back to article STILL won't pop a cap on stolen mobile bills

Brits who have their mobes stolen are still facing shock bills, despite government promises that charges would be capped in a similar way to stolen credit cards. The Citizens Advice watchdog said that as many as 160,000 victims of phone crime were forking out up to £4m a year to pay for thieves’ texting and calls, although …

  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Does one assume

    That the perpetrators are setting up, or associated with, groups operating premium rate numbers? So the stolen phone is monetized by calling a premium rate they control?

    I mean, I can't see huge numbers of people absolutely desparate to spend huge amounts of time on long-distance calls, though I could be wrong...

    /me wanders off to the Virgin Mobile site to see what his phone allows and how to stop it...

    1. Tom Wood

      Re: Does one assume

      Yes, exactly.

      Of course the networks make a profit from all these charges, which explains why they are dragging their heels.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Does one assume

        The mobe operators are dragging their feet because they have you on a contract tie-in, if you could just declare your phone to be stolen to get out of it then the contract wouldn't be worth much.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Does one assume

          Rubbish. The contract exists irrespective of phone theft or not.

          This is an abysmal state of affairs perpetuated by the operators because they make money on premium rate services, interconnect and roaming charges.

          Anyone who suffers this problem should call the operators bluff and see them in court.

      2. The Indomitable Gall


        Note also the fact that mobile operators are "unable" to block premium rate numbers. I appreciate that call charges are different on landlines and mobiles, but... WTF?!?!? I mean, how is it technically feasible to block premium calls on landline exchanges, but not mobile ones? It's the same bloody thing! The only difference is that the operators have CHOSEN not to implement such call barring. Their choice, their negligence, their responsibility... surely?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Use the SIM and PIN lock on the phone, and set an auto lock (as mandated by many companies if you use the phone for work email / calender).

    Phones then gone but unless its stolen while unlocked and then constantly used without the phone locking it should be fine.

    Overcoming people inertia and resistance to a few seconds delay on their instant gratification is another matter...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Think of the old folk!

      I've given you an upvote as I agree this works if you have a smartphone, and it's pretty bl**dy stupid if people haven't set both a SIM PIN and phone lock.

      However, what about the folks out there who still have the basic mobiles which generally just need a softkey and star-button to unlock? Even if you've gone ahead and set a SIM PIN, this is of no use if the phone is stolen whilst it's switched on.

      Of course, I imagine that most folks who prefer/insist using a basic phone are probably also on Pay as you Go, so providing they don't have unlimited auto top-ups enabled, the most they can lose is the balance of their account.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Think of the old folk!

        @xpz393 - thanks for the hint. I've only recently changed from a PAYG dumb phone to a contract smart phone, most of the features of which I have no interest in.

        I had set the phone lock but not the sim lock; that's now done.

    2. Gavin Chester

      Every phone I've had from my first Panasonic POS has a pin and SIM lock option.

      The user wanting to use it and reading the manual to set it up is another matter.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Still doesn't absolve the operators of their responsibility. Some of these gangs wind up charges of thousands.

  3. Bloodbeastterror

    SIM code lock

    I saw this on BBC's Watchdog a couple of weeks ago, and the numbers are frightening. Two things spring to mind.

    First, I thought that having a phone PIN was enough, but a thief simply swaps the SIM to another phone and uses your account. Set a PIN on your SIM card to stop this. Settings/Security/Set SIM code. It will ask for the current PIN. Google will tell you what the default SIM PIN for your service provider is. Try it a maximum of 2 times - I believe a third wrong number locks the SIM and you'll have to contact your provider to unlock it. Once you're in, set a new code and confirm it. I have the same code for my phone and SIM, so it's simple. The only difference you'll see is that when you reboot (N.B. not just switching on, but restarting the phone) you'll first get a SIM code prompt, then your normal phone code prompt. If you don't have even a phone code lock, you're a numpty.

