Steve Pardoe's Cellnet Correspondence Page, Continued...

Page 2 of 3, rearranged again 21. August 2001. This page won't generally be updated

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BT Cellnet are taking money from the credit card accounts of thousands of innocent people...   ...even though they haven't got a Cellnet phone!

This second page carries correspondence and commentary regarding the Cellnet Fraud scandal. The previous single page was getting unwieldy so we have again split it in two. This page runs from early 2001 up to the end of May 2001; more recent correspondence is here, and the earliest is here.


24. May 2001 : LG writes:
I would like to register with you that I have today received my company visa card statement which shows a withdrawal to BT Cellnet Prepay Slough for 30.00 exactly as you mention on your web page. I am not sure how you use this information or what you need, but this is another case for your records.

As I replied to LG, such information supports our contention that this fraud problem is still very much in progress. BT Cellnet have been telling the media that the problem has been largely solved by the introduction of additional security measures, but as LG now knows, that's simply untrue.

21. May 2001 : "C548" writes:
My Barclays bank account has been debited to the sum of 30 BT Cellnet prepay. I do not have a BT Cellnet prepay phone. I was told by BT Cellnet customer services to cancel my debit card. I cancelled my card filled in forms and a month later I am still waiting for Barclays bank to return the 30 to my account.

This is a disturbing trend : we've heard of several cases recently where banks are dragging their feet over refunds. If the banks aren't going to insist that Cellnet cleans up its transaction systems, the least they can do is to make timely recompense to these fraud victims.

Update 17. May 2001: new correspondence between a victim and BT Cellnet

15. May 2001 : BA writes:
I have just found an entry on my statement 9th Feb. BT Cellnet Prepay Slough 30.00.
Great.

BA wrote again, almost immediately:

I just emailed to tell you I have just talked to my Bank (Lloyds), and the girl told me she has had 3 other customers today reporting the same thing ie BT Prepay, is it possible to take out a private prosecution of Cellnet for this, as I have no agreement with them?

As I replied to him,
"I suppose a private prosecution would be possible, but it's entirely at your risk and expense, of course, and BT Cellnet have some very, very expensive lawyers (Lovell White Durrant, in London). I wouldn't fancy taking them on myself, which is one reason why it's so infuriating that the Police won't get on the case. I tried my local station, plus Slough (where BT Cellnet are) and got precisely nowhere".

15. May 2001 : BM writes:
Yes, I was relieved of 30 in February this year by BT crediting someone with my "Switch" debit card number. After the usual trouble with stopping the card, reporting to the Bank, Police and BT, I have been reimbursed. Yes, BT refused to provide the Police with the number of the credited phone, ( I thought at least someone could ring the number and see which thieving "tow-rag" answered!).

Yet another example of how, despite their PR to the media, BT Cellnet don't cooperate with the Police, preferring to protect their dishonest customer.

However, while BT are heavily implicated in the complacent system which allows this to happen so easily, I am convinced that a major part of the problem is the easy way retailer's employees can use these Switch and Credit card numbers. I never use my cards over the telephone. I never discard my Switch till receipt. So I am certain that someone behind a till somewhere used my number!

It appears from several correspondents' experiences that petrol stations are a major venue for this kind of fraud, where staff often work alone, and have every opportunity to go through the till receipts.

Since then I have checked the way these receipts are printed out. Some major retailers (and they will have my custom now), replace vital numbers with asterisks (B&Q, Tesco, ASDA). Some leave off the expiry date. Most of the others print everything the telephone thief dealing with a retailer as lax as BT needs to know. So I started asking why other retailers couldn't alter their software to do this. Some (Sainsbury's, Morrisons) said that they were doing this to combat this problem. After all, it also protects their staff.

Previous correspondents have commented on the "hidden" numbers idea, it seems to be an excellent initiative.

Then one retailer, (who moaned that he had been hit by the BT scam also), pointed out that the "Switch" connection was owned and programmed by the Bank - Barclays, in his case. So I have written to all the major Banks in the last two weeks to get their response to this, and to find out why they do not automatically arrange for till receipts to hide these vital numbers, which only have to be sent down the telephone line. I will let you know what they say.

Commendable diligence from one victim, who's not going to be fobbed off by BT Cellnet's bland denial of responsibility for their shoddy behaviour.

14. May 2001 : JM writes:
I am one of the victims of Credit Card Fraud. On 9th of January 2001. Someone has used my card for 30.00 top up. So far I haven't been reimbursed the amount. I have stopped using the card. Funny thing I do not have a mobile phone. I don't have a need for it yet.

