Andrew Warshaw: Beware the phantom mobile phone hacker


Football politics is a murky world at the best of times but the experience I have just encountered has made me question whether there are dark and evil forces at play.

The other day I received an email from my mobile phone supplier asking me whether I wanted to reset my password. What password? I’ve never had a password for my mobile phone. My gut instinct – and thank goodness I acted on it – was to call the company concerned and ask them what was going on.

In a nutshell, it transpired that someone, somewhere was trying to open an online account, purporting to be me, in order to gain access to my phone records and find out, among other things, who I had been calling and who had been calling me. Whoever it was knew so many details about me they easily managed to pass strict data protection criteria. Big Brother, it seemed, was watching over me. Pretty scary, eh?

There is considerable information I am not at liberty to divulge for fear of compromising the case which is now in the hands of the fraud department of the mobile company concerned. But suffice to say that if this kind of thing can happen to me, it can surely happen to others too.

In fact it has. I know of one other journalist also covering football politics who has had a similar – and in some ways even more serious – experience. He, too, is wracking his brains as to who the phantom hacker might be and how the person concerned managed to glean so much personal information in an effort to acquire his mobile phone records.

Without pointing the finger at anyone in particular, what these episodes show is that there are some desperate people who will resort to desperate measures. I recently read a report which pointed out that a number of FIFA personalities caught up in the various corruption scandals that have plagued world football’s governing body had been hiring private investigators. Am I the victim of one of these private eyes? Sounds fanciful doesn’t it, but in these kinds of situations, all rational thought goes out of the window and the mind starts playing tricks on you.

Maybe I am being paranoid. Maybe the would-be hacker has nothing to do with the job I perform and has randomly selected me as an easy target. After all, you hear these kinds of stories all the time. But given that my friend has suffered the same intrusion at roughly the same time, I have my doubts. The bottom line is that we are in a sensitive business where the reputations and credibility of some of the most influential and powerful figures count for everything.

Andrew Warshaw is a former sports editor of The European, the newspaper that broke the Bosman story in the 1990s, the most significant issue to shape professional football as we know it today. Before that, he worked for the Associated Press for 13 years in Geneva and London. He is now the chief football reporter for insideworldfootball. To follow him on Twitter click here.