / technical issues.

    It gets way too hairy. What if you wanted to stalk a girl you liked? You got access to her phone's IMEI at a party, and then you called the carrier claiming you lost the phone, gave them the IMEI #, and asked them to give you the location of the phone. Can you imagine the privacy and legal nightmare that would be, for the carrier?

    Bottom line is, be vigilant about your phone's location, and if you do lose it, chalk it up and get another phone to replace it.
     
  5. ALBGunner04

    ALBGunner04 Lurker
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    Well obviously it would be more comprehensive. You would need to register the phone with the specific carrier. I mean, carriers can already track our locations but can't distribute it to others that request it without a warrant, but if we can register a device in-store (confirmation purposes) and allow carriers to find the phone once its lost, it can work out securely. For carriers though, the costs are definitely not worth it unless you paid a monthly fee.
     
  6. AndroidSPCS

    AndroidSPCS Android Expert
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    Sprint has a family tracking service you pay $5.99 (last time I checked) to track your phones.

    So there may be similar services available on other carriers. Obviously this does not help if it's a GSM phone and the GSM chip is replaced. Most GSM carriers only track IMEI for account services, such as detecting if it's an iPhone and charging iPhone plans on the user, not for detecting location of the IMEI #.

    What you propose is not impossible, but it would require lots of planning, regulatory approval, consumer approval, not to mention the costs of all this to make it fly.

    It's far easier just for the consumer to pay for the lost phone, than a carrier to take this on, as it really adds very little benefit from a business perspective for the carrier, on top of all the headaches / costs.

    Bottom line is it just doesn't make sense from a business perspective to do this.
     
  7. Martimus

    Martimus One bite at a time...
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    Another carrier based problem would be related to anti-Slamming rules. To keep issues at a minimum where peoples telephone service gets changed without their knowledge, the FCC enacted anti-slamming regulations. This basically means that anyone can block access to their account data for any reason. If your account data is blocked then it would be near impossible for the carrier to open your account file to check your IMEI against their database without first asking your permission.

    Slamming: Switching Your Authorized Telephone Company Without Permission | FCC.gov
     
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  8. james515

    james515 Well-Known Member
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    once you report your phone stolen to your carrier, the carrier will block that device (IMEI) from being used on its network. now it very well could be possible for a person to use that stolen phone on a different carrier, because carriers do not share that info.

    this has been possible since the very late 80's when phones went by an ESN instead of an IMEI. I used to do this for the company I work for in the early 90's. our customer service would receive notice of a stolen phone from the customer, they would fax my group the info for that phone and we would go into the switch and block that ESN from making calls on our network. this usually took a few hours to do.

    the same holds true today, but its done a lot faster.

    James
     
  9. james515

    james515 Well-Known Member
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    forgot to reply to the actual original question.

    no, there can not be an app to do this as it is done on the carrier level and NO app can gain access to the carriers customer data base.

    James
     
  10. A.Nonymous

    A.Nonymous Android Expert
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    My big concern with a lost phone would be my data being gone more than the actual phone being gone. I've got apps that will locate the phone for me, but all of the conditions you listed above must be true. However, if you change the SIM on my phone, the phone wipes and protects my data. If you input the wrong pin too many times, the phone wipes and protects my data. If the battery is dead, you can't get my data actually.
     
  11. chanchan05

    chanchan05 The Doctor
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    The simplest thing actually would be to get the IMEI of a phone you bought, email it to yourself on a separate account from what you use on the phone, then IF it gets lost, you have the IMEI to take to a carrier. Kind of simple actually. No need for apps and stuff that could have legal issues or anything. Sometimes technology has made us too lazy to do the little things like these.
     
  12. almorsol

    almorsol Newbie
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    Thinking of that.
    Is there an app that destroys the phone by sendig an sms or making a call?
    If someone steals my phone,, I destroy it, and it will not be useful by them.
    If I can't have it, then no one will...
    Is that possible?
     
  13. A.Nonymous

    A.Nonymous Android Expert
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    You mean physically destroy the phone?
     
