Card security

New Emergency Number Closes Security Gap

Card security

Starting July 1st, 2005, a new, unified European emergency call number for blocking electronic authorizations will be launched in Germany – the first of its kind worldwide.

The scheme will involve blocking the authorization of items such as credit cards, debit cards, mobile (cellular) phones, digital signatures, health-insurance cards, employee ID cards, customer cards and internet services.

New Block-Forwarding Service closes security gap

This new security system provides improved protection and confidence in case of emergencies inherent in today's information centered society. The amount of electronic IDs used by today's consumers is increasing at an astronomical rate, ranging from identification data for credit and debit cards, mobile phones and online banking accounts to digital signatures, in-store cards and – in future – also electronic ID cards. Because each company currently has its own contact points and procedures for an emergency, a consumer losing his wallet or mobile phone must presently call the service number of each provider as soon as possible to block his cards and stop the risk of fraud.

The increasing spread of cards and internet applications which use different electronic authorizations techniques is progressively complicating matters for consumers, preventing them from maintaining a clear overview of their personal identification numbers and passwords. This trend highlights the urgency of a user-friendly security solution in case of an emergency. The situation is further aggravated by the fact that, following loss or fraud, the affected person often no longer knows how – or in particular, where – to seek assistance for blocking a card or authorizations. A central blocking authority would have also the additional benefit to alleviating older persons fear of using cards.

The block-forwarding service is available to all companies, which voluntarily join the non-profit blocking alliance and are willing to carry the costs related to routing customers who need assistance. Although membership of Sperr e.V. is not compulsory, customers of affiliated companies benefit tremendously in terms of protection against the misuse of electronic authorizations. The new emergency call number should provide the same level of trust as the established emergency call numbers for the Police and the Fire Service.

Financing of the Block-Forwarding Service

The block-forwarding service is run by a non-profit organization, which is available toll-free for the caller. Costs are therefore assumed on a causal basis by the affiliated organizations. An average block-forwarding call costs 1,60 Euro. Each organization is then on its own to decide whether or not to pass on the ensuing costs.


With the continued proliferation of cards and other electronic authorizations in an information-centric society, the need for a simple and convenient emergency call number for protecting electronic authorizations is becoming increasingly urgent. For this reason, the new European emergency call number for blocking electronic authorizations has the vision of becoming as widely accepted and trusted by the public as the numbers for the police and fire services.

Further information (only in German) can be found in the Internet: 

The European regulation administration (CEPT) has proposed to free the 116 number in national numbering space. 116 stands for Harmonized European Short Code (HESC) which will soon be regulated within Europe. Germany decided to chose “116 116” for the block-forwarding service.

How the New Block-Forwarding Service Works

The 116 116 block-forwarding hotline is available toll-free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and without prior registration for the caller.

Process of blocking electronic authorizations using the new emergency call number

In a one-to-one dialogue between the caller and a call-center agent, the affected issuers or the service providers will be determined by looking them up in special database. After all affected cards are determined and the personal dialogue is finished, the caller will automatically be routed to each relevant issuer one after another.

The 116 116 block-forwarding service is neither responsible for identifying the caller nor for performing the blocks. Its role is limited to providing quick and un-bureaucratic help, which means to route the customer to the responsible blocking authorities.

Fraud is not Possible via the Block-Forwarding Service

The block-forwarding service only matches callers with the related card / medium issuers, not for verifying whether the caller is entitled to initiate a block. Customer identification and legitimization is to be performed by the issuer. The established security mechanisms employed by the individual card / medium issuers will be maintained.

Block Forwarding also Available from Abroad

From abroad the country prefix for Germany (+49) is necessary “+49 116 116”. As not even the "Universal International Toll Free Number" (00800) is available everywhere a toll-free connection from abroad has been waived for the sake of reachability.


This article has been provided by our partner Rechtsanwalt Alexander Baron von Engelhardt , legal expert for foreigners in Germany. For further information, go to  .

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