Cellphone theft doubles nationwide in one year

WASHINGTON — You don’t hear as much about cellphone theft as you used to, but that doesn’t mean the problem has gone away.

Quite the opposite, says Herb Weisbaum of NBCNews.com. According to a Consumer Reports survey, about 3.1 million cellphones were stolen in 2013, Weisbaum told WTOP’s Dimitri Sotis and Veronica Robinson.

The number of thefts is more than twice the number stolen in 2012.

“And some of these crimes are very violent,” Weisbaum says.

Many law-enforcement officials across the country are trying to get kill-switch technology into cellphones, making them worthless to thieves. So far, many of the carriers and equipment manufacturers have signed onto a voluntary kill-switch plan for new phones sold after July 1 of next year — similar to the activiation lock on iOS7.

Lawmakers aren’t satisfied. The agreement provides for opt-in kill switches, which require the user to turn on or download the technology; they want the technology to be installed and activated automatically, Weisbaum says, so that would-be thieves already know that stealing a phone would be pointless.

As it stands, there’s a huge market for stolen phones.

“You can make more money, as a crook, selling a smartphone than you could make selling a laptop,” Weisbaum says. “These things are in big demand overseas.”

The cellphone companies tout their “blacklists,” which allow you to report a stolen phone and have it turned off — but Weisbaum says they only apply to the U.S.

“So all the bad guys are doing … they ship the phones overseas, and the phone is turned back on again.”

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