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AT&T to Start Blocking Stolen Phones and Tablets on July 10th

In Europe, smartphones are banned from the airwaves very shortly after they're reported stolen, but in the U.S, stolen phones can be resold and still continue to operate, which has made handsets a juicy target for thieves. Those times are a-changing, though; The Verge reports that next Tuesday, AT&T will roll out a new service for reporting stolen phones and blocking them from service.

The information comes from "a trusted source," who supplied a screenshot of the information the company has sent to its customer service representatives. Starting July 10th, customers will be able to go to AT&T and report their phone or tablet as stolen, whether it's prepaid or on a plan. If customers have an information wiping app on their device, AT&T will require them to activate it before placing a block on the handset.

Pilfered phones won't be able to tap into the AT&T network in any way; any attempt to use a stolen device will result its text, voice and data line being suspended. Only the person who asked for the phone to be blocked will be able to remove the hold.  

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cracking down on hijacked handsets: Back in April, the FCC and the four major U.S. cellular carriers announced that they'd create a central blacklist for stolen phones by the end of 2013. Each carrier also pledged to, within six months of the announcement, independently prevent phones that have been stolen from its subscribers from being used on its network -- a promise AT&T has kept with this new initiative. Verizon and Sprint already have similar stolen phone reporting services in place.