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Mobile phone fraud

Mobile phone fraud involves a variety of scams that either persuade you to buy phone-related products/services that turn out to be substandard or non-existent; or to make phone calls or texts to premium services by accident; or to unknowingly sign up to expensive subscription services.

There are a variety of frauds that target you on your mobile. Here are some of the most common:

Missed call scams 

Your phone registers a missed call. You don’t recognise the number so you call it back. Most of the time the call will be perfectly above board, but you may be redirected to a premium rate service which can cost up to £15 per call.

Recorded message scams

The number you’re asked to call back may be a recorded message telling you that you’ve won a prize, and giving you another number to call to ‘claim’ it. But this second number may be a premium rate one. Also, your prize may be nothing more than a ring tone subscription - which can also be a fraud.

Text message scams

You’re sent a text from a number you don’t recognise, but it’ll be worded as if it’s from a friend. For instance: ‘Hi, it’s John. I’m back! When do you want to catch up?’ So you call it back, thinking you’re doing them a favour by telling them they’ve got the wrong person, only to be charged a fortune for a premium rate call. Or you may text back and end up engaging in a lengthy SMS exchange. You find out that you’ve been charged a high rate for your texts (and sometimes for your received texts as well).

Ring tone scams

These scams might attract you with an offer of a ‘free’ or low cost ring tone. By accepting the offer, you’re actually subscribing to a service that will keep sending you ring tones – and charging you a premium rate for them. There are many legitimate companies selling ring tones, but there are also fraudsters who will try to hide the true cost of taking up their offer.

Phone insurance scams

If you’ve bought a new mobile phone, a fraudster may call you to sell you phone insurance, making out that they are calling from the shop where you bought it from, or from your mobile phone network. At best, you end up with poor quality phone insurance or, at worst, none at all.

Personal Information and your mobile phone

Mobiles phones and smart devices like iPads are now capable of holding a lot of your personal information such as access to your emails and mobile banking apps, it’s more important than ever to know how to keep data on your mobile phone or device secure.

What should you do if you’ve been a victim of mobile phone fraud?

  • Tell your mobile phone provider. 
  • Inform PhonepayPlus (www.phonepayplus.org.uk), which regulates premium numbers and has statutory powers to stop mobile phone frauds and fine the offenders.
  • If you text the word STOP to the subscription number, the sender is legally obliged to stop sending text messages immediately. If they don’t, contact PhonepayPlus (www.phonepayplus.org.uk), which investigates complaints about phone-paid services.

Protect yourself and your mobile or smart device from fraud

  1. Most phone service providers have their own security policies in place to help protect your data; examples include a secret question or a personal PIN for your account. It’s always worth checking what they have and make sure you sign up to use them

  2. Set up a password or passcode on your phone or tablet and keep it locked when you’re not using it. Your user guide will tell you how to do this. 

  3. Never store personal details like passwords or PIN numbers in texts or emails that are accessible through your phone or tablet. 

  4. If your phone is stolen, tell your provider straight away – they can blacklist and deactivate it remotely. You should then change any passwords for online accounts you access through your phone as soon as possible (for example online banking). 

  5. Never allow application or files to be installed from unknown sources particularly on smartphones/tablets (e.g. Android apps outside of Android Market™)

  6. If you visit a website through your mobile or tablet and the URL looks suspicious, close it down straight away

  7. Don’t respond to unknown numbers.

  8. If you sell your phone/tablet or give it away, make sure you complete a factory reset  to clear all your content from it - you’ll find out how in your user guide. 

  9. Set up a secure pin on your voicemail so that only you can access your messages. Call into your voicemail service to do this. Follow your service provider’s guidelines if you're unsure.

  10. Many smartphones and tablets now come with the ability to remotely lock and track it if it’s lost or stolen.  There are a number of apps but some handsets themselves are capable of this. Check with your manufacturer’s website.  

  11. Be extra vigilant when you have an upgrade due or your contract is near it’s end as this is a key time for fraudsters to target your mobile phone account with fake contract and insurance deals.

If fraud has been committed, report it to Action Fraud.