In my previous Blog I identified a number of premium rate scams that are occurring currently and claiming unsuspecting victims. In this part I’d like to present some tips on how falling victim can these can be prevented and avoided and in the case where they cannot be prevented or avoided what the best actions are that can be taken to deal with these.
To understand why it is important to take the necessary steps to prevent and avoid becoming victim of one of these scams it is first very important to understand what the true value of your mobile phone number actually is. Firstly consider the following, your mobile account (either pre-paid or billpay) is a means by which a financial charge can be levied against you (either by accruing a payment against a billed account or deprecating credit from a prepaid account.) It also takes very little to initiate a charge against this account, simply making a call or sending a text can initiate charges to enormous values voluntarily.
So what would my tips be to avoid this type of scam?
- Think about who you give your mobile number to and why they need it.
- If there is a competition that is free to enter bear in mind that if it looks too good to be true it probably is. IE why would a business offer a free trip to New York in return for free text to a number?
- Be aware of “phishing”
- Some scammers will get access to lists of numbers that they believe to be worthwhile and will hit these numbers with a variety of calls or messages to test if these numbers are still correct and accessible. If you get a call or text requiring a response from a number that you don’t recognise, ask yourself who might this be and why do they need me to do whatever it is.
- Be conscious of who you give your mobile number to (even in good faith)
- Recent hacking attacks on the operators of loyalty schemes whereby credit card details were obtained by hacking of a database should be a warning that your data is not always kept securely by all those that you provide it to. IE Does the local shop that you provide your mobile number to store it on a secure inaccessible location for would be hackers? I would suggest not!
- Think very carefully of what activity you have ever engaged in via SMS with a business or other entity.
- Having worked for a business that provided premium rate SMS connections for businesses to mobile network operators, I can say that in 99%+ of cases whereby a customer contested that they had engaged with an SMS shortcode they had indeed done so and the provider of these services will always have a record of this as per the operating licencing with the industry regulators.
So, having outlined some of the types of scams that are prevalent at the moment, and how to avoid them, what is the best course of action if you do find that you have fallen victim to one of these scams? The best possible action that can be taken in this kind of circumstance is to contact your mobile network operator directly for their advice, in the first instance they may be able to put a halt on any future charges (be warned they will not refund you in the vast majority of cases as generally you have had to take some action to initiate the charge in the first instance!), also they may also be able to block certain numbers and services having access to your account or their network. Lastly and as I have already mentioned, prevention is better than cure, think twice before you take any action with your mobile number, it is a means by which you can accrue charges, so let the common sense approach prevail!
By Simon Bell