The £3.5bn mobile phone theft racket: Beware crooks who run up vast bills calling premium rate lines on your stolen mobile – leaving you counting the cost

Today, Money Mail lays bare a £3.5 billion racket that allows mobile phone firms to profit from criminal gangs who steal handsets, then run up thousands of pounds in international calls.

An industry insider has revealed how crooks make a fortune in tourist hotspots and cities by using stolen phones to call premium-rate lines in countries such as Somalia, North Korea and little-known Pacific islands.

Meanwhile, the victims are left facing bills totalling thousands of pounds.

Scam: Within a few minutes of taking the phone, criminals call premium-rate lines in countries such as Somalia, North Korea and little-known Pacific islands

Within a few minutes of taking the phone, the criminals call one of these premium lines, which are controlled by middlemen. Every minute the line is connected, both take a cut from the charges they run up.

The crooks can even connect several calls from the same phone at one time — by dialling one premium-rate number, putting it on hold and then dialling another.

The person who was robbed is then held responsible for all costs up to the point they report the handset missing. And experts say phone companies routinely pile their own margins on top, adding to the bill.

Our investigation also uncovered how phone firms have the power to help stop customers being hit with vast bills from crooks — but often fail to act.

Read more: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-2839935/The-3-5bn-mobile-phone-theft-racket-Beware-crooks-run-vast-bills-calling-premium-rate-lines-stolen-mobile-leaving-counting-cost.html#ixzz3JV1vgZi7