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Identify, Prevent and Deal with Mobile Premium Rate Scams (Part 1)

Over the past number of months a number of friends and family have either fallen victim of or almost fallen victim of premium rate scams, either calls or SMS. These scams are becoming increasingly devious in their design and are increasingly outside the remit of the various controlling regulatory bodies in each jurisdiction. The challenge for most people is identifying these scams where they exist and understanding the kinds of risks that you can be exposed to in order to take the best course of action.

For the most part, inbound Premium Rate SMS and Calls are so heavily regulated by mobile regulators and the mobile networks in each jurisdiction that they are virtually a thing of the past. As a result, the vast majority of Premium Rate scams experienced currently require an action to be completed by the victim, thus they are completely avoidable yet have become so deviously complex that they are difficult to avoid.

So how do you identify these types of scams?

Unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules around this, and in order to avoid detection and increase the longevity (and thus the profitability) of the scams they tend to adapt and change regularly.  I can simply share some of my professional and personal experiences in order to give some clues as to what they look like,

  • Missed calls from numbers starting with 00 – these are typically numbers selected to look like local numbers whereby the victim will innocently dial the number back and it is a premium rate charged number. A good example of this was in mid 2013 where a number of Vodafone Ireland numbers received a missed call from a number starting 003587….. This look innocuous enough and indeed was selected to look like a Vodafone Ireland Prefix, however if you look closer you will notice that this is actually a Slovenian number(and in that case was a premium rate one) that carried a connection charge as well as a per second charge.


  • Similarly texts from numbers structured like this are devised to generate a belief by the recipient that it is a local number whereby either a call back or a text back will invoke a premium rate charge. In the case of an SMS it may also act as a Premium Rate SMS opt-in which can lead to Premium Rate MT (Mobile Terminated) SMS….which are much more difficult to control the cost of what is received.


  • Texts received with instructions like, Call Me Back, Text Me Back, You Have Won A Prize etc. Again these can be made to look like they are originated from a perfectly normal number can result in either opt-ins to Premium Rate MT SMS subscriptions or Premium Charged calls.

As I mention there are these and many more, but the key to protection from these types of schemes is vigilance and common sense in how you deal with these. In the next part of this blog I will highlight some measures that you can take to avoid becoming victim of these scams in the first instance and the appropriate steps to take should you fall victim of one…to see the next part of the blog click here

By Simon Bell


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