Saturday, July 07, 2007

Losing your handphone in Singapore.....

I've lost mine 5 times in 8 years. The last 2 times I managed to get the phone back ...there is secret to this which I'll explain further down.

Losing my handphone is extremely stressful because I have 200+ contacts, I store all my future appointments/reminders in the electronic calender..... losing a handphone disrupts my life and lowers my productivity. The first thing you do when you lose it is to call up your service provider to cancel all premium services to prevent the person who finds the phone from using MMS, IDD and making 1900 calls. After that, you try to contact the person, first by SMSsing, then calling. If the person intends to steal your phone, he will turn it off after a few rings and you will never see it again. I guess the next thing that happens is the person will remove the SIM card and try to sell it off..... most probably to a 2nd hand dealer. I did a quick informal survey once among friends who have lost their handphones ......return rate is about 20%. 80% of the people who find handphones will steal it.

After I lost my handphone for the 3rd time, I decided I had to do something about it. I gave it alot of thought and realised that I was at the mercy of the honesty of the person who found the phone. How to make that dishonest person honest?.....

I found out that my Nokia phone is worth about $60 at the 2nd phone dealer so I stuck the above message onto the battery so that it would be seen if the person decided to remove the SIM card. It worked like a charm the next 2 times my phone was lost! The last time I lost my phone, I tried "acting blur" and "forgetting" the $80 by just thanking the person after he returned it, ...he asked point blank "Where is the $80 reward...?".

Every handphone has a unique number known as the Imei. This number is hardwired to the phone and remains even when the SIM card is replaced. There is a suggestion by a Mr. Peter Humphreys (see below) to disable the stolen phones based on the Imei. The idea is to make stolen phones worthless and 2nd handphone dealers more vigilant. It would remove the incentive for being dishonest. If they do that, I can reduce my reward to $20 ($10 for transport and $10 for being honest).

Integrity can be bought. By giving people incentive to be honest, they will be motivated behave honestly. The price of integrity falls if the system has various checks in place to reduce the gains from dishonety. How much you need to pay for integrity reflects the quality of the system and safeguards in place to prevent abuse. However, I'm not hopeful that our telcos will implement this because they have nothing to gain from it and they will incur some (very small?) cost to monitor blacklisted Imei.


Straits Times Forum 2 July 2007.
Telcos should disable stolen phones via Imei

MY FAMILY has just had its third mobile phone stolen in Singapore over the past three years. We know it was stolen rather than 'lost' as it was fully charged and on, yet when we called to see if someone had found it, it diverted to voice mail suggesting someone had removed the SIM card.

We then called our operator to stop the thief making calls, but this does not stop the thief inserting his own SIM card. The operator can disable the phone itself by stopping any calls based on the unique Imei number (which I record and can provide to the operator). So why don't operators stop phone theft by using this feature?

Peter Humphreys


Anonymous said...

congrat! u have developed the skill in using MONEY to control the behaviour of our Singaproeans...

U r ready for bigger things now.

Capt_Canuck said...

I know how stressful losing a cell is. I not only lost my future mother-in-laws cell phone, but I lost it the night before my wedding to her daughter and the only reason I was lent the phone was to co-ordinate and be on time for the wedding and other things the next day.

Most annoying thing was that my fiancee was with me and she called the cell 10 minutes after we realized it was left in the cab and she actually heard the guy pick up the phone, talk to the cabbie and give him directions before listening to her ask him to return the phone and then hung up on her.

Always wondered if it was just Singaporeans that dont return cell phones or if it is everyone out there.

Anonymous said...

pay them $2 million a year and they will have integrity.

LuckySingaporean said...


:::::Always wondered if it was just Singaporeans that dont return cell phones or if it is everyone out there. :::::

Maybe you should try losing your h/p in canada and let us know what happens. I'm sure it is no better in America.

:::::pay them $2 million a year and they will have integrity. ::::

For handphone, $80 will do lah. For NKF, I think they paid Durai too little, he should have been paid $800K a year - we could have averted this mess.

Anonymous said...

So what is the point of having an imei number???

As good as none?!

Anonymous said...

Yes, you finally got it. The imei number is as good as none because it does not apply for telcos in a "special" country like Singapore. The same way that democracy and freedom are as good as none for some "world class government".

Anonymous said...

I thought you can always activate the phone password so that it will not function when replacing with a new simcard. The phone will become useless to the thief. So what's the point to steal a phone? The problem lays with the phone owner who have not exercised the right to choose even the right is given. It therefore ended up having to pay a lot for honest people to do the right thing, ie. to return the phone to the owner. In other first world countries, this paying for integrity is not necessary because the owners always exercise their right to choose wisely without fear.

Capt_Canuck said...


I actually hate cell phones. The only reason I had it that time was because of the wedding and my fiancee insisted. Though I did ask a bunch of people if they ever lost a cell phone and was it returned as well as if they found a cell phone what would they do. Surprisingly, all the answers I got from people in the States and Canada said they wouldnt actually pick up the phone but leave it where they saw it because the owner would probably backtrack to pick it up, and those that have lost a cell phone said by backtracking they located it laying where they dropped it.

But then again, these are probably the honest people that answered, cause who is actually gonna admit "yeah, found a cell phone, got called on it by the owner, hung up and then sold it for a couple of bucks"? I am sure that there are honest people in Singapore the do return cell phones or dont pick them up but leave them for the owner to return to find them, just it is easier to remember the ones that are stolen then those that are returned.

Anonymous said...

"Integrity can be bought. By giving people incentive to be honest, they will be motivated behave honestly. The price of integrity falls if the system has various checks in place to reduce the gains from dishonety. How much you need to pay for integrity reflects the quality of the system and safeguards in place to prevent abuse."

You summed up one of the most important points of the ministerial pay debate. We have to pay them so much coz the quality of the system they put in place does not have the check and balances to keep them honest. we have to pay them so much coz they put in a mediocre system. the "mediocre" democracies who can do as well or even better despite having "mediocre" governments drawing a reasonable pays because they have excellent systems.

Lionel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lionel said...

Hi guys, tenCube Pte Ltd, a local company, had developed an anti-theft mobile phone product known as WaveSecure and launched it to the public last Thurs.

This product allows you to remotely lock your phone, track it, backup your data, destroy your data, and restore your data.

WaveSecure is currently on a invite -to-use basis and is free for the next 3 months to users.

You may find out more about it at

Entrepreneur said...

Apparently your own integrity is for sale as well. Someone returns your phone and you act "blur" about the $80 reward?

I dunno ...

Anonymous said...

Firstly let me tell you that it's not a handphone....only the Ah beng's came out with this word when he added the word hand+phone together. Because this device is carried in the hand and he already knew what a phone was, he brilliantly called it a handphone.
Just so you's a cellular phone or mobile phone.

Lastly....I hope that someone reads this and decides to keep the phone they find instead of getting the reward because "acting blur" people deserve what they get.

cleananglingpledge said...

Here, I do not really imagine it is likely to have effect.