Premium-rate phone fraud costs O2 millionsEight men and a woman arrested on fraud allegation

19 August 2010

A SIM card

With some specialist phones, you'll need to set up the Sim card on a regular handset first

Mobile network O2 has been hit by a scam which cost it £1.2m last month, as a criminal gang allegedly hijacked Sim cards to profit from calls to international premium rate numbers.

The mobile phone operator was alerted to the scam after it noticed that some customers were running up massive bills which could not be accounted for.

It was only after O2 alerted the City of London Police to the problem that the extent of the scam was revealed.

Yesterday, after carrying out a nationwide investigation, the City of London Police arrested eight men and one woman on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud O2 of millions of pounds.

How the premium rate call scam worked

The investigation revealed that a criminal network had been using fake identities and fake accounts to buy mobile phones, via the internet and on the high street, operating on the O2 mobile network.

These phones were then passed on to the person who City of London detectives believed was the mastermind behind the whole operation.

The Sim cards from the phones were used to call international premium line telephone numbers, some costing up to £10 a minute, operated by the same criminal gang, who then profited from each call.

Under the telecommunications regulations in some countries, network providers must pay the providers of a phone service before they recoup the money from their own customers.

This meant the gang's multi-million pound phone bill from the premium rate calls was paid by O2, and it was only when O2 approached its customers registered as the Sim card owners for payment that it was alerted to the fraud. 

If you're concerned about your personal information being at risk, read our top tips for stopping identity theft

Commenting on the arrests, Adrian Goreham, O2's general manager fraud & security, said: ‘This was a sophisticated and organised attempt to defraud mobile phone operators.

‘We are extremely pleased that our own investigation and the information we have shared with the City of London Police has resulted in these arrests.’

If you've spotted a scam, find out how to report it with our guide. 


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