Thursday, September 07, 2006

Skeptic Material Direct to You

Sometimes a piece of good material for a skepticism post falls right into your inbox. That’s right, someone at the last place I worked sent me a chain letter! Let’s all enjoy picking this piece of modern creduloid literature apart. When I get “advice” like this, the first thing I usually do is search the database to see if it’s a known urban legend. This one was easy to find.

CELL PHONE INFORMATION / share with family & print for future use..!!!

Yes, it announces in the very first line that it’s probably bunk. The “share” advice and multiple exclamation points are major giveaways.

What to do when your cell phone gets lost...

Here is something worth knowing if you have a mobile phone ....Have you ever wondered why phone companies don't seem interested in trying to prevent the theft of mobile phones? If you have ever lost, or had one stolen, and if you are on a plan, you still have to pay the plan approximately up to 24 months, and you have to buy another handset and enter into another contract. This is more revenue for the phone company.
The conspiracy theory element is very popular in chain letters, and usually BS. Service providers won’t generally require you to sign a new service contract if your phone is stolen. In fact, if you’re still under a contract, your phone may be insured against theft. If you’re not under contract, they may offer you a discount on a new phone if you sign another contract, but they probably won’t require it.

There is a simple way of making lost or stolen mobiles useless to thieves and the phone companies know about it, but keep it quiet.

To check your mobile phone's serial number, key in the following on your phone: star-hash-zero-six-hash (* # 0 6 #) and a fifteen digit code will appear on the screen. This is unique to your handset. Write it down and keep it safe.
The Snopes article shows this particular piece of the urban legend to be partially true:

Entering the sequence * # 0 6 # on your cell phone's keypad may produce a display showing a unique fifteen-digit International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) string. However, this only works with phones that use the Global System Mobile Communications (GSM) standard, as these phones contain a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card that holds users' subscription information and phonebook information. Not all cellular phone service carriers use GSM technology, so entering the * # 0 6 # sequence will not work with every cell phone.
Returning to the chain letter…

Should your mobile phone get stolen, you can phone your service provider and give them this code. They will then be able to block your handset, so even if the thief changes the sim card, your phone will be totally useless. You probably won't get your phone back, but at least you know that whoever stole it can't use/sell it either.
Having the IMEI string, if it exists for your particular phone, might make it possible to keep a thief from registering it with another provider, but you certainly don’t need it to contact your own service provider and notify them that your phone was stolen so they can terminate its service.

If everybody did this, there would be no point in stealing mobile phones. You may want to send this to as many people with mobiles as possible.
The thief probably won’t try to register the phone with another provider and won’t get much for selling the handset, since the value of a stolen phone is the calls that could potentially be made on it before the service gets cut off. Digging the IMEI string from your phone (if it exists) is going to a lot of trouble for very little effect; the hardware simply isn’t worth that much to the thief.

What you really need to do if your phone is stolen is contact your service provider as quickly as possible to cut off service before the thief can make any calls.

No charge for directory assistance. Phone companies are charging us $1.00 or more for 411 - information calls when they don't have to. When you need to use the 411/information option, simply dial 1-800-FREE-411 or 1-800-373-3411 without incurring a charge. This is information people don't mind receiving - Pass it on. Works on home phones and cell phones.

This is actually a separate claim, addressed in a separate Snopes article. It turns out that this part is true. The service is provided by a company called Jingle Networks. There’s an automatic voice recognition system that asks for the location, type of listing, and listing name for which you want a number and then reads back the corresponding entry from its database. The only catch is that you may have to listen to an advertisement before you get the number.


Lord Runolfr said...

Incidentally, entering *#06# on my own cell phone does nothing.

Anonymous said...

It orked on my cell...but I agree that this little bit of information isn't going to help any more than just simply calling the cell phone company when and if it gets stolen.