The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) has built a database reporting the unique numbers on stolen mobile devices, aimed at making smartphones a less attractive target for would-be thieves.

Although it launched today, the CWTA announced it was setting the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) database in motion back in September 2012. The database is essentially a blacklist of lost or stolen wireless devices. Since each device comes with a unique 15-digit IMEI number, ones that have been reported as lost or stolen will be registered in the database.

Any device with a blacklisted IMEI number won’t be able to run on a Canadian wireless network, even if the device’s SIM card has been switched out – which means smartphones may not be as coveted a prize for someone looking to take a phone to make a quick buck. Participating wireless networks include Canada’s heavyweights – Bell Canada, Rogers Communications Inc., and Telus Corp.

And for consumers buying pre-owned devices, they’ll also be able to tap into the network and check out their purchase to make sure it’s legitimate. Using the Web site ProtectYourData.ca, they can enter the IMEI number of a wireless device, which will tell them if their device has been blacklisted. The Web site also features some tips teaching consumers how to protect themselves from device theft, as well as how to protect their data if a device has gone missing.

The IMEI database will also include lost or stolen devices running on U.S. carriers’ networks, as long as they’re connected to the registry.

The idea is to try to deter smartphone thieves from stealing phones, especially since smartphone theft often goes hand-in-hand with violent crime, said Jim Chu, head of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

“I would like to commend the CWTA and its members for their rapid response to implement this much needed public safety tool,” he said in a statement.

“Less than a year ago, we identified to the CWTA the seriousness of cellphone theft and the associated violent crime which was of growing concern to law enforcement and communities throughout Canada. This important action by the industry will have a direct impact on reducing this gratuitous crime.”

Consumers who lose their phones or who have become victims of theft should contact their service providers immediately, the CWTA recommends. Service providers will only deactivate and blacklist devices once their owners report they’ve been stolen or lost. In cases of theft, the association says consumers should contact local police as well.

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