Stolen cell phones: 'Flasher' trashes IMEI number

Aug 05 2014, 15:02 IST
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'The Flasher is a small device that connects the phone to the computer and helps the user change the IMEI number of the handset.' 'The Flasher is a small device that connects the phone to the computer and helps the user change the IMEI number of the handset.'
SummaryStolen cell phones can now be easily sold, leaving cops clueless.

The advent of the ‘Flasher’ on the black market has rendered one of the police’s main clues in solving stolen cell phone cases - the IMEI number - useless, changing the entire cell phone theft scenario in the city, police officers told Mumbai Newsline.

IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is a 15-digit serial number encoded inside a cell phone that was of critical help in locating a lost or stolen cell phone .

“The Flasher is a small device that connects the phone to the computer and helps the user change the IMEI number of the handset. After the IMEI number is changed, it is next to impossible to locate that phone,” said Malikarjun Malle, a cyber security expert at the Cyber police station in Bandra Kurla Complex.

The police said that the domino effect has been observed in the disposal of cell phones. While stolen cell phones were earlier dismantled and stolen as spare parts, cell phone thieves can now sell stolen cell phones in their entirety at a better price after changing the IMEI number.

Prior to the use of Flashers, thieves, after stealing the phones, would first throw away the original SIM card in the phone and then either sell the individual parts of the phone after dismantling it or sell the whole mobile instrument in another district or state, since a service provider could block a particular IMIE in that territory. The use of Flashers has rendered all these precautions unnecessary, said officers.

The use of Flashers in cell phone thefts first came to light in March this year, when the Crime branch arrested three persons who were allegedly involved in changing IMEI numbers of stolen cellphones, after which they would sell the cellphones. The police had recovered 16 flashers from them. “The arrested told us that they purchased the devices from a person near the Mumbai Central railway station,” said senior inspector Deepak Phatangare.

The police is now reworking its entire strategy of tackling cellphone thefts, devising methods to flush out people who possess Flashers.

“We send dummy customers to cellphone repair stores, who tell technicians that they need the IMEI numbers of their cellphones changed due to technical issues. A technician who does not have a Flasher will tell the customer flat out that it can’t be done. If a technician says it is possible to change the IMEI number, we have a suspect,” said an officer. Officers

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