Controlling Cell Phone Fraud in the US: Lessons for the UK ‘Foresight’ Prevention Initiative
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During the 1990s, criminals in the US discovered ways of altering cellular phones to obtain free service. In ‘cloning’ frauds, criminals using scanners were able to capture the identifying numbers broadcast by legitimate phones and to program these into illegitimate ‘clones’. These could then be used to obtain free access to the wireless network. In ‘tumbling’ frauds, telephones were altered so that they randomly transmitted illegally obtained identifying numbers. This allowed the phone to gain access to free cellular service, particularly when used outside the area where the numbers had been issued. By 1995, these frauds were costing the cellular telephone industry about $800 million per year. They also created ‘upstream’ crime costs in terms of thefts of phones for cloning and ‘downstream’ costs by facilitating drug dealing and other organized crimes. They were virtually eliminated by the end of the 1990s, through technological counter-measures adopted by the industry. There was little sign of displacement to other forms of cell phone fraud, and the preventive measures appeared to be highly cost-effective. The case study permits comment on the UK ‘Foresight’ initiative that envisages partnerships between the government and industry to anticipate and remove opportunities for crime created by new technology.
KeywordsCell phone fraud cloning situational crime prevention displacement cost-effectiveness
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