Locked PhoneAttention, anyone who ever lost a cell phone and never got it back: All major U.S. carriers are joining forces to create a merged database of stolen mobile phones to block the devices from being used on other carriers. Even if the measure comes a little bit late in cell phone history, it's great news for those who lose a phone from here on out. It appears that police chiefs from major cities and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission asked telecom carriers to find a way to combat cell phone theft. A solution was found, and by the end of 2013, all four major U.S. carriers as well as the smaller ones will merge their databases to prevent the use of any stolen mobile phone. The idea behind the database is very simple. Each phone is assigned a unique International Mobile Equipment Identity number. You may have heard people saying, "Write down your IMEI number and never share it in case you lose your phone." Once the databases are merged, carriers will be able to block stolen cell phones, identified by their IMEI, making it practically impossible to get service on another network. Until now, if you lost your phone in the U.S., carriers could only block your SIM card from being used by the thief. It's a good plan that could discourage thieves and give real owners the satisfaction that their phones can't be used by other people—at least in theory. I don't know what would happen if you tried to unlock a stolen phone using various secret techniques, or whether a blocked phone could be used in another country. I'd advise every smartphone owner to install a paid app that gives them the option to track the position of their device in real time. In the event of a theft, they could either find their phone (and the thief), or remotely wipe their personal data and block the phone.

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