Category: Mobile Operators

Sim Swap Danger

Temporary loss of your mobile phone can be a big inconvenience but loss of your phone number to scammers can be much worse.

If you’d lost the phone, you would call the phone company or visit on of their shops and explain to the assistant that you need a new phone and your contract etc. transferred to that new phone.

The Sim Swap fraud makes use of a mobile phone service provider’s ability to easily transfer a telephone number to a device containing a different sim card.

The scam begins with a scammer collecting personal details about the victim, either by use of phishing emails, by buying the information from other criminals.

The scammer then contacts the victim’s mobile telephone provider and uses the information they have to convince the telephone company to transfer the victim’s phone number to the fraudster’s SIM. This usually means impersonating the victim using personal details to appear authentic and claiming that they have lost their phone.

More and more people and businesses rely on mobile phones for proof of identity. e.g. your bank may send you security numbers to type into your account to prove your ID but if scammers can access your phone and read your messages, they are in control.

So, if the scammers get your calls and texts sent to them instead, they can use the forgotten password option on many accounts to have new password sent to them and you wont know any of this is going on..

They may gain access to your bank account, retail accounts etc.

If a scammer attempts this fraud, you may receive SMS messages or email prior to a SIM swap taking place. If you didn’t action this request you must contact your bank and phone provider immediately.

If the scammer successfully transfers your number to their phone, then your phone may lose signal or become unable to make calls, send messages or use data. Report this immediately.

If you have any experience with this sim swap scam, do let me know, by email.

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The website was setup  to fight Pay For It scams.

These are scams where you find charges on your mobile phone bill for services you don’t remember signing up for.

The website introduces itself as :-

“Welcome to Payforit Sucks.  – We seek to raise awareness of ‘third party charge to bill’ or ‘Payforit’ frauds. If you have found your way here you may be the victim of one of these scams, or you may just be curious about how these scams work. Either way, the information on this site should help.”

Pay For It scams occur when rogue companies plunder consumers phone accounts via a scam based on the Payforit mechanism. The Phone-paid Services Authority is the regulator of all such services.

Who is responsible?

All the major mobile networks in the UK implement this system and share of the profits from it. The Payforit Management Group consists of the UK Mobile Network Operators who control the Payforit scheme rules and representatives of Accredited Payment Intermediaries (Level 1 providers) and merchants (Level 2 providers) who actively influence the development of the scheme rules.  O2, Vodafone, Three and EE jointly run the service, and are directly responsible for it.

This website is about fighting Pay For It scams and has information to help anyone caught out by these criminals.

The main sections are :-

  1. Stop Payforit Scams
  2. Stop Payforit helping thieves
  3. So what’s the problem with ‘Payforit’?

There are links to further information:-

  • What to do if you are the victim of Payforit fraud
  • Report a scam to the Phone-paid Services Authority
  • What is Payforit and what is the problem with it?
  • Can my network protect me from Payforit fraud?
  • What do consumers say about Payforit?
  • Tell us about a scam
  • Legal Action to make the Networks responsible for refunds

This website is a useful resource for anyone needing more information about these scams or are a victim of such a scam.

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PSA Consults on Phone Subscription Services

The PSA is consulting on proposals to introduce new Special conditions for all phone-paid subscription services. This follows the review that commenced in September last year.

The proposals are intended to reduce consumer harm, build confidence in the market and support good growth. The consultation closes on 16 April 2019. You can view the consultation on the PSA website

The PSA is also publishing new research undertaken by market research agency Jigsaw, on what consumers expect when engaging with phone-paid subscription services – from discovery, signing up, using, and exiting a phone-paid subscription service.

Subscriptions have enormous potential as a growth area for phone-paid services. Major brands like Spotify have started offering phone-payment for subscriptions as a default payment option. Other music, video, film and TV streaming, books and other services are now also using or considering using phone-payment on a subscription basis.

However, 95% of complaints to the PSA over the last twelve months have been about subscription services. The reputation of phone-paid services is suffering as a result, and there are cases where PSA Tribunals have issued very substantial fines and prohibitions to non-compliant providers.

PSA recently commissioned research into consumer expectations of phone-paid subscriptions from Jigsaw, a market research agency. This research includes some interesting and significant findings.

  1. When purchasing a subscription, many consumers are not aware that phone payment is an option and therefore they may not know they are in a purchasing environment.
  2. They expect clarity in a payment process, to ensure that it is made clear what they are being charged for, how they will be charged, and that the payment is for a subscription.
  3. Consumers expect to see payment cues and friction that they are familiar with from other forms of digital payment, such as use of an account and password or a PIN number.
  4. Many consumers say that, provided the process is as secure and transparent as for other payment methods, subscriptions paid via a phone account can be a convenient option for accessing content.

With all of this in mind, the PSA is proposing changes to the regulatory framework for subscriptions to reduce consumer harm, build confidence in the market and support good growth. The proposals are aimed at ensuring that:

  • The process of discovering and signing up for subscription services is as clear as possible for consumers – including ensuring it is clear when a consumer is viewing promotional material and when they have entered a purchasing environment
  • There are multiple steps in the payment and sign-up process for recurring charges, so that consumers engage with the process and are fully aware of what they are signing up to
  • Consumers receive receipts that contain the relevant service information, in a manner more consistent with what they are used to from other forms of digital payment, to help ensure that consumers engage with these messages.

High complaint volumes, and the perception that operator billing is a vehicle for ‘scams’ are in no-one’s interests. PSA think that the proposals in the consultation document will address these issues: providing consumers with a payment experience that they understand and trust and helping to support growth of phone-paid subscriptions.

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The Operator Billing Scam

Many people have reported mysterious mobile phone charges that appeared on their monthly bills. They only realise they’ve been signed up to a service like a gaming or fitness app, at a cost of several pounds a week, when they check their bills. Some of them didn’t notice the payments for months or years.

Phone paid services often use pop ups that appear, for example when the consumer is watching a video on the internet. The consumer will click a button that says something like ‘subscribe now’, then another button that says something like ‘confirm’.

The Phone-Paid Services Authority (PSA) state that a minimum of two clicks are required in order to subscribe to a phone paid service.

Regulations also require that the subscription is confirmed via email or text. Some people say they were sent a text- but thought it was a spam message as they hadn’t signed up to any service.

The scams work through so-called direct carrier billing, a system operated by the four major networks – O2, Vodafone, EE and Three – that allows consumers to purchase goods or services on their mobiles at the click of a button without entering any card details.

The PSA’s own annual review showed that around a third of the 22.5 million people who used the system in the last year had lost trust in the service.

An estimated £220m was paid for services through phone bills last year and the amount is expected to grow by 26 per cent a year.

How to Block These Charges

You can tell your operator that you want a “charge-to-bill bar” placed on your account. You may already have a “premium-rate services” bar but that does not stop these charges.

Mobile operators Three and GiffGaff do not allow customers to bar charge-to-bill so if you are with those providers you should be extra vigilant for pop-ups online that mention signing up to any kind of service and for any signs of charges on your mobile bills.

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.

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