Cellphone theft not a big problem in NZ

Cellphone owners in New Zealand have an advantage over their Australian and UK counterparts - nobody wants to steal their phones.

Cellphone owners in New Zealand have an advantage over their Australian and UK counterparts - nobody wants to steal their phones.

Handset theft in Australia has reached 100,000 units a year while in the UK police are warning parents not to let their children use their cellphones in public for fear of being attacked by thieves.

However in New Zealand the problem of cellphone theft has never really been an issue. The police don't track complaint numbers for cellphones because there are so few and the Insurance Council doesn't have any numbers on the issue either.

Vodafone's risk services manager Dean Saunders says there are two reasons for the low theft rate here.

"Firstly, we have two networks that don't interact so you can't take a phone from one network and use it on the other."

The second reason is that Vodafone New Zealand has always been able to not only block the SIM card, the smart card that carries the user ID information, but also the handset itself.

"In Australia and the UK they're only just implementing this kind of blocking although we've been able to do that since we first set up in New Zealand." Vodafone will typically only block the SIM card for any reported stolen phone because as Saunders tactfully points out, many "stolen" phones are recovered within a couple of days.

"They ring back to say they've found them or had them returned or what have you, so it's much easier to block the SIM in the mean time." If customers do want the handset blocked, Vodafone is capable of doing just that however.

Telecom spokeswoman Linda Sanders says it's even easier for Telecom users to stop cellphone theft because the company's phones have no SIM card - all the owner information is managed at the server, making any stolen phone easy to block.

Neither company records figures for cellphone thefts, but both say the number are relatively small.

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