RCMP warn of brazen cell phone robberies; tips on how to render your phone useless to thieves

Watch: Aggressive thieves target smartphone owners

Metro Vancouver police are warning the public about brazen cell phone robberies, where the phones are stolen right out of their owners’ hands.

Coquitlam RCMP say the thieves ask the victim for the time and when the person pulls out their smartphone, the thief produces a weapon — like a crowbar, knife or pepper spray.

Not only is the victim ordered to turn over their phone, but they’re also ordered to give away their password.

There have been at least four such attacks in the past three weeks in the Coquitlam/Port Coquitlam area.

Luckily, no one was hurt.

“It is becoming a concern for us,” says Cpl. Jamie Chung with Coquitlam RCMP. “You would not be carrying several hundreds dollars in your hand walking down the back alley. For the same reason  you should not be carrying your iPhone walking down a back alley. You should only pull out your iPhone when you are safe.”

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Police recommend that you hand over your cell phone under such circumstances, but there’s something you can do after your cell phone has been stolen to render it useless to the thief.

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There is a stolen cell phone blacklist program that was put together by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.

How does the blacklist work

  • Lost or stolen smartphones are added to the blacklist by cellphone service providers when the device’s owner reports the device loss or theft and provides the device’s IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity).
  • The IMEI number is a unique code that identifies a device to a service network.
  • The service provider adds the device’s IMEI to the blacklist. The device is then blocked and cannot be reactivated by any service provider that is participating in the blacklist program.
  • The blacklist will only cover phones reported stolen from September 30th, 2013 onward.
  • Once a phone is reported lost or stolen it can take up to 48 hours for the IMEI to appear on the list.
  • Participating Canadian carriers: Bell, Rogers, Telus and Wind.
  • Participating US carriers: AT&T and T-Mobile

What to do right now

  • Find your device’s 15-digit IMEI by:
    • Dialing *#06#.
    • Checking your device’s battery cavity if it is accessible.
    • Checking the base and sides of your device’s original packaging.
  • Save the number in a safe place outside of your device. For instance, in a computer-based password protection program.
RCMP warn of brazen cell phone robberies; tips on how to render your phone useless to thieves - image

What to do if your qualifying device gets stolen

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  • You must call your local police to report the crime and your service provider to report the IMEI. The police cannot report your IMEI to your service provider.
  • When you call your service provider to report the theft, you will be asked for the device’s IMEI.
  • If you cannot provide the IMEI, the device cannot be added to the blacklist and may be reactivated.

What to do if you are considering buying a used smartphone

  • The best protection is to buy used phones from a reputable vendor.
  • If you choose to buy a used device from an individual, you can make sure you are not buying a stolen device by checking the device’s IMEI at

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