Government cracks down on mobile payment criminals

New guidelines will make things tougher for the bad guys looking to abuse innovative mobile payment technologies.

Mobile phone payments

The government today unveiled guidelines to make it harder for criminals to take advantage of new mobile phone payment technologies, including disabling this aspect of a handset or SIM card as soon as it is reported lost or stolen.

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell, together with the mobile and payment industries, has vowed to crack down on the bad guys by making it harder for them to exploit the innovative technologies used in modern contactless payments which make phones behave almost like debit and credit cards.

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In addition to disabling the payment functionality of a mobile as well as the phone itself, any transaction above the maximum contactless payment threshold currently 10 will need to be verified by additional security measures such as a PIN code. If a large number of smaller payments are noted in quick succession, these will also require verification, according to the guidelines.

"These guidelines are an important step forward in protecting the public from criminals. I am pleased that the mobile and banking industries have worked with us to ensure that the public are protected at the earliest opportunity," Campbell said in a statement.

"By working closely with industry we have already put in place measures to make it harder for thieves to profit from mobile phone theft around 90 per cent of handsets reported stolen are now blocked within 24 hours of reporting reducing their value and the incentive for criminals. This technology is an exciting new development but we must continue to work together to reduce any new opportunities for criminals to profit from mobile theft. As new technologies like this develop we aim to consider where safeguards can be incorporated at the drawing board stage."

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Mobile users about to or already using contactless payments will also be encouraged to sign up to the National Mobile Phone register to make it easier to identify when their handsets have fallen into the wrong hands and make it harder for criminals to abuse the phones' purchasing capabilities.

"The mobile phone is an integral part of modern day life and the mobile phone industry will continue to work with all stakeholders to mitigate any risk to our customers in the operation of contactless payment technology," Jack Wraith, chief executive of the Telecommunications UK Fraud Forum (TUFF), said in a statement.

"The partnership, between the customer and their home network is core to the customer experience in using mobile phones and while the banking industry develops payment applications the mobile phone industry will continue to provide support, advice and best practice to protect this experience. The mobile phone industry welcomes the support of the government and police in the ongoing fight to prevent criminals from benefiting from mobile phone theft"

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