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Daily Dutch News in English

Dutch mobile phones getting a self-destruct feature

Next year, thieves who think that by stealing a mobile phone in the Netherlands they will be able to call and send text messages for free will be sorely disappointed. The Dutch Ministries of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (EL&I) and Security and Justice (V&J) are consulting with telecom providers KPN, Vodafone and T-Mobile about making it possible to render stolen mobile phones unusable remotely.

Rendering mobile phones unusable remotely can be done by blocking the IMEI number. The IMEI number is the unique serial number of each mobile phone. A mobile phone whose IMEI number has been blocked is unusable even when a new SIM card is inserted. The IMEI number can be easily found by entering *#06# in the phone or tablet with 3G connection.

Criminals view mobile phones as an object that is easy to steal and sold quickly. This is evident, inter alia, from the number of street robberies whereby the criminal targets mobile phones. Robberies and ram raids targeting telecom stores and transporters confirm this image. Such thefts become unprofitable when mobile phones are rendered unusable remotely.

The social impact of these forms of crime is significant for both citizens who fall victim to street robberies and the accompanying violence and for the business community. Citizens, transporters, insurance companies, stores and increasingly also telecom providers themselves are faced with a considerable loss.

It is already possible to remotely block the IMEI number in several other countries, including Belgium and the United Kingdom. This has led to a considerable drop in the number of victims of this type of crime in those countries.