Schumer introduces bill to combat cellphone theft

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The carriers rely on a phone's unique identification number to disable it. Schumer noted that thieves could reactivate a stolen phone by changing its identification number.

His Mobile Device Theft Deterrence Act would make it a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison for tampering with a phone's identification number.

"As part of the effort to shut down the black market for stolen iPhones, we must make it abundantly clear to would-be thieves, if you try to alter a stolen cell phone to get around the ban, you will face severe consequences,” Schumer said in a statement. “This legislation will help dry up the black market for stolen cell phones by making the consequences for peddling in this illegal business so severe, thieves would think twice before doing so.”

CTIA, the wireless industry's trade group, endorsed the legislation.

Steve Largent, CTIA's president, said the bill will be "an important tool in the effort to combat the theft of wireless devices."

"We hope Congress moves quickly to pass this important bill,” he said in a statement.

AT&T and Verizon released their own statements applauding Schumer for introducing the legislation.