Thieves Can Change Your IMEI Number To Prevent It Being Tracked

Flasher tools can wipe IMEI number from devices.

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According to a new report, it’s now easier than ever for thieves to manipulate your smartphone IMEI number. Once the IMEI number is changed, tracking stolen smartphones can become very difficult.

With help from network providers, law enforcement agencies can often track down smartphones or block them from using cellular data by using the IMEI number. Whilst your network provider can’t use SMS tracking or other tracking methods through the IMEI number, they can use geolocation data and remotely block devices. However, if a smartphone IMEI number is changed by thieves, these techniques can no longer be used.

The IMEI number of a smartphone is a unique 15 digit code that helps smartphone operators and manufacturers identify a specific device. IMEI stands for¬†International Mobile Equipment Identity and every single smartphone or cell phone has it’s unique number.

According to the same report as above, thieves are using a tool called a flasher to change the IMEI number of a device. Once the IMEI is adjusted, the network will no longer be able to communicate with the device via the original IMEI number. The flasher is essentially a set of tools and software that can be used to change the IMEI number via a Windows PC. Relatively little equipment is needed to change the IMEI number.

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This new technique seems to be very popular in India currently, with malicious businesses running solely to sell their flasher services. Flasher tools often go for up to RS 5,000 ($80) and black market services charge around RS 500 ($8) to flash devices.

Similar services are available elsewhere in the world, but the service has become an epidemic in India recently. With tools being so cheap, thieves have been even more motivated to steal smartphones. With the IMEI number changed, not only is it impossible for law enforcement to track the smartphone, but thieves can sell it on to other individuals without the risk of it being blocked by a network carrier or manufacturer.

It seems that the IMEI can’t be changed completely on all devices. Those running flasher businesses have mentioned that Android handsets that use MediaTek chipsets are far easier to flash than those running Qualcomm chipsets. Similar sources suggest that changing the IMEI on an iPhone handset is impossible at this point in time.

With this in mind, it seems as if it’s possible for smartphone chipset manufacturers to patch in better security in their chipsets to stop flashers from changing the IMEI number of a device. Once again, Apple is a solid choice if you care about security and theft.

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Typically, iPhones were targeted more often by thieves because of their premium value, but with smartphones with cheaper parts and MediaTek chipsets potentially turning thieves more profit when ran through flasher equipment, it’s fair to say that thieves may start to target mid-range Android handsets instead.

As always, the best precaution for keeping your phone from being stolen is to be aware of your surroundings, especially if you’re visiting a place you’re unfamiliar with. If you’re visiting India from another country as a tourist, you should keep your valuable possessions guarded by keeping your hand on your wallet and phone at all times.

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