`Cloning' led to £200 bill

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JAMES ROBERTSON, 27, managing director of Greenacre Publishing, a leisure publishing firm based in Islington, north London, opened his most recent mobile phone bill and discovered he had a bill for £200 rather than the £40 he had expected. He call ed hisservice provider.

"After several attempts I managed to get through to a `customer care' department. The operator said: `I shall pass your query through to the accounts department. There's very little we can do at the moment.' Yes, I said, but what can have happened? Is ita computer error? `No, It's more likely someone has been hacking into your line.'

"The thought never occurred to me. My mobile hadn't been stolen. After a brief explanation about `cloning' I asked what was the firm's procedure for dealing with fraud? `You can go to the police, but they are unlikely to be interested.'

Mr Robertson looked into the matter and found that the police had 28,000 reported incidents of fraudulent use of mobile phones last year. Vodaphone estimated that it has lost £11m in the last financial year.

He sent his phone back to the supplier to be "re-chipped" with a new electronic serial number.

"I rang several of the numbers on my itemised bill," he said. "I was lucky enough to get the name and address of the "cloner" using my line. Armed with this I went to the local police station. They made a report and passed it to the CID. Five days and several phone calls later I was still unable to get through to the officer dealing with my case.

"Service providers blame the police for their lack of interest but the blame must lie with them [the airtime companies]. They have to act positively. My mobile is a vital link for me and many other business users."

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