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Cellnet, Vodafone clamp down on mobile phone theft

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Britain's mobile phone industry has decided at last to try and combat mobile phone crime.

BT Cellnet and Vodafone – along with the mobile Industry Crime Action Forum (MICAF) and other interested groups – are looking to create an industry-wide security system to deter criminals from nicking phones.

The new system would blocks calls being made from stolen handsets. And it would also help trace stolen handsets.

One2One and Orange can - and do - already block stolen calls, easy enough as individual phones have a unique 15 digit identifier known as the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) code. You can check out your IMEI code (on most phones) by pressing *# 06 #.

But BT Cellnet and Vodafone have in the past argued that their network infrastructures are older, and that it is technically difficult for them to operate the same service.

This has earned the duo a torrent of bad press from the national newspapers, BBC Watchdog and the Government. Critics wpoint out that the network providers earn money from calls made on stolen handsets - which has to be paid for by the victim. As such there is little commercial incentive to block calls.

The Government has welcomed the move claiming that this will make it less attractive for criminals to steal phone since they will be much more difficult to re-use.

A recent Government report found that in the UK a mobile phone is nicked every minute.

And although tougher sentencing has been recently introduced to deter would-be thieves, many feel that it’s up to the mobile phone industry to make handsets less attractive to criminals.

Said Peter Erskine, chief exec of oddly-named mmO2: "Mobile phone crime must be seen to benefit no one.

"We are working closely with the Home Office around a number of crime and security initiatives, and we remain resolute in doing what we can to check crime wherever we can be effective," he said. ®

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