Steve Pardoe's Cellnet Pages
Daily Telegraph, Saturday 18. December 1999

Logotype of Telecom Securicor Cellular Radio Limited
used here for the purposes of illustration and fair comment only

Cellnet Index page

This edition 19/12/1999

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

Images © Daily Telegraph
Apologies for the poor reproduction here

This page comments on a second article in the Daily Telegraph (Page B3, "Money-go-round") of 18/12/1999 by Melanie Wright, which was based on telephone conversations with Steve Pardoe during the week.

You can access a version of her article on the Electronic Telegraph website if you click here. Her previous article on phone fraud was published on Saturday 9. October, and should still be available here.

You can see other media exposure of Cellnet's disgraceful behaviour on our Media page.

In a balanced article under the headline "Website fights card fraud", Melanie Wright quotes extensively (and with permission) from material on our website, and points to our URL (electronically, in the on-line version). Unfortunately, the balance is provided by further misleading statements by BT Cellnet, who persist (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) in saying that "since introducing these measures, we are now satisfied we have a system that is secure".

Cellnet know perfectly well that this statement is simply not true. They can't believe it (since they are still getting complaints from their fraud victims), and their system is obviously not secure (ditto). If their system is secure, why did Cellnet take 30 from my colleague's credit card on 18. November, and why did they take money from my e-mail correspondent Angus Beare, to quote just the two most recent examples I've heard of? There may have been some minor security improvements (see below regarding this), but there's no way that their system could reasonably be described as "secure". Isn't it high time Cellnet stopped this?

According to the article, BT Cellnet tried to deal with their fraud problem by making sure that any new mobile phone owners have to register their debit or credit card number when they buy a phone. Similarly, people who have already bought mobiles must register their debit or credit card number if they want to pay for calls this way. However, my understanding is that the "registration" process simply consists of keying in one set of credit card details, as before. The difference is that it is then only this card number that can be used in future with that phone. Of course, this isn't too much of a problem to the thief, since if he eventually finds that the card has been stopped, he can buy another cheap pre-pay mobile and start again, for a lot less money than paying for his calls legitimately. This so-called "registration" is a joke, and offers absolutely no protection to the card victim, other than the distinction of knowing that he is the only victim this time around.

Of course, my understanding of the "improved security" may be out of date. I tried to get some reassurance in my conversation with BT Cellnet's Head of Security, John Cross, when I phoned him this week to ask about their recent theft of 30 from my colleague's Company Barclaycard account. You can read a summary of the conversation here. He refused point blank to give details, so if I'm wrong, I'm sorry : I've done my best to find out, but I don't believe that things have really improved.

The Daily Telegraph article goes on to say that in another attempt to deter fraudsters, BT Cellnet says that if credit card holders inform it of incorrect deductions, it will close down whichever mobile phone has benefited.

Again, this statement is completely at variance with my own experience, which was reinforced in my call to Mr Cross this week. It's also contradicted by the experience of two of my correspondents, whose shoddy treatment by Cellnet when they tried to complain directly can be seen on our letter and e-mail pages.

Just as when I telephoned other people at Cellnet back in February, Mr Cross offered absolutely no assistance with tracing the phone used when Cellnet stole 30 from my colleague. I asked him exactly that question, since my colleague has a fair idea of where and when his card was compromised, but Mr Cross said that any such enquiry would have to be made by the Police, with whom Cellnet would then cooperate. When I asked him to confirm that Cellnet could now trace and turn off phones which have been fraudulently topped up (which they had previously told me they couldn't), he refused to confirm this, and said he wanted to stop the conversation. He kept saying, quite categorically, that any complaint must be referred to the Bank (that is, to the credit card issuer) and that Cellnet would not deal directly with their victim.

So, what do you think? You, too, could try to resolve this paradox by telephoning Mr John Cross, BT Cellnet's Head of Security, on (Slough) 01753 565 000. If anyone knows the answer, he should.


I'm afraid this is another example of the media being fobbed off by Cellnet's disingenuous PR. After all, a huge company like BT, which now owns 100% of Cellnet, has a valuable public and political reputation at stake. It isn't just going to hold its hands up and admit that it has been, and still is, cynically and deliberately taking money from the accounts of innocent parties, fobbing them off with misleading information and refusing compensation when they complain, and trying to fool the media about these disgraceful activities for nearly a year, is it?

If you're a Cellnet victim, or have read the article and would like to comment on it, or on my discussion of it, please e-mail me. I can't promise to reply in detail to every one (we get hundreds) but all will be acknowledged.

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Once again, I invite Cellnet to let me know if there is anything in the foregoing to which they can reasonably take exception, and I shall be delighted to correct it at the earliest opportunity.

Click to read in detail the background to all this in our main Cellnet fraud story page, or return to the Cellnet index page.

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