14. May 2001 : DG writes:
Another one :(
9 May, "BT Cellnet Prepay" for 30. LloydsTSB were very good about it and reimbursed without problem.
Keep up the pressure :)


Here's some correspondence between a victim and BT Cellnet :

13. May 2001 : BH writes:
I'm another who has had money taken by Cellnet. It was only because it was my business card that it got checked carefully and spotted. My card provider was very good and refunded the money and issued a new card. This meant I was without a card for a while.
Keep up the pressure - it's a scandal.

BH also wrote to BT Cellnet, as follows:

"I am one of the many people who has had money taken from my credit card account by BTCellnet in connection with fraudulent transactions. It is outrageous that you have not yet sorted out this problem. Each time it happens it causes major problems for the card holder and the credit card companies not to mention police time and the money involved. Please do not send me a response telling me it is an issue for the credit card companies and the police. The problem lies with lack of security at your end. How dare you take money without authorisation from people's accounts".

...and here's Cellnet's reply, with our comments:

"From: Customer Service <CustomerService@btcellnet.net>
Date: Wed, 16 May 2001 10:53:36 +0100
To: "'xxx.xxx@virgin.net'" <xxx.xxx@virgin.net>
Subject: BT Cellnet Customer Care -

Dear Mr H[..],

Thank you for the enquiry which you submitted via the BT Cellnet website 13/05/01.
Firstly, please accept my apologies for the length of time taken to respond to your e-mail.
I am sorry to read of your comments regarding BTCellnet security.
BTCellnet has worked hard in recent years to increase the level of security with regards to credit card transactions.
The most common use of credit card transactions in BTCellnet is to top up Pre Pay mobiles. BTcellnet employees a three fold security measure. I can not release details of our measures, however the potential criminal would need all three of these details to validate the payment.

Card number, expiry date, and perhaps the additional security numbers which are now printed on the signature strip, all of which are in plain view to anyone handling the card. It's hardly rocket science.

If in the event that the criminal has been able to supply all these details the credit card is then locked in to the particular mobile it credits preventing further fraudulent use on other mobiles.

I don't think this can be right. Doesn't he mean the other way round? It seems more likely that the particular mobile can only be topped up with that card. It's hard to see how Cellnet could, or should, prevent the card being used to top up, say, an Orange mobile, which might be quite legitimate. This sort of muddled thinking (and disingenuous interpretation) is typical of Cellnet. They rip you off, and do you wrong.

I can also advise that Barclays Merchant Services validate all our credit card transactions and will not authorise payment if the credit or debit card has been reported stolen.

Not the issue here, since the card will almost invariably not be stolen, and indeed the fraudster has probably seen it used legitimately. It's interesting that it's Barclays, though, rather than HSBC as had previously been suggested to us.

Despite these precautions BTCellnet is committed to improving security measures and welcomes any suggestions.

Oh, really? How about a card and customer registration process, such as Orange adopted?

If your credit card has been stolen this must be reported to the card issuer and the Police immediately.
I hope that this answers your enquiry. If I can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me on 0161 705 5343 Ext 65621.

Yours sincerely
Andrew Hampson
BTCellnet Outbound Complaint Resolution

p.s. BT Cellnet endeavours to resolve customer enquiries first time. If you feel that this response does not answer your enquiry in full, please reply detailing any unresolved issues and quote FTRF1 in the subject field in order that we may prioritise your request.

Important: Please remember to include both your mobile phone number as well as an alternative daytime contact number in any communication

BT Cellnet Limited. Registered in England No 1743099. Registered Office 260 Bath Road, SLOUGH, SL1 4DX


13. May 2001 : PJT writes:
Just seen an article in the newspaper highlighting the widespread problems with fraudulent BT Cellnet credit card transactions. Just over three weeks ago on a single day my credit card was hit for 3 BT Cellnet charges to the sum of over 1000 pounds! Fortunately I check my credit card account statement regularly on the internet, and was able to contact my credit card company long before the money would have been taken from my bank account.
Needless to say I have still been greatly inconvenienced by the incident, and at the time of writing have still not received a replacement credit card.

The article he refers to was in the Daily Telegraph on 12. May 2001 (p B9, Money section). You can read Nina's story on our updated media page or on the Telegraph website.

26. April 2001 : SM writes:
I downloaded my bank statement today, only to find that there had been a transaction from BT Cellnet. I do not use BT Cellnet. So much for their new security, what a joke.

