An Indian phone company is warning users against a variation on the premium rate phone scam, whereby users are contacted by email or mail and asked to call a number to confirm winning a prize. The number is a premium number—either local or international—and the user has to sit through several expensive minutes of canned music before finding they haven’t won anything.
The Indian variation is that victims are sent an SMS containing the phone number they should call. They’re then charged Rs500 ($10) a minute as they navigate their way through an automated phone tree.
Once downloaded, the software automatically launches everytime you start your computer. It monitors internet dial-up connections and alerts you when unauthorised users attempt to dial restricted numbers. When suspicious activity is noticed a display window will warn “You are attempting to dial a premium rate, international or non-approved number. If you do not want to proceed with this call hang up. If in any doubt you should unplug your modem and check your settings before attempting to redial”.
One email warns of a scam that says people have received a recorded message on their phone informing them that they have won an all-expenses paid holiday. The email goes on to say people who receive these calls are asked to press 9 to hear further details and when they do are connected to a £20.00 per minute premium rate line. This will still charge them for a minimum of five minutes even if they disconnect immediately. It is also claimed that, if callers stay connected, the entire message costs £260.00.
Another email says some people receive a missed call from a number beginning 0709. It is then claimed that, if callers dial this number, they are connected to a £50.00 per minute premium rate line.
ICSTIS, the watchdog with a name that sounds like an unpleasant disease, point out that these emails are incorrect. But with the whole rogue dialers thing going on, people are scared. (What I like about this story is that the problem seemed to have started in my old hometown: “We believe these emails started off years ago from a neighborhood watch liaison office in Northampton who got the facts wrong,” an ICSTIS spokesman says. (This, based on my experience of that town, seems plausible.) Since then it’s blown out of all proportion: ICSTIS points out that “these scams just can’t happen. Premium rate tariffs of £20 per minute and £50 per minute do not exist – the highest premium rate tariff available is £1.50 per minute.”
Does the fact that we don’t really know what’s going on in our computer make us prey to these kind of myths? Ignorance, superstition and credulity rise in inverse proportion to our understanding of our environment. Do computers make us more superstitious?