What To Do In Case Of Theft or Loss Of Electronics? (Law In Motion – 27): Rupin Sharma IPS

What To Do In Case Of Theft or Loss Of Electronics? (Law In Motion - 27): Rupin Sharma IPS

Kohima, March 11 (NEx): An article on Law in Motion (27): Cyber Crimes -3, written by Rupin Sharma IPS.

Topics covered are:

Q-1 What do I do if my mobile/laptop or electronic accessory is lost/stolen?

Q-2 Why should I make a police report in case of electronic items like mobile / laptop/cameras/hard-disks/pen-drives/CDs etc?

Q-3 In case of a theft or loss, what information should I provide to the police?

Q-4 How is mobile number different from instrument number?

Q-5 What is the importance of IMEI number?

Q-6 What if my instrument does not have IMEI ?

Law In Motion (27): Cyber Crimes – 3

Let me try and keep it simple and start from Loss/Theft of Mobile Phones and Laptops or other Electronic accessories. Most, of such losses/theft or physical dis-possession would not per se qualify as cyber-crimes at all. However, it is pertinent to touch some aspects on these.

Q-1 What do I do if my mobile/laptop or electronic accessory is lost/stolen?

Ans-1 The best course of action advisable is to report to the police at the nearest police station. Depending on the circumstances, the police may lodge an FIR (if there is a theft or forcible or malafide dispossession) or may simply make a GD Entry and give you a copy of the same.

Q-2 Why should I make a police report in case of electronic items like mobile / laptop/cameras/hard-disks/pen-drives/CDs etc?

Ans-2 There can be two broad categories of cases – loss or theft.

Although a loss may not necessarily call for a police report to be lodged about the item, but a lot would depend on what these items/accessories contain. If these articles contain important or sensitive information – whether the information is personal or professional, there is definitely a cause for lodging of a police report. Such a police report pre-empts the information from being misused by any one in a wrongful or a scandalous manner or to defraud others or even you.

However, in cases of physical dispossession or theft, a case of theft or extortion may usually be made out which are crimes by themselves and should be reported alongwith the description of the criminal/suspect and the time/place of the incident. Besides the crime of theft or extortion, the chances of the information being misused by the wrong-doer is also not ruled out.

Q-3 In case of a theft or loss, what information should I provide to the police?

Ans-3 Theft or loss of a mobile phone is a relatively easy thing do deal with both from the perspective of the victim or the police. Every mobile phone instrument, even if it is a simple mobile and not a smartphone, would atleast have a sim card which we in ordinary parlance call ‘mobile number’. In a worst-case scenario, the victim should go to the nearest police station and make a written report that his mobile phone instrument in which mobile number xxxxxxxxx was being used has been lost/stolen. Details about the accused or place and time of theft/loss can be added. Even approximate time/date would suffice. The police report should seek investigation and restoration/recovery of the mobile phone (instrument).

The victim need not go to the police station where the incident occurred, nor to the cyber crime police station. If the police station staff asks you to do that, either ask him/them to give that in writing (which they would avoid doing since they know that they have to register ‘Zero FIR’) and immediately report the matter to the SDPO or Additional SP or SP office in writing or in person or on email. This will ensure that the report is lodged quickly.

If a report is lodged immediately, there are greater chances of recovery of the instrument. It is not mandatory for you to give the instrument number except probably giving the brand name and manufacturer name) which you would probably recollect very easily). The police can easily get these details from the company whose sim card is being used by you by asking for the CDR (Call Details Records). Getting all these details is a part of the investigation work of police.

Additionally, you may also give the email address which was being used on the phone.

If the instrument lost is a laptop, you can give the make and manufacturer details of the laptop and details of any email addresses or applications being used on the laptop. These can be helpful in tracing the laptop if someone opens the laptop and tries to use it.

Q-4 How is mobile number different from instrument number?

Ans-4 What we call ‘mobile number’ in common parlance is the unique number which is given to us by the telecom service provider. In India it is usually a 10-digit number. This is the number which is associated by us with a person and saved in our contacts list.