18. April 2001 : MMcG [no kin] writes:
Over the Easter holidays I became a victim of fraud, with a sum of 30.00 appearing on my switch card. I phoned BT Cellnet and was told that they could be of no help and to contact my bank and the police.
The bank have arranged for me to be issued with a new card - but I'm still down 30.00 - is there any way I can get the money back?

I had expected M's bank to refund her money promptly and without question, as the Cellnet fraud is so widespread that they are all well aware of it, but she's in Northern Ireland, and apparently it's not (yet) so common there.

15. April 2001 : DMcG writes:
I've just had 30 taken from my account by BT Cellnet on 30/3/01. "Luckily", Google.com took me to your site straight-away.
Please let me know my best course of action - if they won't assist, does it mean closing my account? Your help would be greatly appreciated.

My reply is as follows:
I'm afraid it's unlikely that BT Cellnet will help you, but by all means try. Contact numbers are on our site. Your bank will probably close the card account and issue a new card. They are quite used to this. If it was taken from a credit card, you may have to check whether you have continuous authorities for things like car breakdown insurance or magazine subscriptions, in which case you'll have to write to them all to change the numbers. It's a complete nuisance for you, but BT Cellnet couldn't care less. Don't forget to check your previous statements to see whether it's happened before. Many victims get hit several times.

DMcG wrote again on 19. April:
Just to let you know, the Co-operative bank changed my a/c and said they'll reimburse the fraudulent transaction. BT Cellnet's lip-service reply is below. Thanks for your time:

"Dear [D],
Thank you for the enquiry you submitted via our website on Sunday evening.
I was very sorry to learn that you have had monies debited from your account. Unfortunately as this is a fraud issue you will first need to contact your bank and then the police.
The police will then liase with our security department in order to resolve the matter for you.
I hope that this answers your enquiry. If I can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me.
Kind Regards
Paul Booth
BTCellnet Customer Resolution Team"

That is, indeed, a "lip-service reply"!

15. April 2001 : MH writes:
I have received my bank statement yesterday with two withdraws during March. One for 15 and one for 30 payable to BT Cellnet Prepay. I don't and have never owned a BT Cellnet phone. I feel very angry that this could happen.

13. April 2001 : "JOG" writes:
Thought this might interest you and your readers.
December 2000 my mobile account was passed to Cellnet, who informed me they would direct debit my bank account. I contacted them and told them I paid by cheque and they were not to direct debit my bank account and they agreed. January 2001 they withdrew money from my account without a mandate to do so. How did they get my bank details?

To answer our correspondent's question, BT Cellnet are perfectly happy to take money from his account, without any kind of authority from him, if another Cellnet customer uses his card number. He goes on:

I have complained to their complaints department and achieved nothing. A call bar has been put on my phone and I still have to pay. Enough is enough, I have cancelled my contract and intend to take the matter up with my MP.

11. April 2001 : AJ (our fourth new correspondent this week!) writes:
Just to say that I have been a victim of this particular fraud, with a sum of 30.00 appearing on my LloydsTSB credit card. Fortunately for me the bank re-imbursed me without a quibble - they seem to be having a lot of problems, according to the fraud investigator I spoke to.
Keep up the good work.

10. April 2001 : AL writes:
Last month I had an item from BT Cellnet and also one from One2One on my Visa card statement - I spotted them straight away as I have no mobile phone, hadn't spent much anyway and generally know where and what for my card has been used. No problem getting the card issuer to take them off my statement, but of course my card was blocked. While waiting for the new one, I used a Mastercard from the same issuer once only, paid it off when the bill came in. I manage my accounts over the internet usually, though I paid this time using the facilities of my banker rather than my card issuer.
However, the other day I decided to check up my card accounts over the net, and found the same two items had now appeared on the Mastercard statement - again the account has had to be blocked. In between these two events, a close friend has had a similar charge appeared on his statement - once again someone who knows what he's doing with his card and also not a mobile user - so spotted it straight away - but I'd lay a bet that thousands of these bogus charges have gone unnoticed by people who don't keep such a tight eye on their statements or people who use these networks and might not notice an extra charge.

Indeed, I'm sure he's right that a lot of debits (to bank statements via switch cards, as well as credit cards) go unnoticed, or people don't bother to follow them up. That suits Cellnet, who simply keep the money.

