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Taking the initiative in the fight against mobile phone crime

Taking the initiative in the fight against mobile phone crime

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 27 August 2009

Action to prevent criminals abusing new mobile phone technology, which allows them to be used like debit, credit and pre-pay cards, has been agreed by the Government, mobile phone and card payments industries, Home Office Minister Alan Campbell announced today.

The new technology, which will allow customers to buy things by swiping them over sensors in a similar way to Oyster cards, is being trialled by phone companies and banks in the UK. In an effort to design out opportunities for crime and reduce harm to consumers the government has been working with industry to ensure the technology builds in tough security measures at the earliest stages.

Working with the government the mobile phone and banking industry have agreed to a set of guidelines. They have committed to ensuring consumers are not put at an increased risk due to the development of this technology, especially young people who are often the earliest adopters of technology and suffer from disproportionate risk. The guidelines include:

• ensuring contactless payment functions, SIM cards and phones will be disabled as soon as possible once a contactless payment mobile phone is reported lost or stolen;

• that any transactions above the maximum contactless payment value (currently £10) will require verification, such as a pin code, similar to the current guidelines that underpin existing contactless card payment schemes. Additional security such as a pin codes will also be required if more than a certain number of low-value transactions are carried out consecutively; and

• any customer who signs up for a contactless payment phone will be encouraged to add their details on the National Mobile Phone Register to make it easier for stolen phones to be identified and recovered.

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell said:

“These guidelines are an important step forward in protecting the public from criminals. I am pleased that the mobile and banking industries have worked with us to ensure that the public are protected at the earliest opportunity.

“By working closely with industry we have already put in place measures to make it harder for thieves to profit from mobile phone theft – around 90 per cent of handsets reported stolen are now blocked within 24 hours of reporting reducing their value and the incentive for criminals.

“This technology is an exciting new development but we must continue to work together to reduce any new opportunities for criminals to profit from mobile theft. As new technologies like this develop we aim to consider where safeguards can be incorporated at the drawing board stage.”

Jack Wraith, spokesman for the Mobile Phone Industry said:

“The Mobile Phone Industry has welcomed the opportunity to work with the Banking Industry in developing these guidelines to ensure that the customer experience in using contactless payments, via mobile devices, is both secure and robust. The mobile phone is an integral part of modern day life and the Mobile Phone Industry will continue to work with all stakeholders to mitigate any risk to our customers in the operation of contactless payment technology.

“The partnership, between the customer and their home network is core to the customer experience in using mobile phones and while the banking industry develops payment applications the Mobile Phone Industry will continue to provide support, advice and best practice to protect this experience. The Mobile Phone Industry welcomes the support of the Government and Police in the ongoing fight to prevent criminals from benefiting from mobile phone theft”

Paul Marsh, Director of The UK Cards Association, said:

"We have welcomed the opportunity to engage in discussions with the Home Office, the mobile phone industry, Visa and MasterCard at this early stage, to ensure that principles around customer protection are agreed across the board. The payments industry is sensitive to customer concerns’ about security and has always set high standards for its products; any new payment solutions will be developed with precisely this in mind."

Contactless payment phones use near-field communication technology to authorise payments on an individual’s credit or debit cards or pre-paid account.

Previous advances in technology have led to unexpected new forms of crime; email heralded the phenomenon of ‘phishing’, ATMs precipitated the new crime of ‘card catching’ and online banking gave rise to ‘key logging’, used by fraudsters to track the input of secret passwords and account numbers.

However, there are also many examples of design being applied successfully to reduce opportunities for crime – for example, British Crime Survey figures show theft of vehicles has reduced by 51 per cent since 1997 as a result of improved security being designed into the vehicle, and an evaluation of houses built to the ACPO Secured By Design (SBD) standards showed that these experience 26 per cent less crime than non SBD houses, and residents fear of crime is lower.

1. The National Mobile Phone Register (NMPR) is linked to voluntary databases - such as Immobilise, where people can enter their phone’s details. So if the phone is lost or stolen police can identify it and return it to the rightful owner. Approximate 22 million phones are currently registered on it.

2. In the last six months of 2007, there were 90,910 searches were made of the NMPR resulting in 18,086 matches (21.5 per cent). 44,681 of those searches were from stop and search, resulting in 8,505 matches (19 per cent). This means that either a handset was identified as stolen or the proper owner correctly identified.

3. Near Field Communication is a technology that enables contactless payment, where mobile phones are used as credit or debit cards. Trials of this technology, where mobile phones permit contactless payments, are already advanced in many countries. In Japan mobiles are being used as house keys and in Germany, supermarkets are trialling barcode scanning and automated payment using mobiles. In the UK, several financial institutions have recently announced trials of contactless payment using mobile phones; both Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland have trialled phone featuring Visa ‘payWave’ and MasterCard PayPass technology.

4. For more information or for a copy of the guidelines contact the Home Office press office on 020 7035 3535.


Home Office Press Office
Phone: 020 7035 3535

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