Without going into too many details, briefly put, the ten digits can be broken

down into three parts for example 9810011111 can be interpreted as follows:

First four – 9810 –name of the service provider eg Airtel, Jio, Voda, BSNL etc;

Next six – 011111 – the subscriber number.

These two are call the SIM number or Subscriber Identity Module number.

Each mobile number also has a unique MSIDN number which uniquely identifies a subscription in a GSM mobile network. It also uniquely connects a telephone number to the SIM card in a mobile or cellular phone. When you see a SIM card, this number is also printed on the SIM card. However, for our ordinary use, this number has very little use. It may be useful for police.

If we port our phone from one service provider to another (Mobile Number

Porting – MNP) i.e., we want the number 9810011111 to be changed from say

BSNL to Jio, this number will remain with you but a new sim card will be issued whose MSIDN number will be different. This MSIDN change can help police identify if the user has changed the service provider.

On the other hand, the mobile phone instrument also has a unique identifying number associated with it. This is called the IMEI number
(International Mobile Equipment Identity). You can check your own IMEI number by pressing *#06# on your instrument keypad. If your instrument has two sim card slots, there will be two IMEI numbers.

Briefly stated, all brands of mobile phones have a unique manufacturer series for IMEI and each instrument has a different number too.

Q-5 What is the importance of IMEI number?

Ans-5 As I mentioned above, each mobile instrument has a Unique IMEI number. It is your phone’s fingerprint. It is usually a 15-digit code (sometimes 16 or 17 digits also). This IMEI number gives a lot of information to the owner or even the police officers/investigators about the crime committed.

IMEI number gives the following details – information on the origin, model, and serial number of the device.

Whenever a mobile phone gets connected to the Mobile Tower, the phone connection which is established contains the following minimum details:

 SIM Number or your mobile number in common parlance;

 IMEI Details i.e., your mobile instrument details;

 The name/code of the mobile tower/towers which the phone gets connected to;

 The time of the connection (when the call is made/received or an sms is sent/received);

 The name and details of the SIM of the person contacted/or who contacts you by voice calls or sms etc;

There are hundreds of other parameters which may be used by the telecom

companies at the backend which they may be collecting but those details are usually not available even to the police and law enforcement agencies.

The law enforcement and police agencies, however, can ask for Call Records of either based on the SIM number (mobile phone) or based on the IMEI number of the instruments. Once these details are available, it opens up a wide array of possibilities for the police to investigate matters further.

Therefore, even if you know only the IMEI number, police can search for a phone. Similarly, the police can find out an IMEI number from the SIM number also by scrutinizing the Call Data.

However, usually, the police will only ask for a Call Details Records (CDR) only after FIR is registered in a crime. Once FIR is registered, the police can seek CDR either of a victim or a target or a suspect or an accused person.

An IMEI number, therefore, is of immense utility to police.

Therefore, a natural deduction is that the police, in case of a theft, cannot or rather should not refuse to register FIR even if the complainant or victim does not have the IMEI number. Merely SIM number or mobile number is enough to register FIR.

Q-6 What if my instrument does not have IMEI?

Ans-6 Usually mobile instruments have IMEI numbers. Government regulations EXPRESSLY PROHIBIT the use of mobile phones without IMEI numbers.

Sometimes, some unscrupulous elements can change the IMEI numbers too. These, however, would qualify as offences also.

On other occasions, some unscrupulous manufacturers may manufacture cheap clones of handsets of reputed manufacturers and the instruments manufactured by them may not have any IMEI numbers. This is again an offence of forgery or cheating besides other offences like copyrights and patents etc.

Therefore, from the perspective of an ‘aam aadmi’, one should be cautious about checking the manufacturer details and IMEI numbers at the time of purchase of new handsets.

The security and law enforcement agencies are also likely to be on the look-out for such instruments who are being used without IMEI numbers and may ask for stoppage of services or even confiscate the instruments.