8. April 2001 : HS writes:
Furious from London wants to join the seemingly ongoing debate regarding this issue with erroneous phone company debits from my bank account. Over the past month, 3 entries have been debited from my account totalling 70, 1 entry from BT Cellnet, and the other two from One-2-One. Naturally, we have no connections with these two whatsoever, and would like, with your help (in featuring this letter), raise the profile of this ludicrous situation. As a result of this, I have to now change about 10 direct debits and open another account.
I know Watchdog has featured this before, but I don't know what measures have to be taken to raise this profile again. Apologies from BT Cellnet is one thing, but my feeling is this problem is not going to go away until this function is eradicated.
Keep up the good work.

6. April 2001 : JK writes:
I have also had 30 pounds taken from my account!! Have had to stop my credit card and be issued with another.
I have not tried to contact Cellnet yet as the credit card company (NatWest) are dealing with it for me on my behalf, apparently a lot of people with NatWest cards have been hit. According to NatWest customer services.

26. March 2001 : PB writes again:
On
10th Jan I wrote documenting my experience of the cell phone fraud aided by BT Cellnet & HSBC bank. I also wrote a letter of complaint to HSBC, but only got a holding letter. After complaining at my local branch at Stafford I finally got a phone call from [DW] from HSBC on 5th March. He assured me that although there had been problems with BT Cellnet, it was now coming under control. He explained that BT Cellnet did not want to lose market share and thus launched their top-up product without the full security measures in place. He assured me that this could not happen now because since the beginning of the year BT Cellnet now check the validity of the card by checking the Post Code of the card holder and also requesting a 'CV2' value. Apparently this is the 3 digit number on the back of your switch card at the end of your account number. This is not printed on credit card receipts. Great I thought...    Steve Pardoe's Web site will have done its job and will no longer be needed. However, a quick check tonight (26th March 2001) reveals fraud with BT Cellnet is still continuing! I'll have to write back to Mr [W] when I get a minute. Keep up the campaign Steve.

It's interesting that HSBC should admit to PB that "BT Cellnet did not want to lose market share and thus launched their top-up product without the full security measures in place", since we've been told that HSBC (formerly Midland Bank) are Cellnet's "Merchant Acquirer"; in other words, they are the bank which processes Cellnet's credit and debit card payments. Sadly, there's plenty of evidence that BT Cellnet are as happy as they ever were to take money from people's accounts without authority. We've already heard from about two dozen new victims this year.

25. March 2001 : AC writes:
Whilst looking for mobile phone information I came across your web page and was incensed this appears to be a common problem possibly carried out by BT Cellnet themselves.
My bank account was debited approximately one year ago to the tune of 50.00 in respect of BT Cellnet (I did not own a BT Cellnet phone). More recently, within the space of a few days my bank account was debited 30.00 again by BT Cellnet and then 20.00 by One to One. I had to change my debit cards on both occasions and fortunately the bank reimbursed my account. I assumed it was a criminal activity carried out by person(s) who had managed to obtain details from whatever source.
I am watching my account carefully and will take more appropriate action now I have been enlightened should this happen again.
Thank you for the information, it has been most helpful as I did wonder if the problem was a BT Cellnet fault. My main concern is where they are getting the bank details from as I have never had any cause to deal with BT whatsoever.

You don't need to deal with BT Cellnet to get ripped off by them, they do it without even knowing (or caring) who you are.

15. March 2001 : SC writes:
You may be interested in the following.
After discovering an unauthorised transaction I contacted my credit card company and subsequently sent the following letter of complaint. Today I found they had credited my account with 10 in response, if everyone did that, maybe they would finally do something about this ridiculous situation.
You have my permission to use the letter and the information regarding the compensation. I have removed details such as name and address and card number, for obvious reasons.
I am still to decide whether to accept this trivial amount or consider further legal action, I wonder whether punitive damages would be awarded if taken to law?

THE LETTER

8 March 2001

Dear Sir/Madam,

BT CELLNET (SLOUGH) FRAUD

Yesterday I reported to your admin centre that I had identified an unauthorised transaction on my Mastercard, to BT Cellnet. I was aware from media reports that this had been a major problem in the past, and, therefore, was well known to both yourselves and BT Cellnet. I had anticipated that between yourselves you would have devised a method to prevent this occurring, obviously not.
I now have to undergo the inconvenience of obtaining new cards and account number and to inform companies with a direct mandate on this account of the new arrangements. I am, obviously, far from happy!
I wish some form of compensation for this inconvenience. I firmly believe the fault lies with you, the credit card company, for allowing companies such as BT Cellnet to continue making unauthorised withdrawals in the hope customers will identify and cause rectification to occur. In fact I understand the problem is so widespread that special arrangements are in place with BT Cellnet to repay the fraudulently obtained amounts to yourselves (the credit card companies).
Having searched the internet and found that this problem is continuing and shows no sign of abating, I feel the onus is on you to protect customers. I stress at no time has this card been compromised, except in genuine, and anticipated honest, use at retailers.
I anticipate a prompt and generous reply to this demand.
Yours truly,

