Verizon to Combat Theft by Locking Phones
The nation’s largest wireless carrier will be taking extra measures to protect itself and its phones.
In a statement, Verizon said it will soon be locking the phones it sells to consumers. That means customers can’t use a SIM card from another carrier with their new Verizon phone. The decision signals a broad reversal of its policy to offer all of its phones unlocked.
A Policy Change
As part of Verizon’s acquisition of the “C block” of 700 megahertz spectrum that powers its 4G LTE network, the company has agreed to a deal with the FCC to unlock phones. A section of the agreement prohibits Verizon from configuring mobile phones that prevent them from working on other wireless networks. Verizon looks to be protecting itself from competition as locked phones make it tougher to readily switch carriers.
Any phone you buy now from Verizon can be unlocked as soon as you sign up and activate the service. Later this spring, the wireless giant will start locking phones for a period of time after the purchase. It follows the same strategy practiced by the rest of players in the industry.
There’s a 40-day wait period before you get your T-Mobile device temporarily unlocked (sooner for traveling customers). AT&T will require you to pay off a phone and be active on the service for 60 days. There will then be a 41-day wait after you make the request. Sprint requires a similar setup and a wait of 50 days, though the phone gets unlocked automatically after.
Verizon hasn’t revealed how long the locked period will be once the policy change rolls out. An update ahead of the policy changes will be sent to subscribers and customers.
Impact on Consumers
For now, these changes may have little impact on Verizon subscribers. You can unlock Verizon handsets immediately through a software update. Once the new policy is in place, it’ll be more difficult for customers buying a new phone to bring overseas. Heed these tips on how to use your smartphone while traveling abroad. Try asking Verizon to unlock the device before switching SIM cards.
Deterring Fraud and Theft
Because they can be resold on the black market, unlocked phones are generally attractive targets for criminals. Verizon’s move is expected to deter criminal elements from stealing Verizon phones. An executive at the company’s wireless operations reported an armed robbery that took place in one of Verizon’s stores. Employees were held at gunpoint as the inventory of phones were loaded into a truck. The same Verizon official said that the company will be taking steps to make their phones exponentially less desirable to crooks and frauds.
“We need to protect our employees from criminals with guns and protect customers from criminals who try to use their identities to fraudulently purchase phones,” Tami Erwin (executive vice president of wireless operations at Verizon) said in a statement.