Thursday, 31 August 2006

Mobile Phone Fraud in the UK

Mobile phone companies allow fraudsters direct access to your cash?

Do you own a mobile phone?

If yes, did you know that mobile phone companies allow fraudsters direct access to your cash?

How do they do this? Anyone with a premium rate ‘texting’ service can send you a text message. Even if you did not ask for the message to be sent, your account will be charged for the text messages you receive, or if you use ‘pay-as-you-go’ your balance will still be debited for each message received.

You could be charged around £1.50 for each message received. This is nothing more than straight theft.

This happened to me. I was receiving text messages, but when I went to read the message it said “message unable to be displayed”. At first I thought that they were just wrong numbers. However, I began to notice that after each message was received the balance on my ‘pay-as-you-go’ was being reduced.

I called O2, my mobile service provider; they told me that there was nothing that they could do. Neither did they have a system that would allow me to STOP all premium text messages to my mobile number. They told me to call ICSTIS, who are they regulator for mobile premium services.

I called ICSTIS, who gave me the name of the company who had been calling me and their phone number. Now remember, this is the company who had been stealing my money. ICSTIS want me to tell these (to my mind) criminals to stop stealing my money and to give me back what they have stolen. In order to do this I have to give these criminals more of my personal details. What lunatic thought up such a system?

This is the same as going to the police and telling them that you have been burgled and the police giving you the name and address of the burglar and telling you to go and talk to the burglar and ask him to give you your property back.

The system which allows mobile phone companies to charge you for receiving calls or text messages is fundamentally flawed and open to serious abuse.

The situation described above is one circumstance where you can be charged for receiving unwanted or fraudulent messages. It is like being told to open your wallet and let anyone who cares to text you to help themselves.

I have always thought that the system where the receiver of a call pays was unsatisfactory and open to abuse. I experienced a similar situation when I worked abroad as an IT consultant. Agents would call from the UK to determine my availability for new contracts or to find out if I knew someone who could do the contract. Well, because I was receiving this call whilst in another country, the phone company also charge me for receiving the call. Many times these calls were no more than nuisance calls or ‘spam’ to use a term that email users are all too familiar with.

The trouble with unwanted texts or mobile calls is that they cost you real money.

The only way to stop this absurd situation is to prevent mobile phone companies making any charges to the receivers account. In all situations the caller should pay for the call.

The people who have been ‘texting’ me without my permission should be charged with fraud or theft.

I have called both ICSTIS and OFCOM and neither organisation appears willing to do very much about the current situation.

Two things need to happen very quickly.

Mobile phone companies should be required to block all premium message text services upon a user’s request.
The charging system used by mobile phone companies MUST be changed so it is the caller that bears the full cost of the call. Callers must be made aware, in advance, of the call rate being charged.

Please write or email your member of parliament in the UK and contact the news media to ensure that this fraud (permitted by our government and watchdog bodies) can be stopped.

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