8. March 2001 : CH writes:
I've just come back from France to find my credit card and Switch card have both been done and are both having to be replaced, four working days each. The credit card was done for 20 each to BT Cellnet and One2One.
[...]
However the simplest thing especially in the short term would to make it a requirement of all mobile phones that name & address must be supplied. After all if we buy any sort of TV equipment we have to give our name & address, so why not for mobile phones?

There are lots of ways of making these transactions more secure, but BT Cellnet have deliberately chosen not to use them. One2One used to insist on written registration, but the increase in cases of fraud through their network makes me wonder whether they have lowered their standards.

My bank and card issuer have both removed the fraudulent transactions from my account without quibble and were pro-active in contacting me to follow up what they thought might be fraud by writing to me. They also confirmed that they get the money back from the phone company or other outlet, so I think it really is up to the phone companies to take some action.

Indeed it is, but despite our campaign and the huge media coverage that resulted, Cellnet continue to use a system which they know to be insecure. It's got everything to do with market share and cost/benefit analysis, and nothing to do with morality or duty of care.

Keep up the good work with your website & campaign!

5. March 2001 : TG writes:
Been got! I work in a company with a large intranet.
Your site: http://www.pardoes.com/cellnet/index.html appeared on it after a flurry of postings regarding credit card frauds allegedly as a result of "swiping" done at local petrol stations.
Numerous (15+) people reported that after a visit to one of three local petrol stations various unauthorised sums were taken from their account, ranging from 20 to 800, single and multiple transactions!
Some colleagues knew (from their recent CC usage etc.) that a particular garage was to blame - however, it is impossible to prove.
All complaints met the same tactics from BT Cellnet as reported on your site.
The only option being not to use cards for transactions at these "dodgy" outlets - but sometimes you have to use 'em.
I have just discovered an unauthorised transaction from bank account for 30 taken 20th February 2001. My bank is happy to refund it and has stopped the card used. I have to report this to the police and will forward you website address to my bank for their fraud department to peruse.
I did lose 100 last year, 4 lots of 25 taken out of a different account on 10th, 11th then 18th & 25th August 2000. It was to Vodafone that time. Ever since we have been vigilant and more so just after Christmas. However, we got got again.
Hope this helps - I will try to circulate your URL to all - to get people to bring more pressure on the network providers to tighten their security.

So, BT Cellnet have no interest in prosecuting whoever is responsible for the fraudulent transactions at the garage concerned, despite overwhelming evidence of its location. They clearly prefer to allow their dishonest customer to carry on ripping off the public (and all the while transferring illegitimate funds to BT Cellnet).

5. March 2001 : TS writes:
I have had money taken from my account by people topping up their mobile phones. The first time (a few months ago) three amounts of 50 were taken over a couple of days and used to top up a BT Cellnet prepay.
Last week it happened again. 30 was used to top up a BT Cellnet and 20 was used to top up a One2One mobile.
Do you know if they have a register of card numbers which are to be automatically rejected (even though they are valid)? I would like to add my card numbers to such a register so that it cannot happen again.

Sadly, BT Cellnet have shown no interest in this idea, since of course they prefer to keep their scam going, for reasons of market share (see our Précis page about this).

When I suggested it in 1999, Cellnet told me that it's not possible for them to block a card in this way. I don't think this is a truthful answer, since it's perfectly possible to place stolen cards on a hot list, but it's the sort of answer one has come to expect from these people.

2. March 2001 : TK writes:
BT Cellnet (Slough) have taken 30 pounds and One-to-One have taken 20 pounds from my husband's MasterCard on 6th and 7th February 2001. My husband does not own a mobile phone and he has never mislaid his MasterCard. The TSB card services, on being informed, have cancelled his MasterCard and will be replacing it with a new one. They also do not expect my husband to pay the fifty pound charged to the card. However, my husband will be personally inconvenienced, through no fault of his own, until the new card arrives.
I telephoned One-to-One, who inform me that they cannot find out who 'topped' up their mobile phone using my husband's card details. I certainly do not intend to telephone BT Cellnet after reading on your site the expense I will incur in doing so (20p per minute). This would be like adding insult to injury. The MasterCard company state they will investigate this matter themselves and that, although they also try and spot fraudulent usage on cards, occasionally some fraud does slip through. They suggest that we should all keep a 'sharp eye' on our statements every month.
There must be some way of tracking down people who have used my husband's and other peoples' card details. A system must be found that stops this blatant fraud from continuing to occur.

