Old Wives' Tales
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Claim: In Britain, mobile phone owners are being tricked into calling numbers that charge them £50 a minute.
Origins: We encountered this caution against returning calls to numbers in the 0709 prefix in February 2004. Akin to its widespread and long-lived American counterpart, the 809 area code warning, this
Some of the e-mailed alerts begin in this fashion:
All this is TRUE one of my friends looks after theHelpful disclaimer that "Its not a HOAX beware and pass it on" to the contrary, there can't be anything to this. According to the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS):
Over the last few days ICSTIS has received hundreds of enquiries about the above 'scam', which is being widely publicised byAlthough the ICSTIS page speaks to a con similar to but yet not quite the same as the one described in the 0709 caution, its point about the premium rate tariff being capped at £1.50 a minute holds true here as well — users cannot be charged the £50 a minute the
The apparent 'deception' takes place when people receive a recorded message informing them that they have won an all-expenses paid holiday and are asked to
A £20.00 per minute premium rate tariff does not exist - the highest premium rate tariff available is £1.50 per minute. Despite the hundreds of enquiries received by ICSTIS about this 'scam' (and most have heard about it second or third-hand), not one person who claims that it has actually happened to them has been able to produce a phone bill to support their story.
ICSTIS urges any individual or organisation that receives an
However, while there are no £50-a-minute scams out there to worry about, frauds that operate along the same line (but at far lower rates) do exist and do take in the unwary. The problem of mobile phone users receiving "missed call" notifications soliciting them to dial numbers for which they will be charged at rates higher than they might otherwise expect is on the rise. Those so duped get drawn into returning calls that promise they've won prizes and thence into staying on the line in pursuit of same while the meter runs.
Similar scams have been running in Japan at least since 2002. Known as "wangiri," this form of illegal
The term "wangiri" derives from combining the English word "one," pronounced "wan," and the Japanese word "kiru," meaning "to cut off" and refers to the practice of ringing once then hanging up. Wangiri operators have repeatedly paralyzed broad areas of Japan's telephone networks, in 2002 prompting the government of that country to enact laws against the practice. Those laws carry penalties of up to one year in prison or fines as high as
In February 2004 the ICSTIS had two firms which were using the scheme shut down. ICSTIS external affairs manager Richard Sullivan said the practice was "clearly in breach" of its code. His advice to mobile users: "If you get an unsolicited number on your phone our recommendation is not to call it. Most of the premium rate services are absolutely fine but there are a very small proportion of people damaging the industry."
Barbara "prefixed for your convenience" Mikkelson
Last updated: 7 January 2008
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