According to an internal memo, Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers will now be notified if an iPhone has been reported as missing or stolen in the GSMA Device Registry’s database. When a customer brings an iPhone to an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider, the iPhone will be checked against the database to see if it’s legally owned by the customer.
MacRumors obtained an internal memo explaining that Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers will now be required to watch out for the notification and see if a device that is being serviced pops up on their system as missing or reported as stolen. If a device comes back flagged as stolen or reported missing, the technician will decline to service the device, if the person cannot disable Find My iPhone, which often means that the device is iCloud locked, or the customer doesn’t know the password. The new policy aims to help prevent repairing stolen products, and it’s surprising to see that this wasn’t already a policy at Apple, while most other companies and third-party services always check for IMEI numbers to prevent handling stolen goods.
Apple will use the GSMA Device Registry database to flag devices as missing or stolen. The service is used globally by network operators, third-party services, and manufacturers to help prevent the handling of stolen goods. Once a device is flagged in the database, it can be blocked by network operators and manufacturers to prevent access, until the device is unlocked with the original password. The GSMA Device Registry relies on a device’s IMEI number, and the reason for including it in the database ranges from devices being reported as “lost, stolen, faulty, broken, or fraudulently obtained.” It’s also worth noting that the database doesn’t explicitly mention whether it’s only for smartphones, and it’s possible that iPads, Android tablets, computers, smartwatches, and even earbuds could be added to the system.
The new policy is a welcome change to prevent fraud, but it makes us question why it took Apple over a decade to implement such a fundamental policy. Most resellers and third-party shops that deal with used devices use similar, or the same systems. For instance, in the UK, some companies even contact the authorities, which can sometimes require the device’s owner to make a statement on how they got hold of the device, and why it may be reported as missing or stolen. Contacting authorities is another step to deter criminals from trying to repair stolen goods, and it is rather effective.
There are sometimes legitimate reasons for reporting a device as stolen or missing. Many of us accidentally left our devices behind at a cafe or restaurant, only to return later and find it at the reception or behind the till. It can happen to all of us, and turning on Find my Device, or Android’s Device Manager can help track the device down. When enabling those services, the device isn’t automatically entered in the GSMA database, as it requires it to be reported manually through authorities, manufacturers, or network providers.
The bottom line is that if Apple managed to conduct its business as normal throughout all these years, how many stolen goods has the company handled and profited from? It’s not a good look for Apple, while most other shops and repair services applied these so-called policies many years ago to avoid breaking the law and try to deter criminals from such activities. We shouldn’t find this acceptable for a company that is valued at over a trillion dollars, and small business owners appear to do more to help prevent fraud.
Apple also announced a Self Service Repair program earlier in November last year, allowing customers to repair their own devices at home. Apple announced that it would sell original, first-party parts and tools to customers to fix their devices. Apple will provide guides to explain how to open smartphones, and replace certain parts. However, it remains to be seen if the service will require users to submit their serial and IMEI numbers before requesting and purchasing official parts, which criminals could use to repair broken and stolen products.