There is a way, but Cellnet choose not to cooperate with the Police. There's a system, too, but (you've guessed it): Cellnet choose not to use it.

26. February 2001 : MK writes (again, unfortunately, see 3. January):
Just thought I'd update you with the latest bad news! Cellnet have managed to take another 30 from my account, even though the card was cancelled and a new one issued. Seems that both Cellnet and my bank are at fault as it was processed against the old card number and managed to get through both systems!
Anyway Citibank are investigating and should refund it today (the last one was refunded the same day) but it does beg the question on how after cancelling a card it can still be used for fraudulent transactions.

...while Cellnet's stock response to their victims is, of course, "be more careful about the security of your card in future".

24. February 2001 : KW writes:
I received a recent bank statement showing transactions of 30 to BT Cellnet a total of 75 to Orange in Darlington and [...other transactions]. These were taken out of my current bank account without my knowledge using my switch card information none of which were authorised by myself and my card has not been lost or stolen, the bank are investigating!

There's a disturbing increase in frauds by both Orange and One2One customers. The latter are supposed to have the best security, requiring written details before card top-ups are allowed. Both carriers are regular visitors here, so perhaps they'll see the light before too long.

23. February 2001 : AW writes (again, see 20. February):
Do you know if anyone has challenged the 'phone companies to subtract credit from 'phone accounts that have been illegally credited? I can't see any technical reasons why this shouldn't be possible, and it would pretty quickly kill the market in illegally credited SIM cards as you wouldn't buy something that you knew might become worthless at any moment.
Despite claims to the media that they can and do cut off their fraudulently topped up phones, I've seen no evidence that Cellnet have done so, as they always refuse to investigate the crime, even when the location is known and reported to the Police.

I've so far got a total of 6 people that have been affected here.
[AW's place of work, where these events are discussed on their Intranet].

Not a great response, but there's time yet. Do you think there's any mileage in advertising in a local paper to try and get a better idea which outlet is to blame? Have you heard of anything similar?
A number of local papers have carried this kind of story (see our Media page for details), but I don't know how successful it's been.

23. February 2001 : EP writes:
I have also had the pleasure of seeing BT Cellnet cream 30 of my hard earned cash from my bank account. On discussion with some of my employees it seems 5 of us (in a business that employs only 40 people, not bad going!!!) have had money stolen by not only Cellnet but One to One. I resent the implication made by BT Cellnet's ever unhelpful call handlers that I have been careless with my switch card. I will be putting my new prepay phone which I received for Christmas and have not yet topped up firmly in the bin. I see no reason to give this company my business when they can make money from me as and when they please.

Quite.

22. February 2001 : KT writes:
I just received my Bank Statement today 22/02/01 and I had a payment listed as:- card payment 12Feb BT Cellnet Pre 30.00

That's yet another one, out of pocket and inconvenienced, making seven new or repeat victims in just the last ten days. This fraud is out of control, and Cellnet are doing nothing about it.

For a change, here's a new message from a much earlier victim, with his comments on what he's tried to do to get some remedy for his loss and inconvenience.

20. February 2001 : AW writes:
Yes, I was one of the early victims who had 600 stolen directly from my bank account (i.e. using my debit card details) in twelve incidents (two days, 6 per day). It happened immediately after I had used my card at a local filling station that I have only ever used once. Others I know have recently reported similar problems after using local filling stations.

In an attempt to report the crime and get it investigated, I :-
- Called BT Cellnet who said it was the bank's responsibility to re-imburse me and follow it up. My bank re-imbursed me uncomplainingly.
- Called the police who said it was up to the Fraud Squad to deal with card fraud.
- Called the Fraud Squad who said it was up to the card issuer to report card frauds.
- Called the bank's card issuing centre who said that the problem was so bad that they had agreed with BT Cellnet that the bank would issue a blanket bill to BT Cellnet once they had re-imbursed everyone. One wonders whether this bill has been sent yet! Perhaps a direct debit should be set up.
I asked if they were treating each incident as a investigable crime, and the short answer was 'No'.
- Reported the incident to BBC's 'Watchdog' after BT Cellnet announced on that programme that they had apologised to everyone who had been affected. I have had no formal apology from BT Cellnet.

So the long and short of it is that I have been prevented from reporting it as a crime, and no-one seems to be collating any data to point the finger at the establishments that are continuing to use these methods.
By the way, one of your pages states that the "Actual calls are at effectively zero cost to Cellnet". This is not true, as Cellnet will be charged by other network operators for any inter-network calls. Thus I will not be investing in any mobile 'phone companies in the near future.

The quoted comment applied to calls to BT landlines or other BT Cellnet mobiles, but as always I'll gladly update the page in question to make this clear.

AW goes on:
I am still angry about the apparent lack of any motivation by the authorities to pursue this matter. The incident caused my wife and I much distress as we first found out when our bank sent a letter notifying us that we had exceeded our overdraft limit. I would describe the person or body of people who allowed such an insecure charging system to be implemented as criminally negligent, and I greatly appreciate the fact that there is now a forum for the victims.
Keep up the good work!

AW wrote again:
At my employer's site, there are 1000+ employees. There has recently been a string of complaints on our intranet 'Social' page about such occurrences, and someone posted a link to your page this morning. After the initial spate that were reported on T.V. (was it really that far back?), I thought "Well, no-one's going to be stupid enough to let that happen again.". Oh, how wrong I was!

I've posted a request for people to send me an email with details of their experience - it should be interesting to see what happens with a localised study. I'll forward any results.

We're looking forward to that, it's great when people take the trouble to support the campaign.

Back to recent victims' e-mails.....

Twelve new victims have already found this website, and written to us, this year. Seven of these are in February alone! How can BT Cellnet say that their security has improved, when this correspondence is coming in as frequently as ever?

16. February 2001 : DB writes:
BT Cellnet took 30 from my account the other day and did not mention the problem of fraud. The bank told me about BT. I also had to pay for the 20p / min phonecalls to find out why.

Yes, it's a bit rich: as others have remarked, Cellnet cheerfully rip your card off, and then rub salt into the wound by charging you 20p a minute on their "help" line!

14. February 2001 : RP writes:
I just stumbled across your website.
I have just had 30 taken from my bank account by BT Cellnet Prepay. I don't even have a BT Cellnet phone. I have contacted my bank, Natwest, to investigate.
Is there anything else I should do? Will Cellnet give me my money back? I remember hearing about this on BBC Watchdog and was shocked when it just happened to me.

As RP says, the matter was raised on Watchdog in March 1999, and again last year, and it's a disgrace that Cellnet have still not fixed the problem.

In the interests of balance, here's an e-mail from a three-times victim of Orange, so they needn't be too smug, either.

13. February 2001 : CS writes:
Thought you'd like to know that when looking at my bank statements the other day I noticed three transactions had been taken from my account, two for fifty pounds and one for twenty five pounds, all were for Orange Just Talk Darlington. I notified my bank and the police immediately, they said that such fraud was a common occurance, thanks

11. February 2001 : KM writes:
Cellnet have just ripped me of for 30 quid.
Strangely this was 3 days after I used it for a telephone transaction, previous to this I hadn't used my credit card for 3 months, bit of a coincidence there I think (don't worry, I am speaking to the concerned party).

8. February 2001 : CR writes:
I have seen the 'Watchdog' stories, and I genuinely believed the BT Cellnet credit card fraud was a thing of the past - until today. I was doing my internet banking and there it was - 30 to BT Cellnet Prepay Slough.
I'm sure you have had many e-mails of this nature before. Please add me to your 'statistics' and hopefully you will be able to make more noise about this issue. I have book-marked your site and will watch with added interest!

1. February 2001 : (another) MB writes:
I've just today spotted a 30 payment to BT Cellnet prepay Slough on my bank statement for the 8th Jan 2001 even though I've never even owned a mobile phone, I have been thinking what my best plan of action would be, contact bank or Cellnet, police etc, then I found your website and thanks to the comments I'll be going straight to the bank to get it sorted as it sounds like BT Cellnet do not care that they are taking money from criminals.
Thanks for the advice.

1. February 2001 : AJW writes:
It was only after I googled for "BT CELLNET PREPAY" fraud that I found your web page and remembered you mentioning it on [a user group].
I got my HSBC Mastercard statement yesterday, with an unexpected BT CELLNET PREPAY SLOUGH (GBP) 30 on it. I've spoken to someone at HSBC, who didn't seem to be familiar with the fraud, and they have promised to look up the voucher (!) and send me a form. I'll keep you updated with any results, including the discussion I intend having with the manager of the BT Cellnet outlet in Bradford ;-)
Keep up the good work.