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  14. AndroidSPCS

    AndroidSPCS Android Expert
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    LOL I'm thinking like James Bond 007 destroy...

    Yea that would be fun. Not realistic though. Imagine - accidentally download a malware app with the wrong permissions, and accidentally destroy your phone... :)

    I had a weird dream last night about thieves breaking into my house and stealing my phone. That made me mad. This would be a useful scenario in that case LOL. One can dream... ;)
     
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  15. kennynassar

    kennynassar Lurker
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    I agree. I made a police report, and they really don't give a crap. I faxed the police report to the major carriers (ATT, Tmobile, Sprint, Verizon) to let them know it was stolen and not to activate. The police are supposed to cross-reference IMEI with pawn shop databases, but they said they really don't bother. I also registered my phone on www.missingphones.org
     
  16. kennynassar

    kennynassar Lurker
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    Just save all your data in your dropbox on your internal SIM only. www.dropbox.com or find in the Android Market. 2GB free. Also if you have GingerBread 2.3.4, be sure to enable the new encryption feature.
     
  17. almorsol

    almorsol Newbie
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    Not really. Although it would be nice. I don't think it is possible.
    By destroying it, I mean making it useless for whoever stole the phone. No matter what. Burn the chipset or something.
     
  18. thedosbox

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    And rightly so. The work involved in tracking down your phone could be better spent investigating more serious crimes.

    We have little enough privacy as it is, but the thought of carriers sharing information on their customers with each other makes me shudder.
     
  19. james515

    james515 Well-Known Member
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    once you activate a phone with the carrier, they have your IMEI in your profile. When you call your carrier to report it lost/stolen, thats how they block it from being used on their network is by the IMEI.

    Even when you switch phones but retain the same SIM card, your profile is updated with the IMEI on the new device.

    James
     
  20. chanchan05

    chanchan05 The Doctor
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    They dont in my country AFAIK..@_@..they feel its a breach of privacy or something. Didnt think carriers in the states were like that. Or maybe because I dont usually get subsidized units or buy from carriers.
     
  21. A.Nonymous

    A.Nonymous Android Expert
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    Well, I can kind of do that. I'm running a custom rom and if you do a factory reset on it from inside the ROM, it bricks the phone. You've got to boot into recovery and do a reset for it to work. Otherwise, you'll have to flash a new ROM from recovery or restore a backup. So, if I wipe the phone and the SD card, it's toasted until the thief downloads a ROM somewhere and flashes it manually using recovery. That's probably not likely to happen.
     
  22. Sue7M3

    Sue7M3 Well-Known Member
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    I think if people would just be more responsible with their phones, loss and theft would not be a "growing problem". Like AndroidSPCS said, be vigilant about your phone's location. Carry it securely and don't leave it unattended when you are away from home.
     
  23. A.Nonymous

    A.Nonymous Android Expert
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    I can't imagine how someone would steal my phone from me short of mugging me. It's on my person 24/7 unless I'm at home.
     
  24. james515

    james515 Well-Known Member
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    All carriers do it, even carriers like Verizon that dont use SIM cards, or even the pay as you go or prepaid phones, and non subsidized phones, even phones in countries out side the USA.
    It has nothing to do with privacy at all, its all about how a phone connects to the network and the info needed to make that call happen. The IMEI is a very important part of the phone being able to place a call. If your network cant validate your IMEI, you cant make a call, with the exception to customer service and 911.

    The most important thing is to make sure you report it stolen ASAP!!!!

    James
     
  25. Clevo89

    Clevo89 Well-Known Member
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    Things can be circumvented...I mean... If there was a central database even a SQL database users can register their IMEI number with that online service and say every two weeks the user needs to log in with username & password not stored as an account on the phone. If the phone is stolen, even resetting the phone will keep the app running with a hidden icon/disguised icon. the app can then disable certain services to make the phone inoperable till the proper user checks in again and the app releases the phone. the app syncs with the database.
     

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