    Second, why does this not fall under the "proceeds of crime" legislation? How can it possibly be right that these massively-technological companies are allowed to trouser cash illegally gained when it must be unbelievably simple to have alarm bells going off as soon as any account shows out-of-pattern usage - by which I mean (as on Watchdog) a new call to the same premium rate number literally every minute?

    1. Valerion

      Proceeds of crime

      I came to post exactly this. It is not legal to profit from crime, yet the phone companies are doing exactly that.

      1. ARGO

        Re: Proceeds of crime

        On that basis, the VAT going to government would also count as proceeds of crime?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Proceeds of crime

        " It is not legal to profit from crime, yet the phone companies are doing exactly that."

        No different to the payment card companies taking payment for goods and services promoted by spammers. There's another big industry profiting from crime, and strangely enough bunglement sit on their fat behinds doing nothing.

    2. Skoorb

      Re: SIM code lock

      There is one rather annoying problem with SIM card pins; that you only have three attempts to enter it before the SIM card locks itself down and you need a PUK code from your network.

      If you have an annoying 'friend' who decides it would be fun to mis-enter your PIN three times then you cannot use your phone again without your network giving you a PUK code or posting you a new SIM. Getting a PUK code out of your network can be harder than you think as well; not all of them let you view it online, you have to go through telephone customer service and get them to send it out.


      1. Dr_N

        Re: SIM code lock

        "If you have an annoying 'friend' who decides it would be fun to mis-enter your PIN three times then you cannot use your phone again without your network giving you a PUK code or posting you a new SIM. "

        Hopefully your "friend" doesn't further enter the PUK incorrectly 10 times as that'll fry your SIM...

        I'm amazed there still seems to be people who don't SIM lock.

        Mine's been active since 1996. And it uses 6 digits , not 4.

      2. DavCrav

        Re: SIM code lock

        "If you have an annoying 'friend' who decides it would be fun to mis-enter your PIN three times then you cannot use your phone again without your network giving you a PUK code or posting you a new SIM."

        Well, if I knew someone who did that they would be 1) not in contact with me after that day and 2) the new owner of a smack in the mouth.

  4. Ana Cronym

    Government in "failing to deliver on promise" shocka

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What on earth is the logic for the delay other than to scrape a few million more while the sun is shining? They say they're going to do it, so why not just fscking do it? The money taken is in effect the proceeds of crime, and there's quite a lot of it, so perhaps plod out to relieve the networks of it, lest they accidently profit from crime.

    In the past, I've had both mobile companies and credit card companies try to nail me for charges accrued after I'd reported the loss, and it took an indecent amount of pressure to get them to change their minds. It really shouldn't be like this because understanding the cutoff is simple enough even for greed challenged minds.

    In the end you have to assume the foot dragging here is very deliberate.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Don't sign a contract that you aren't willing to honour.

    1. phil dude

      Re: PAYG

      In fact why sign a contract? Oh yes, you want subsidised bling...

      Here in the US I have T-mobile "pay monthly in advance". Maximum liability $5.33 which is what I leave in the account in case I actually need to pay for something.

      In the UK Three "PAYG EAMAYL" worked just fine.

      But then I purchase my phones like I purchase my computers - outright and to keep until they can function no more...

      But I learnt my lesson from <insert company> who managed to soak me for at least 50 GBP with straight up "theft" from my account.

      But that's a another story...


      1. Lyndon Hills 1

        Re: PAYG

        While I have some sympathy with your point, having a contract gives you more than free bling. I buy my phones and have a contract.

        What is annoying is that I actually asked if I could put a cap on the bill ( it would be exceptional for me to exceed say £150 / mo), and was told I couldn't. Your data usage is clearly monitored, so that any excess can be charged for. If you're PAYG you can't make calls when your credit runs out. I don't see why the same couldn't be applied to contract phone calls.

        I guess it can, and will be once the telcos are forced to.

