Scams, Dialers And Urban Myths

By | December 2, 2004

When is a scam a scam or an urban myth?

Dinah Greek of Computeractive writes that Britain’s premium rate line watchdog is being inundated with calls from worried consumers about scams that turn out to be untrue.

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?

One thought on “Scams, Dialers And Urban Myths

  1. Akshay

    I think there may be another reason why people are more credulous now. Personal technology has become easier over the years and has given people a lot of control over previously arcane environments … and as people become more tech-savvy they’re likely to concentrate that savvy-ness over their personal domain … with the side-effect that they become less aware of what’s happening around them.

    I’d probably have been mildly alarmed had I read that high tarriff story. It’s possible, because it’s beyond my sphere of influence.

    Enough rambling 🙂


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