36,000 T-Mobile Phones Pull A Houdini - InformationWeek

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1/23/2008
10:18 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary
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36,000 T-Mobile Phones Pull A Houdini

Over the weekend some less-than-legal entrepreneurs raided a warehouse where T-Mobile stores some of its mobile phones. According to T-Mobile, they bandits made off with about $8.2 million worth of Sidekick messaging devices. T-Mobile is pursuing the thieves aggressively.

Over the weekend some less-than-legal entrepreneurs raided a warehouse where T-Mobile stores some of its mobile phones. According to T-Mobile, they bandits made off with about $8.2 million worth of Sidekick messaging devices. T-Mobile is pursuing the thieves aggressively.T-Mobile issued an internal memo to let employees in its sales channels know about the theft. This is what it says:

Wanted to let you all know that one of our warehouses was broken into over the weekend and some 36,000 phones were stolen (worth about 8.2 Million). The most significant phones stolen were the Sidekick phones. Please make sure you inform the dealers who like to purchase gray market handsets that we are aggressively working with law enforcement to prosecute anyone who has these handsets. We do know the IMEI's of the stolen phones and once they end up on our network we will go to the dealer code that activated the phone. So if your dealers get a call about Sidekicks and the deal is too good to be true, you will know why.

The International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number is essentially a code that is unique to each and every GSM-based handset. As with other serial numbers, it is printed inside the phone, usually under the battery. It is used by the GSM network to identify valid devices. Since T-Mobile has the IMEI's of the stolen devices in hand, it can use the numbers to find out if the stolen phones are activated on its network. Once they are, it can use the IMEI to ban the phones from accessing the network, making them paperweights.

Even if someone purchases the stolen handsets from an authorized dealer, they can be out of luck if the dealer sells gray market or stolen phones. The Sidekick devices are popular phones, so it's no surprise that they were targeted in the raid. Hopefully, T-Mobile will be able to recover its stolen property and prosecute the criminals.

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