        1. Rol

          Re: PAYG

          I have a contract phone with VM and was flabbergasted to find my credit limit had been set at 8000% of my normal monthly bill. Yes, eight thousand percent.

          I quickly contacted customer services and brought that down to 400%.

          Although I must add, their accounting software was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and coded by drunken navvys, so to expect them to stop my phone from going on a spending spree beyond my credit limit might be asking too much.

      2. David Nash

        Re: PAYG

        It's not "subsidised" it's spreading the cost.

        Arguably it can be cheaper taking out a bank loan (or a 0% credit card deal) to buy the phone outright, but it's convenient to do it through the mobile phone company.

        Anyway being stuck in the contract is not the main problem, I assume the victim will still want a phone account to use with his/her replacement phone. The main problem is the huge bill the thieves run up on their behalf.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: PAYG

          No contract, no huge bill.

          If everyone ditched contracts over this, then the contract terms would change quite quickly.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All the networks say they don't charge, if informed immediately?

    I'd suggest recording the phone call, if you have to report your mobile stolen. I've seen at least one instance where the network, erm, conveniently had no record of the call.

  8. Nigel Whitfield.


    Please, enough of the politicians spouting stuff about "hardworking families"

    Are those of us who are single, or without children, somehow not worth protection too? It's a loathsome meme, socially divisive, and the only reason this bunch of cowboy chancers use it is because they think it makes them sound both simultaneously fluffy and hard on those they deem not worthy of support.

    Clearly, too, from the foot dragging, they're really not doing anything to protect consumers, whether in families or not. They're dicking around for as long as they can.

    Even my VoIP service has a maximum spend alert to protect against fraud. If the companies, or the government, wanted to do this, it could be fixed pretty damn quick.

  9. Gel

    Thief defrauds mobile company, why do you pay?

    If the thief defrauds the phone company by pretending to be you, why do you have to pay? Its a crime against the phone company. I assume its a contract provision, but then how can this be fair? How do phone companies get away with this?

    If a scammer defrauds me by pretending to be the phone company, how do I get the phone company to pay? They would laugh at me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thief defrauds mobile company, why do you pay?

      You were the one holding the phone, why does the company have to pay?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Thief defrauds mobile company, why do you pay?

        Because the phone companies profit from the fraud and are not exercising due care.

        No operator will ever let a case go to court, they'll always settle out of court by wiping out the debt.

  10. Jack Barker

    Tescos let you cap your monthly bills

    Just for what it's worth. Got a phone for my daughter and tescos let you cap your monthly bills at whatever level you like: can be at the monthly contract rate or any figure you dream up. Easy to do as well, UK call centre.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tescos let you cap your monthly bills

      You beat me to it. Moved all accounts from Cellnet (or the more stupidly named O2) to Tesco, precisely for this reason.

      If Tesco can do it, then it's perfectly possible - so that means that O2 clearly won't do it because it's not in their best financial interests - and customers never come first for them - just profits.

      Remind me who it was who set up the group that promotes high-cost incoming text messages that are impossible to opt out of and allow you to be royally fleeced by them. Was it the mobile telcos perhaps?

      Did point out this abhorrent practice to my MP who very kindly suggested how I could get money back, but unfortunately didn't want to help the general population by promoting a need for an opt out of high-cost incoming text messages. Sad.

      MPs clearly need to legislate so that people can put the equivalent of a credit limit on their phone bills so that bill shock is prevented, and makes it less attractive to criminals.

  11. John Robson Silver badge

    My phone is stolen, I'll just call my provid... Oh.

    Can I borrow a phone, find out the number for my providers call centre (normally quite hard) and phone them..

    "what's your account number" 'don't know'

    "phone number?" 'don't know'

    "password?" 'never had to talk with you before'

    Good thing no 'mate' could ever fake that phone call...

  12. F111F

    If You're Gonna Talk Like a Gangsta...

    The phrase is "Pop a cap IN your ass", not on...sheesh.

    ...mine's the one with the Saturday Night Special in the pocket...

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