A Bill designed to hit back at mobile phone crime passed through Parliament last week.
The Telecommunications (Fraud) Bill, backed by Ian Bruce MP, will come into effect at the end of April. It aims to protect the mobile phone industry and its customers from telecoms fraud by giving police the power to act against phone cloning and fraudulent access to airtime.
People found in possession of equipment used to defraud, such as cloned phones, SIM cards which have been tampered with and reprogrammed GSM handsets, could face a jail sentence of up to five years.
The Bill is a major victory for the Federation of Communication Services (FCS), which has been fighting on behalf of consumers and its 500 industry members to gain government and Parliamentary support to crack down on mobile phone crime. FCS members include Cellnet, Mercury One-2-One, Orange and Vodafone.
FCS chairman Jonathan Clarke said: "We cannot expect mobile phone crime and fraud to disappear overnight. But the new Bill will give the police realistic powers in apprehending and prosecuting people found in possession of cloning and other equipment which has been a root cause of mobile phone theft and crime in this country."
According to the FCS, mobile phone fraud costs the UK cellular industry more than #100 million each year. It said over 12,000 mobile phones are stolen and around 5,000 cases of ESN cloning are reported in the UK every month. Prior to the Bill, FCS headed the industry-funded Crime Prevention Scheme.
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