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Fighting Cellular Fraud, New York To Washington
BEDMINSTER, NEW JERSEY, U.S.A., 1995 JAN 6 (NB) -- Bell Atlantic Mobile (BAM,
parent NYSE:BEL) and NYNEX Mobile Communications (parent NYSE:NYN), two large
US cellular phone carriers, are about to block automatic "roaming" service in
New York City and surrounding areas. Starting January 9, BAM customers who
place calls in the city will need to enter a personal identification number
(PIN) issued by BAM in order to complete the call.
The new policy is an antifraud measure to combat criminals who steal cellular
service, BAM said. The PIN system was developed by NYNEX and is in use inside
the City now, NYNEX sources said. Both firms emphasized that the new policy
is no magic wand to do away with cellular fraud. However, as a BAM
spokesperson told Newsbytes, the combination of restricted roaming and PIN
numbers will "raise the bar again" where cellular fraud is concerned.
Under the new system, the two cellular carriers will restrict calls in the
greater NYC area by roaming customers from a "Fraud Protection Zone" that
includes Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Pittsburgh; and greater Philadelphia,
including Delaware and southern New Jersey.
BAM adopted the new measures because of increasing problems with cloning, in
which a criminal picks off a cellular customer's automated phone IDs during a
legitimate call and uses them to make a "clone phone." The cloned phone can
be used to make calls for which the legitimate customers, not the cloners,
AT&T's Steve Fleischer, speaking to Newsbytes, said such cloning operations
have become such a successful criminal industry that some criminals sell the
phones with 30-day guarantees.
"If a number is cut off, you can bring it back to the cellular bandits and
have it reprogrammed for no additional charge," he explained. "It costs the
carriers around $1 million a day."
He paused, then added: "It just shows how big a demand there is for wireless
Under the new policy, customers from inside the protected zone who want to
use their phones at standard "roaming" rates in New York City must first
contact BAM by dialing 211 from their cellular phone. After they provide
proper identification and select a PIN code, the company deactivates the
fraud zone lock-out.
NYNEX spokesperson Kim Ancin told Newsbytes that customers with PIN numbers
place calls as much usual by dialing the destination number and pressing the
Send button. However, on protected phones, the customer then punches in the
PIN number and presses Send again.
Ancin explained that the PIN number goes out on a frequency different from
the initial send. Cellular bandits use special equipment to pick up a
legitimate phone's mobile identification number (MIN) and electronic serial
number (ESN), which until now have been enough to clone a phone. However, she
said, adding a PIN number on a second frequency makes cloning much more
BAM said it would not activate the fraud protection lock-out in northern New
Jersey, where calls to New York City are local calls. However, since
customers who travel frequently into the city are at risk from cloning, the
firm strongly recommended that northern New Jersey customers sign up for a
PIN. Eventually, the firm said, all new customers will be required to select
BAM said if a bandit does succeed in cloning a PIN-equipped phone, a customer
can simply change the PIN number. Customers without PIN numbers must bring
their phones back to a carrier or dealer to install a new phone number,
notify business associates and friends of the number change, and modify
business cards and stationery.
There is no extra charge for PIN numbers, which are implemented by software
at the carrier's switch, BAM's Fleischer told Newsbytes. The feature will not
affect commonly used cellular services like voice mail or call waiting. Calls
to 911, 611 and 411 will not require a PIN.
(Craig Menefee/19950106/Press Contact: Steve Fleischer, 908-306-7539 or Brian
Wood, 908-306-7508, both of BAM; Kim Ancin, 914-365-7573, or Jim Gerace, 914-
365-7712, both of NYNEX)
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