Debunking email hoaxes and exposing Internet scams since 2003!


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Premium Rate Phone Fraud Hoax

Summary:
Email forward claims to be a warning about premium rate phone scams that can result in victims being charged 20 or 50 per minute or 100 for fifteen minutes (Full commentary below).



Status:
False

Example:(Submitted, November 2005)
Please could you make your users aware of this possible scam

Please be aware that this weekend one a colleague received a missed call from a telephone number starting 070467..... when called back it passes you through to a messaging service.

The mobile user checked with BT discovered it is a new scam to pass you through three numbers and it costs about 100 for fifteen minutes. Please warn other mobile users of this 0704 code coming up on their phones and not to answer it. If it comes up as a missed call, it should be deleted.

The message starts, the caller is forwarding you to their messaging service, it rings for a while then it says they are not at that number we will try another one for you and so on.

This has been sent to Customer Services by a customer, so I can not verify it but it is worth being aware of.

Kind Regards

[Name removed]
Telephone Account Manager

Vodafone Corporate

Example:(Submitted, June 2005)
Phone Fraud - Warning from the Police 11.5.05

We have been advised of a telephone fraud currently in operation -this applies to home and work telephones, landlines and mobiles.

If you receive one of these calls, upon answering the telephone you will hear a recorded message congratulating you on winning an all expenses trip to an exotic location. You will then be asked to press 9 to hear further details. If you press 9 you will be connected to a premium rate line that costs approximately 20 per minute.

Even if you disconnect immediately, it will remain connected for a minimum of 5 minutes costing around 100. The final part of the call involves you being asked to key in your postcode and house number, which has other serious consequences. After a further 2 minutes you will receive a message informing you that you are not one of the lucky winners.

The total bill by then will be 100.

Since the calls are originating from outside the UK, BT and other telephone companies are left relatively powerless to act. The only safe solution is to HANG UP before the message prompts you to dial 9, even safer HANG UP on any unsolicited 'free offer calls'.

There is another scam operating on mobile phones as well. A missed call comes up. The number is 0709 020 3840, the last four numbers may vary, but certainly the first four will remain the same. If you call this number back you will be charged 50 per minute.

People have complained about their phone bills, once they have realised the cost of the call, but apparently this is completely legal.

So beware, do not call back numbers beginning with '0709'.

The above was passed to me by a member of staff. On checking with Police it is genuine.




Commentary:
Variations of these hoax emails have been circulating since at least 2004. Some of the emails claim returning a missed call on a mobile phone can result in a phone charge of around 100 for fifteen minutes. Others claim that victims are being duped into participating in premium rate phone calls that are charged at 20 per minute.

One mobile phone version claims to be from a Vodaphone account manager. An earlier variant pretends to be a "Warning from the Police". In spite of these efforts to add credibility to the message, the claims in the emails are untrue. In January 2005, the ICSTIS issued a press release debunking these messages:

(United Kingdom) January 24th, 2005 -- Over the last few days, ICSTIS has received dozens of enquiries about the above 'scams', which are being widely publicised by e-mail. To help us put an end to the current spate of enquiries, please pass this information on to all contacts. In the first case, the apparent 'deception' takes place when people receive a recorded message informing them that they have won an all-expenses paid holiday and are asked to press 9 to hear further details. It is then claimed that callers are connected to a 20.00 per minute premium rate line that will still charge them for a minimum of five minutes even if they disconnect immediately. It is also claimed that, if callers stay connected, the entire message costs 260.00.

In the second case, the apparent 'deception' takes place when people receive a missed call from a number beginning 0709. It is then claimed that, if callers dial this number, they are connected to a 50.00 per minute premium rate line.

Please note that these stories are NOT true!

20.00 per minute and 50.00 per minute premium rate tariffs do not exist - the highest premium rate tariff available is 1.50 per minute. Despite the dozens of enquiries received by ICSTIS about these 'scams' (and most people appear to have heard about them second or third-hand), not one person who claims that it has actually happened to them has been able to produce a phone bill to support their story.

ICSTIS urges any individual or organisation that receives an e-mail about these 'scams' to delete it immediately. Please do NOT forward it to others.
As the ICSTIS press release states, these messages contain false information and should not be forwarded. Sending such bogus warnings to others is a waste of bandwidth and helps nobody.

However, it should be noted that some companies have indeed used deceptive practices to trick recipients into making premium rate calls. In one case, a company made automated calls to consumers claiming that they had won a prize and urging them to call back to make a claim. At face value, this case may seem to partly verify the information in the "scam warning" email. However, the bogus warning above and the actual incident described here are not related and the details are quite different.

In the real incident, callers were charged at the maximum allowable rate of 1.50 per minute, not 20.00 per minute as claimed in the bogus warning. Also, callers were only charged for the actual time of the call, not a five-minute minimum even if they disconnected immediately. In November 2005, the company was fined by the ICSTIS and barred from running any prize type service for 12 months.

For more information about premium rate services in the United Kingdom, visit the ICSTIS Website

Older mobile phone version:
There is a new kind of mobile phone scam. A missed call will show on your mobile phone. The number is 0709 020 3840! The last four numbers may vary, but the first four numbers will remain the same! If you call this number back, you will be charged 50.00 per minute. People have complained about their phone bills, once they have realised the cost of the call, but apparently this is completely legal. So beware, do not call back numbers beginning with 0709.

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen