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Frequently Asked Questions

Is mobile phone theft a bigger issue now than in the past?

Not proportionately to the number of phones in use in the UK.  In 1994 (the first year we have any sort of reliable figures) against a user base of 2.5 million users, 7.2% of the phones were subject to theft (a total of 15,000 per month were being reported stolen).

In 2002, against a user base of 45 million plus, taking the British Crime Survey figure that 470,000 handsets were the subject of theft then the percentage figure is 1.7%

What is the industry doing to address this issue?

The mobile phone industry takes the issue seriously and has introduced a number of measures, including improvements to handset design, improved SIM security, information exchange and law enforcement co-ordination and addressing the issues of reconnecting stolen phones to the networks by high street dealers.

What is the position on universal IMEI barring for stolen phones?

IMEI barring is considered to be an important piece in the crime prevention jigsaw and is now in the process of  being implemented by all networks in the UK.

It is not a single solution to the problem of mobile phone theft and one must continue to look at the other measures that are necessary to provide the customer with an overall crime prevention strategy. For example property marking and the recent announcement that mobile phone theft will now attract custodial sentences are examples of such additional measures.

What is this IMEI number?

The IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbering system is a 15 digit unique code that is used to identify the phone to a mobile phone network.

When a phone is switched on, this unique IMEI number is transmitted and will now be checked against a database of handsets that have been reported as stolen to the network's EIR (Equipment ID Register).

This EIR determines whether the phone can log onto the network to make and receive calls.

To obtain the IMEI number of any mobile phone, type *#06# and the 15 digit number should be shown on the display.

What does the industry think about (product X) which its inventors claim will reduce phone theft?

A number of products or concepts have been suggested to address this issue. MICAF member companies take this issue seriously and are investigating any ideas that allow them to help reduce mobile crime.  We cannot comment on specific products or concepts.

Why isn't the industry working with the Home Office to address this issue?

We are.  The mobile phone industry has been working on the various issues associated with mobile phone crime for more than 8 years and welcomes the support and priority attention which government is giving to this important subject.

What is the role of MICAF?

The Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum is a forum for the exchange of information and the promotion of a united effort against criminal activity in telecommunications.

The Forum seeks to raise awareness of crime issues affecting the Industry or impacting on its customers and suppliers.

It helps identify and develop effective counter-measures to mobile telecom crime as well as developing procedures to combat mobile phone related crime in the UK

Isn't MICAF just a cover to allow individual companies to avoid responding to this issue?

No, MICAF provides a forum for the industry to work together on this issue. The industry has taken a strong line on ensuring that the most relevant counter measures are developed and implemented in the prevention of handset theft. Member companies are also prepared to discuss the individual actions they are taking to address mobile phone crime. This enables experience to be shared.

What advice would MICAF give consumers to help them avoid being a victim of mobile phone crime?

Consumers must ensure that as many pieces of the crime prevention jigsaw are in place. This includes:  property marking of handsets, sensible use of the phone and being aware of the surroundings when using the mobile phone.

Consumers who are responsible for children's use of the phone also have a role to play to ensure that children are aware of how best to use the phone and in what circumstances.

Hands free kits and use of the SIM locking pin and property marking are other examples of how consumers can both protect themselves and also make it more difficult for a thief to use a phone once it has been stolen.

It is also wise advice to have your phone registered with your service provider so that in the unfortunate event of it being stolen or even lost you can quickly establish your ownership and the service provider can take action more quickly to prevent it further use. Knowing your IMEI can greatly assist networks to take appropriate action if you are unfortunate enough to have your phone stolen.

Does MICAF feel the government / police force are active enough on this issue?

Recent activity by both the Police Service and the Government would indicate they also take the theft of mobile phones as a serious issue. We will continue to assist both the Police and Government to ensure that the correct legislation and other measures are in place to make this activity less attractive to the thief.

Do mobile phone companies and manufacturers target children?

It is the policy of both networks and manufacturers not to directly target children. However member of MICAF do, from time to time, endorse crime prevention initiatives and educational campaigns, aimed at the younger generation, on how best to use mobile phones.