26.January 2001 : MB writes:
I've just noticed a charge of 30 pounds from BT CELLNET PREPAY SLOUGH on my credit card from 26/12/00. So it appears I'm another victim of this scam, and Cellnet seem to want to do nothing to stop it...

23.January 2001 : EH writes:
I have just received a bank statement for this week, as I always do and was alerted by my husband to two strange transactions. One dated 22/01/01 for 20.00 to One to One, and one today 23/01/01 for 30.00 for BT Cellnet. I was horrified to see these fraudulent transactions. I had not lost my card and had not given it to anyone. My bank HSBC stopped the card immediately. Obviously I am at the beginning of this process to resolve these unauthorised transactions. However, coming across this website I am extremely concerned that this is happening on such a regular basis to so many other people. I am angry that my card can be used in this way and apparently nothing is being done by Cellnet.

It's extremely rare for us to hear of people being defrauded through One2One, as they insist on proper registration of card users before top-ups are allowed.

EH goes on, in a subsequent message:
I called both BT Cellnet and One2One. BT Cellnet were extremely defensive saying they couldn't do anything about it and could not assist me. Basically an attitude of "it's not my problem". One2One were more helpful and said about contacting my bank, cancelling my card and contacting the police as then the local police could liaise with their police fraud liaison officer to deal with the problem and get the money back.
Obviously I had contacted the bank immediately and stopped the card. I have also filled in a form with the bank to reclaim the money back. Which is fine but, I am inconvenienced as my card has been cancelled. I will definitely think twice about using my card so readily in the future, it's probably safer with cash.
You'll be pleased to know that I found your website as the 1st recommendation on the Google search engine and I have added it to my favourites list so that I can keep updated. Good luck with the campaign and I'll keep watching the site to stay updated.

10.January 2001 : PB writes:
Having just received my HSBC bank statement, I too have just realised I have become a victim of the BT Cellnet Prepay fraud. I rang the bank who said they could not deal with this until tomorrow in normal working hours. They did advise that the fraudulent transaction took place via phone or mail at 21.58 on Christmas Eve! Happy Christmas to someone at my expense. I then rang BT Cellnet and waited for ages to speak to someone in Customer Care who kept asking for my prepay mobile phone number. I must have told him 4 times that I did not have one, but had been charged 30 on my switch card. He said he had never heard of such a problem before and suggested I contact sales in the morning. He gave the number 0161 705 5325, but when I rang it an answer phone said it was for phone returns!
I have just come across your Web site and cannot believe how many people have suffered exactly the same problem. This has been going on for over a year and BT Cellnet still accepts fraudulent transactions, with no proof of identity over the phone. I tried the BT Cellnet Web site expecting to find some useful advice and guidance on this fraud, but nothing. Keep up the campaign and thanks for a very informative Web site.

[PB wrote again on 26. March, see above]

8.January 2001 : (Another) AR writes (with the subject line "Oh b*gg*r, my turn"):
Yes I've just found an unexplained debit on my bank statement. 30 last Friday (thank heaven for online banking - with the Halifax whose security I trust).
You may be pleased to know that a Google search for "cellnet card fraud" put you as the number one hit. I remembered reading your pages months ago, but had to find them again.
I'll keep you updated

He did, on 8. February, as follows :
Just got a letter from my bank to say that they've repaid the money into my account in a way that means I'll get interest etc. as if it had been there all along.
This is after I reported it to the police and filled in a "Switch dispute form" for the bank. The desk person at the station in Royston didn't seem to be familiar with this scam, but he called someone at another station who told him what to do. He filled in a special card fraud form which was apparently passed to a special department in the police. He told me that they would contact Cellnet who would then deactivate the phone. I don't know if that is true or not.

3.January 2001 : MK writes:
It appears that Cellnet are still perpetrating the same fraud. I have just had 30.00 debited from my Visa account (dated 28/12/00 processed 02/01/01). I have asked my bank to investigate, but their first reaction was to tell me to contact Cellnet for a refund - having read the information on your site I pointed out this would be pretty fruitless. I have emailed Cellnet and tried to call but the number is always busy.
MK goes on:
It's so unbelievable that they still have not put controls in place to address their obvious weaknesses and still try to hide behind 'we are victims' guise.
Not sure how I first came across the website - I first read your story more than a year ago, and kept wondering if/when it would happen to me or someone I knew - well it's me :-(
I'll let you know how things progress.


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