Police team up with cell phone retailers to protect consumers and help reduce cell phone theft

Calgary, Alberta – Over the past two years, Calgary and Edmonton police have seen an increase in retail cell phone theft and personal robberies, with approximately 600 reported stolen in the two cities combined.

This year, there have been 25 robberies at Calgary and Edmonton cell phone stores combined.

Stolen cell phones are later resold online or in person to unsuspecting buyers who are not aware they are purchasing a stolen device. Worse yet, buyers may end up purchasing a stolen cell phone that has had its International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number registered on the national blacklist, thereby rendering the device unusable.

Each phone has its own unique IMEI number that can be found either in the settings menu of the phone, on the back of the phone, underneath the battery or inscribed on the SIM card tray.

As shoppers find themselves in the holiday season, the Calgary Police Service (CPS) and Edmonton Police Service (EPS) are partnering with TELUS, Bell, Rogers, Shaw Communications as well as eBay and Kijiji in an online consumer education campaign. The campaign aims to reduce the frequency of cell phone theft and robberies, as well as help prevent unsuspecting buyers from purchasing a stolen and inoperative phone. The campaign features a digital ad on eBay and Kijiji platforms that will direct cell phone buyers to Device Check Canada operated by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA).

File Photo - Cell Phone
File Photo – Cell Phone

Consumers can visit the Device Check website to see if the IMEI number of the phone they are interested in purchasing has been entered into the national database, thereby indicating that the phone has been reported stolen and is unusable.

The IMEI number of a stolen device can only be added to the national database by wireless service providers, so it is crucial for victims of cell phone theft to alert their service providers immediately.

Despite best efforts, this is not a guaranteed form of buyer protection, as there is still a chance that stolen phones for sale online may not have yet been reported as stolen.

It is recommended consumers ask the seller for the IMEI number beforehand and use the Device Check website. If the IMEI number is not listed, buyers should consider waiting a few days before checking it again in case the phone is stolen and hasn’t yet been reported.

“As a Service, our priority is to ensure public safety both within our city and online,” says Detective Stephen Horton of the CPS Robbery Unit. “This collaborative initiative is meant to be a preventative measure by providing buyers with an additional step in hopes of engaging in a safe and secure transaction.”

“Cell phone robberies victimize both citizens and retailers, and the trade in stolen cell phones has long been linked to organized crime,” says Acting Staff Sergeant Rae Gerrard with EPS Robbery Section. “The EPS is pleased to support this crime prevention campaign and reminds all citizens that a phone priced well below value is a potential indicator it is stolen and should prompt a device IMEI check.”

“CWTA is proud of its role in fulfilling a commitment by Canada’s wireless carriers to assist law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat the theft of wireless devices,” said Robert Ghiz, President and CEO of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association. “We also encourage consumers to exercise caution when buying second-hand products from unknown sellers – but we also appreciate consumers’ concern with finding the most affordable ways to acquire handsets that suit their needs.”

“The safety and security of our community is paramount,” said Kent Sikstrom, Kijiji Community Relations Manager. “We are proud of our close collaboration with law enforcement. By making Device Check Canada easily accessible to our users, we hope to enable the community to have successful local buying experiences.”

The Calgary Police Service, along with the Edmonton Police Service, Kijiji, eBay and other online buy and sell platforms, remind citizens of the following safety tips when engaging in online transactions:

If you decide to proceed with the purchase of a cell phone, consider asking the seller for the IMEI number a second time once you meet in person to complete the sale. Ensure the IMEI number the seller initially provided matches the IMEI number on the actual phone.

Meet the seller in person to ensure you are satisfied with the product before purchasing it. Always meet in a public place such as a coffee shop or a police district parking lot.

Never mail a cheque or wire money to sellers. These forms of payment can be fraudulent and cashed or claimed before the buyer receives their item. Consider using secure online forms of payment, such as Interac e-transfers or PayPal.

Be wary of emails asking you to confirm your online account, password or email address change that you did not request. These are often phishing emails created by scammers trying to gain access to your accounts.

Do not give out personal or banking information, including your Social Insurance Number and bank account number, over the Internet.

Inform online buy and sell sites of any attempted fraud or suspicious emails, ads or other activity by community members. Contact the Calgary Police Service or the Edmonton Police Service via their non-emergency phone numbers to report fraudulent activity:

Calgary Police Service – 403-266-1234

Edmonton Police Service – 780-423-4567

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

For more online safety tips, please visit Kijiji’s online help desk or eBay customer service.

Calgary Police Service

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