Types of cell phone scams
This is when unauthorised third-party charges appear on your monthly bill. These scams start with an offer of a free or low-cost ringtone or other product or service. Customers that use WhatsApp have also been scammed in this way.
If you accept such ‘offers’ you are actually subscribing to a service.
If you are unsure of a link, or a message that has been sent to you, rather contact your network provider to have it checked with them.
However, if you have clicked on one of the links, carefully check your monthly cell phone statements as soon as you receive them so that you can quickly pick up unauthorised charges.
“To further combat this, Vodacom launched a ‘double opt-in system’ in December 2011, whereby all customer service requests to Wireless Application Service Providers (WASPs) need to be confirmed with Vodacom before a customer is considered subscribed,” said Vodacom.
Vodacom explained that this makes it nearly impossible for customers to be billed for any WASP service without their consent.
To check if you’re being billed for any WASP services and to stop them text ‘stop all’ to 30333 (for Vodacom users only).
“Text-message scams take various forms. The text may tell you that you’ve won a prize and give you another number to call to ‘claim’ it – the call may be very expensive and/or the prize may be another scam,” said Vodacom.
Sometimes the scams can come in the form of a text message from an unknown number but which sounds like it might be from a friend (‘Hi, it’s Tumi. I’m back! When do you want to catch up?’).
“If you reply to ask who the sender is, you could get into a very expensive SMS exchange with a service that charges you for the messages you receive as well as the ones you send,” said Vodacom.
One ring scam
Vodacom explained that the ‘one ring’ scam is when the scammers program computers to call thousands of random cell phone numbers. They let it ring once, then disconnect.
Curious victims who return the call are connected to a paid service or chat line, often outside the country.
Vodacom said that you should not reply to SMSes unless you know for sure who they’re from; never return a call to a number you don’t recognise and don’t call any number to claim a prize you’ve apparently won, especially if you didn’t enter a competition.
Just like computers, cell phones are susceptible to malware attacks from third-party websites, downloaded apps (such as fake banking apps) and other sources.
“Email malware embeds itself into your phone and sends personal information back to a command centre, from which hackers can then get your contacts, text messages and call logs,” said Vodacom.
Protect yourself by installing a good anti-spyware or anti-malware program on your phone; password-protect your phone and also make sure to carefully read the permission on every app before you install it, explained Vodacom.
Ultimately, if you think something is not right then don’t answer the phone, call a suspect number back or click on a link that you’ve never seen before.
If someone texts or calls you claiming you’ve won a prize it’s usually a scam. If you’re uncertain you can always take their details down and check their credentials with your network provider.