Forces mobilise on phone fraud
Network operators may not wait for the Government to outlaw 'cloning'. Charles Arthur reports
Sunday 29 October 1995
"It's a case of whether we'll need a private bill, or will we have to wait another two or three years for the Government to change the law," says Gary Bernstein, head of corporate security at Cellnet, one of the four networks (with Vodafone, Mercury One-2-One and Orange).
Last week, the Department of Trade and Industry said it was "considering" changes to the law suggested by a study group that included representatives of the four networks. A new law could impose a sentence of up to five years for making duplicate phones (cloning) and reconnecting stolen phones to networks (rechipping).
Ian Taylor, the science and technology minister, was guardedly positive about a change in the law, but his response implied that a shortage of Parliamentary time could derail legislation. But Mr Bernstein is determined. "This is the change we've been fighting for the past three years," he says. The matter is likely to come up tomorrow at a meeting of the mobile networks' security chiefs. Getting the changes introduced in a private bill would need the co-operation of an MP who wins a place in the draw for members' bills.
In 1994, mobile phone fraud cost the industry an estimated pounds 36m; this year, the figure is expected to be pounds 100m. The number of handsets bought grew by about 75 per cent. In August, there were 4.5 million in Britain.
However, each month about 12,000 are stolen, and about 4,000 are "cloned". In cloning, the phone number and "electronic signature number", or ESN, of an unsuspecting owner's handset are captured from the airwaves and fed into another handset. Phone theft costs about pounds 200 per incident, and contributes to 40 per cent of car break-ins in city centres. Cloning is undetectable until the owner receives a bill, often running into hundreds of pounds, for calls he or she never made. It has mushroomed by an estimated 500 per cent in the past year.
Yet under present British law, neither cloning nor rechipping a phone is an offence. In the US, it has been a federal offence for more than a year, and some states brought in legislation to outlaw it even earlier.
Although cloning and rechipping is only possible on Vodafone and Cellnet, which use analogue rather than digital technology, owners of digital handsets lose out, too. "Criminals tend to steal first and look later," says a spokesman for Mercury One-2-One, which runs a digital network, as does Orange. Analogue handsets outnumber digital ones by about four to one. At present, it is impossible to rechip or clone a digital handset.
The study group was set up in June, and included representatives from the Home Office and DTI as well as network operators and phone dealers. It delivered its recommendations earlier this month.
Its creation was a step forward. The Government previously resisted industry requests to make rechipping illegal. "I think the Government has been preoccupied before with the idea of the industry coming up with a technological fix," says David Savage, chairman of the Cellular Service Providers Group, which resells airtime for phones.
- 1 Double chins could be 'cured' without surgery or dieting using new injection
- 2 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 3 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 4 Thank heavens for Louise Mensch and her foul-mouthed tweets to world leaders
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Greece elections: Greek PM Alexis Tsipras takes aim at 'neo-liberal' Europe as country gears up for prolonged austerity battle
Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary: Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
Prince Philip set to be knighted by Australia: Celebrate by reading his greatest gaffes
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
iJobs Money & Business
£16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...
£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...
£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...