US & Mexico Sign Agreement to Fight Illegal Trafficking of Cellphones

The world of illegal trafficking is dark, dangerous and consumed by the shady cross-border flow of contraband such as narcotics, human beings, firearms and …cellphones?

That’s right, cellphones.

If your iPhone, Blackberry or even your non-smartphone gets stolen, there’s a chance it might end up in the hands of someone in Ciudad Juárez, Reynosa or some other town south of the border.

To put a stop to cases of grand theft cellular, U.S. and Mexican officials signed a bilateral agreement earlier this week aimed at preventing the use of the use of stolen mobile telephones. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission and Mexico's Secretariat of Communications announced that they will begin to share databases of stolen phones to prevent reactivation in both countries.

"Today's announcement cracks down on the growing trend of stolen mobile devices," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, according to AFP. "US and Mexican collaboration to block reactivation of stolen mobile devices in both countries sends a clear message to thieves and criminal gangs -- this is a crime that does not pay."

Mobile phone theft is on the rise as the devices have become an integral part of people’s lives. It is estimated that in U.S. cities such as New York and Washington, 40 percent of all robberies involve cellphones, with smartphones such as the iPhone being a particularly enticing target for crooks.

Many of the stolen phones end up on the black market in countries throughout Latin America, including Mexico, according to AFP.

“While the extent of organized crime's involvement in phone trafficking is likely limited, Mexican authorities say there appears to be a link between phone trafficking and crimes like extortion and kidnapping,” wrote Laura Gómez of Insight Crime.

The bilateral agreement comes on the heels of the implementation by U.S. cellular carriers to block the reusing of mobile phones by sharing data on stolen goods.

Both U.S. and Mexican authorities are also participating in the international stolen device database, which will identify and deactivate a stolen devices.

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