Dem calls for crackdown on phone thefts

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is telling wireless companies to make a more concerted effort to protect Americans' cellphones.

In a letter to the heads of five top wireless companies on Monday, Klobuchar said "more action is needed" to safeguard people's phones, which can often be critical for their lives and work.

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"The wireless industry needs to step up to the plate and address these thefts, and make sure consumers have the most advanced security technology at their fingertips," she said in a statement.

Nearly one out of every three robberies involves the theft of a cellphone, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Those stolen and lost phones can add up to cost Americans more than $30 billion each year.

To combat the trend, Klobuchar wants companies to make sure that consumers' phones come equipped with the best possible security features, including a so-called "kill switch" that would allow owners to deactivate their phones if they are stolen.

According to Klobuchar, the kill switch feature would make it harder for criminals to resell the stolen phones, but major wireless companies have rejected the feature. The industry has said the technology could make it easier for hackers to disable people's phones, including those used by police.

Instead, the FCC has worked with wireless companies to set up a database of stolen phones.

Apple recently unveiled Activation Lock, a feature that acts as a kill switch, on its iPhones.

Monday's letter was sent to the heads of Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular, which provide service to more than 90 percent of the nation's wireless consumers.

She asked the business leaders whether they have considered including kill switch technology on their phones and explain the reasons why or why not.

"Identifying ways to curb mobile device theft is a top priority of mine and I will continue to advocate for the American wireless consumer. I also believe additional action to protect wireless consumers is necessary and that's why I am asking you for this information," she wrote. "The status quo is not acceptable."

Klobuchar is the chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights.