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Missed Call Phone Scam Warning Email

Summary:
Email message warns that answering a missed call on your mobile phone can lead to high phone charges when the caller attempts to claim a $40 prize by dialling another number (Full commentary below.)



Status:
It is true that a company is using the tactic described.
It is untrue that the caller will be instantly charged $100 for the first call or $50 for each of the two calls.

Examples:(Submitted, June 2006)
Subject: Phone scams - Missed calls

If you get a missed call from one of the following numbers, don't call it back.

If you do, you will be charged $50 as it is an internet number...it says you have won $40 and to call another number....then you will get slapped with another $50 amount.

The list of phone numbers you may be pranked from:

[List of numbers removed - See Commentary below for details.]


Hi everyone, This may be true. (Although I have my doubts)

Seems like most of us have had missed calls from these numbers, or others... mostly this morning [some as far back as a month]

Please be advised that this was on Sunrise yesterday morning, with a mobile phone expert saying DO NOT call numbers back...

My suggestion is ANY missed call on your mobile - do not respond unless you know the number, or the person has left a message for you to call back. If you get a missed phone call on your mobile from: (SEE BELOW LISTED NUMBERS) ... DO NOT ANSWER OR RETURN THE CALL!!!

This is a scam for some competition whereby the caller is charged $100 for the call. Maybe store it in your phone as - DO NOT ANSWER!!! Hopefully you get this email before you are caught out!!!"

It's called a premium service. Very similar to the s e x lines which charge a premium rate which is charged a certain amount per minute.

However these premium services also have another way of billing such as a one off payment for calling the number (such as $100).

The original idea behind these premium service numbers being introduced was things like being able to ring up for legal advice and get to chat to a lawyer for a certain rate per minute however these numbers are now mostly used by s e x lines and scams like this.

Oh and I assure you this scam is very real, the warning was included in the Optus newsletter today that gets sent out to it's employees.

Below are a list of numbers which are currently being used.

The list of phone numbers you may be pranked from:

[List of numbers removed - See Commentary above for details.]

Below is a link to let you know fully about this service and how it works
http://www.4wisemonkeys.com/dc-phone-scam/





Commentary:
These email forwards claims that answering a missed call can trick users into racking up expensive call charges when they respond to the chance to win a mobile phone related prize valued at forty dollars. The core information in the message is true. DC Marketing, a mobile phone content marketing company, is currently using such a tactic in Australia. However, the claim in the messages that victims will be instantly charged $100 or incur two charges of $50 each appears to be unfounded.

I called one of the numbers listed in the warning email and was answered by a recorded message advising me that I had won a mobile phone prize valued at $40 and also had a chance of winning up to $10,000. The message advised that I was required to procure a code in order to claim my prize by calling a second number and informed me that the call would be charged at $2.97 per minute. I called the second number and was again advised that the call would be charged at $2.97 per minute. However, it took around four and a half minutes before the "prize code" was finally revealed. The recorded message includes information about the prize and other promotions along with detailed and quite convoluted instructions about using one of two options to claim the forty dollar prize. Instructions for claiming the prize could easily be condensed into a much shorter space of time. The message also advised that, by claiming the prize, I would be subscribed to a ringtone service charged at $4 per week. Thus the total phone charge just to find out how to claim the prize comes to around $14. My experience is collaborated by a June 2006 Courier Mail article. While it irks me considerably to hand over money to a company willing to use such morally reprehensible tactics, I hope that my experience may help others think twice about the financial consequences of entering competitions that used premium rate phone numbers.

Unfortunately, it appears that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission can do little to stop DC Marketing's underhand tactics since, technically, they are doing nothing illegal. The messages do clearly advise the cost of call charges and apparently comply with the Telephone Information Services Standards Council (TISSC) Code of Practise. Given that young mobile phone users are likely to be especially vulnerable, such tactics really should be illegal in my opinion.

The 4 Wise Monkeys website has been vigorously campaigning against DC Marketing's tactics for several months and has a great deal of information on the subject. The warning message generally arrives with a list of phone numbers used by the company. However, I removed this list from the examples included because testing of some of numbers reveals that they are no longer in service. New numbers may now be in operation. For a more accurate and up-to-date number list, refer to the 4 Wise Monkeys website.

As stated, answering these missed calls can indeed result in large phone bills. However, there is no evidence to back up the claim that answering the calls would generate an instant charge of $100 (as claimed in the second example above) or two separate charges of fifty dollars each (as claimed in the first example below). Such charges would be illegal. According to information available from the TISSC website, fixed fee 190 premium calls have set charges of up to $33 and the caller must be informed about the charges at the beginning of the call. Sadly, by including such misinformation, the warning message effectively shoots itself in the foot. The false information may cause many recipients to dismiss the message as an outright hoax. Another problem with the message is that it contains no specific geographic information. The email forward has virtually no relevance outside of Australia and, like others of its ilk, it is sure to stray far from its country of birth and mutate considerably as it travels.

Therefore, rather than forwarding the message "as is", I would suggest that a more effective method of warning Australian friends and family about DC Marketing's tactics would be to direct them to the discussion about the issue on the 4 Wise Monkeys website.

References:
Mobile phone scam spreads
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
4 Wise Monkeys » DC Phone Scam
4 Wise Monkeys: DC Marketing: Round 3
TISSC: www.190complaints.com.au
Australian IT - Scams hit mobiles

Last updated: 19th June 2006
First published: 14th June 2006

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen