Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) has proposed a bill that would make tampering with a phone's identification number a felony offense, punishable by five years in prison, WKYC Cleveland reports.
Here's why that matters.
If your phone gets lost or stolen, your carrier can deactivate it using its ID number. These companies can also "blacklist" the digits, blocking it from reactivation in the future. But if someone swaps the ID for a new one — back in business.
Brown proposed the Mobile Device Theft Deterrence Act in late May, according Fox 8 Cleveland. He continues to push for action on it.
Cell phone theft skyrocketing. Sherrod is trying to stop thieves from swiping your phone by swapping its ID #. http://t.co/IDZHQOfMXC
"Because the resale value continues to go up, obviously that builds incentives for theft," Brown told WKYC.
To demonstrate how easily anyone can sell a phone, WKYC posted one online. They received four different bids from three websites in less an one minute.
In recent years, iPhone theft has become an epidemic. A Harris poll found that nearly 10% of cellular users reported a stolen phone at one point. The problem hits big cities the hardest. In San Francisco, nearly half of all robberies involve mobile phones, and mobile theft increased 40% in New York City in 2012, according to Time. In May, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asked Apple to remedy the problem.
Brown's proposal looks a lot like the existing penalty for modifying vehicle identification numbers or VINs. That move came as a result of increasing auto theft in country, a similar situation as rampant iPhone robberies.
The iPhone 5S' new fingerprint scanner, however, might help the situation a bit. Even though thieves can still hack the phone and change the ID number, they can't turn off a phone locked with a fingerprint. That makes the phone traceable for as long as the battery lasts, as Gizmodo points out.