NEW DELHI: With conmen gaining expertise in tampering with IMEI codes, purportedly through imported applications and IMEI crackers, Delhi Police is facing a tough time tracking the 3,700-odd cellphones that are reported stolen, snatched away or robbed in the national capital everyday.
International Mobile-station Equipment Identity (IMEI) is a unique 15-digit code used to identify valid mobile devices. It is often used for stopping a stolen phone from accessing a mobile network and later tracking it down.
Records of Delhi Police reveal that there has been a 60 per cent rise in number of phones snatched away, above 33 per cent increase in cases of phones robbed and around 85 per cent increase in phones stolen in the city every month. And not even 1 per cent of them could be tracked by the police, said a senior police official.
"The cons who deal with stolen and robbed phones are these days procuring applications with which they can change IMEI numbers. These act as portals which give them access to the mobile company's database containing the IMEI numbers, which they manipulate," said an official in the Crime Branch of Delhi Police.
"We came across the first such application after we cracked a syndicate earlier this year. The presence of the application, believed to be procured from Singapore, came to fore when the police recovered around 211 mobile phones and their IMEI numbers did not match with what was visible on the stickers pasted inside the handsets," the official added.
A source in the Cyber Cell of Delhi Police added that IMEI changing applications, mostly procured through online forums, often come in pair with a hardware, popular by the moniker 'IMEI cracker'. It can be bought for anything between Rs 16,000 and Rs 20,000.
The applications, which come with IMEI crackers, usually provide two options -– to pick a random IMEI or choose from an existing list. In case of the second alternative, police are often misled as the cons assign the same IMEI number to multiple mobile phones, the source added.
In 2014, as many as 3,082 mobile phones were snatched, 486 were robbed and 7,35,105 were stolen in the national capital. Till August 31 this year, as many as 3,322 phones were snatched, 433 robbed and 9,02,850 were stolen in the city, revealed records of Delhi Police.
Both the Crime Branch and Special Cell of Delhi Police have laboratories and experts to track down mobile phones. While routine cases are taken care of by the local police, these specialised units are entrusted with tracking in connection with organised syndicates and counter-terrorism investigations, respectively.
"The induction of IMEI-changing applications in Delhi's crime network has been a major impediment in the tracking of phones. We are working on it," said Alok Kumar, Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime).