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Winnipeg Police Service

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Crime Prevention > Phone Safety

Home Phones | Mobile Phones | Mobile Phone Theft
Internet & Cable Phones | Business Phones

If possible, always call 9-1-1 from a land line rather than a cell phone. You should have one phone in your home that doesn't need a power outlet to use it. This gives you access to 9-1-1 when there is a power outage. Cell phone location technology can be used to identify a caller's general location. The accuracy and reliability of this information will vary. Know your location - look for street signs, building names or landmarks. Know your address or the address where you are. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones may not automatically connect you to your local area 9-1-1 Centre.  Find out from your VoIP service provider how you will be connected to 9-1-1 services prior to an emergency. When you call 9-1-1 from a business phone, tell the Emergency Communication Operator your exact location and know the building name, office and floor of the emergency.

Home phones

For the purpose of this information, home phones are considered those connected to a regular phone jack in the wall (land line). If you have a choice, call 9-1-1 from a land line instead of a cell phone.

  • It's a good idea to have one phone in your home that doesn't need a power outlet to use it. This gives you access to 9-1-1 when there is a power outage.
  • Cordless phones mostly require a battery/power to keep them working. Place the charge unit in the bedroom so a phone is close by during sleep times.
  • Find out what 9-1-1 services you have by contacting your telephone service provider prior to an emergency.
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Mobile phones

Cellular phone location technology may be used in some cases to identify a caller's general location. The accuracy and reliability of this information will vary from pinpointing the cell phone to within a radius of a few metres to several kilometres based on a number of variables. For example, the caller's location will generally be more specific within the city and less specific in rural areas due to the number of cell towers available to triangulate the signal.

However, factors such as signal strength, natural or man-made obstructions to wireless signals, and whether the handset is GPS-capable all contribute to the accuracy and reliability. Either way, the Emergency Communications Officer will ask you for location details to avoid any unnecessary delays.

Other tips for calling 9-1-1 from a cell phone:

  • Get in a safe location before you call. If you're driving, pull over and stop the vehicle first.
  • If you have a choice, call 9-1-1 from a land line rather than a cell phone.
  • Know your location - look for street signs, building names or landmarks.
  • Know your address or the address where you are.
  • Old/inactive cell phones may still connect with 9-1-1. As a precaution, don't let children use them as toys.
  • Find out what 9-1-1 services you have by contacting your telephone service provider prior to an emergency.
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Mobile Phone Theft

In common with many other portable electronic devices, mobile phones have become attractive targets for the opportunistic thief. There are a number of precautions users of mobile phones can take to reduce the chance of their phone being stolen and to ensure that, in the event that the worst happens, the thief is unable to make any productive use of the phone or SIM card.

How can I reduce the chance of my phone being stolen?

  • Do not leave your mobile phone unattended or in open view in public places. Even if your phone is located close at hand, a bold thief may still be willing to grab it and run.
  • Do not leave your mobile phone on open display in an unattended car. If you do need to leave your phone in an unattended vehicle, lock it in the glove compartment or the trunk
  • When using your phone in a public place, consider your surroundings and, if appropriate, be discreet in the way in which you use your phone. Do not use your phone in areas where you might feel unsafe.
  • Do not give your phone to strangers who ask to borrow it.

What should I do if my phone is stolen?

You should report the theft to the police:

  • The WPS recovers numerous suspected stolen phones annually that they are unable to return to their owner because no police report was ever filed.  If your phone is covered by an insurance policy then you may need to obtain a reference number from the police in order to make an insurance claim.
  • If your phone is stolen, you should inform your service provider's customer service department immediately. This will allow them to block any further calls from being made using your SIM card. It is important that you take this step as soon as you realise that your phone has been stolen, as thieves often use stolen phones to make large numbers of high cost calls. In many cases, the owner of the phone is responsible for the charges that result from these calls up until the time at which the phone is reported stolen to the service provider.

Canadian service providers operate technology that allows them to add a stolen phone to a blacklist.

  • Once added to the blacklist the stolen phone is no longer able to access the service provider's network. If you are reporting a stolen phone, ask your service provider if they offer a blacklisting service for the phone itself as well as for the SIM card. If they do, they will require the IMEI number of your phone.. If you have a note of this number, you should provide this to your service provider at the same time as reporting the phone stolen. In some countries, all mobile service providers participate in blacklisting schemes and share the IMEI numbers of stolen phones with one another. This ensures that a phone reported as stolen by a customer of one service provider cannot be used on that network or any of the other networks in that country.

What if my phone is stolen while I am in another country?

  • Even if you are in another country the theft of your phone and SIM card must be reported immediately to your service provider at home. By contacting them immediately, you ensure the prompt suspension of the service, which minimizes the risk of somebody else running up expensive bills.
  • The theft should also be reported to the local police authorities and you should obtain a police report number if you require it to make an insurance claim.
  • Before travelling to another country you should ensure you note, separate from your mobile phone, the international telephone number for your service provider's customer service department. This will help in the event that you need to call the service provider from overseas. Alternatively, contact details can be obtained from your service provider's website.

How can I ensure that a thief cannot make use of my phone and what can I do to increase the chances of recovering a stolen phone?

  • Ensure that you always use the PIN lock feature on your phone and SIM card. These features require that you enter a PIN code before you can begin using your phone or your SIM card. See your phone's user manual to find out more about these features (note that not all models of phone may provide a PIN feature for locking access to the handset, however all SIM cards support a SIM lock PIN feature that can be accessed via the handset).
  • Keep a note of the make and model of your phone and any distinguishing features, for instance, clip on covers. In the event that your phone is stolen, having a note of these points will help you to provide an accurate and complete description of your phone to the police.
  • Consider marking your phone with your postal code together with your house or apartment numbers using an ultra-violet security marker pen.
  • Keep a note of the IMEI number of your phone. You can find the IMEI number of your phone by entering '*#06#' on the phone's keyboard. If your phone is stolen, your service provider can use the IMEI to 'blacklist' the phone. Once blacklisted, the phone will be disabled on your service provider's network and possibly on other networks too. You may also find that your local police will be able to make use of the IMEI, in particular to help them identify the phone as yours should they succeed in recovering it from the thief.

What else should I consider in regard to phone theft?

  • If your phone is lost or stolen, you may find it difficult to remember all the contact details you had stored in your phone and SIM card. Many service providers and other third parties offer services or tools to enable you to back up the contents of your SIM and your phone, allowing you to easily recover this data should your phone or SIM be stolen.
  • If you store confidential personal or business data on your phone, you may wish to consider investing in security software that allows you to store this data in an encrypted format. This will help to ensure that a phone thief cannot access this data should your phone be stolen.
  • Be cautious when purchasing a cellular phone via private on line classified advertising.  The WPS receives numerous reports of stolen phones sold to unwitting customers. Remember if the price is too good to be true it probably is. Ask the seller for an original proof of purchase and check the IMEI number against the blacklist database link.

Also, when meeting a stranger to make a cash transaction it is always best to meet in a busy public location, and to bring a friend.

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Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) internet or cable phones

Internet or cable-based phones are also known as a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or broadband. These use a high-speed internet connection to make/receive calls. They can look and function much like traditional telephone service, and they are required to provide 9-1-1 access. Here's what else you need to know:

  • Calling 9-1-1 from a VoIP phone may not automatically connect you to your local area 9-1-1 Centre.
  • Find out from your VoIP service provider how you will be connected to 9-1-1 services prior to an emergency.
  • If special directions are required, post the information on or near your phone for reference.
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Business phones

Depending on the size of the business, the information from your call to 9-1-1 may be the head office location and company name. If you are not working at the head office/billing address tell the Emergency Communication Officer your exact location when you call 9-1-1.

  • Know the building name, office and floor of the emergency.
  • Ask your office manager if there is anything special that you need to know about calling 9-1-1 from your business phone and building.
  • Learn your company's/building's standard emergency procedures prior to an emergency.

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Last update: April 1, 2015

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