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Cell phone thefts, fastest growing crime in the U.S.

7:38 AM, Sep 17, 2013   |    comments
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Photo by John Moore, Getty Images.
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CLEVELAND -- The cell phone frenzy continues!

Now that the iPhone 5s and 5c are about to go on sale, you may be looking to upgrade, and, as usual, thieves are always looking to cash in.

"Because the resale value continues to go up, obviously that builds incentives for theft," says U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Cell phones are usually the most valuable thing we carry.

In fact, cell phone theft is one of the fastest growing crimes nationwide.

It's also a quick and lucrative crime, which is why Sen. Sherrod Brown is taking action.

His new bill makes it a federal offense to tamper with a phone's ID number, similar to a vehicle identification number. Here's why that's important: If you lose your phone, your carrier can often deactivate it and prevent its reactivation, but if a criminal swaps out that ID number, your phone is back in service.

"If they can turn around and sell it without much effort, then people are going to steal them more often," says Brown.

In an effort to demonstrate how quick and easy it is to sell a cell phone online, Channel 3 went to three different websites and got three separate quotes for an iPhone 4 in less than one minute.

If Brown's proposal becomes law, someone who tampers with a phone's ID number would be charged with a felony and would spend five years in prison. 

Gazelle is a U.S. company that provides a platform for consumers to sell their used electronic devices.

According to a statement from a spokesman for Gazelle.com: 

"When Gazelle receives a device, it follows a very thorough inspection process. The first step is to run the device through our CheckMEND tool to ensure it has not been reported as lost or stolen. If it's cleared, we inspect the device to ensure it is in the same condition as what the consumer reported. Once we confirm this and send the consumer his or her check, the device is moved into the second security phase where all data is removed from the device before we resell it.

CheckMEND is a cutting-edge tool designed to more accurately detect potentially stolen goods, including smartphones, tablets and computers. Developed by Recipero, the largest U.S. consumer electronics background report service, CheckMEND compiles available data from major wireless carriers, law enforcement and insurance companies across the country (including the FBI) to provide the most complete database of lost or stolen devices available. Gazelle is the first consumer electronics trade-in site to deploy CheckMEND in the United States."

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