Mobile phone fraud

What does mobile phone fraud involve?

Mobile phone fraud involves fraudsters targeting mobile phone users and trying to persuade them to:

  • Purchase phone-related products/services that turn out to be substandard or nonexistent
  • Make phone calls or texts to premium services by accident
  • Unknowingly sign up to expensive subscription services.

How can mobile phone fraud affect me?

There are two variations on premium services fraud: the text message and the missed call.

Text message fraud

With text message fraud, you receive a text message congratulating you on winning a cash prize. This is known as m-spam. According to the bogus message, all you have to do to collect your prize is dial a number that begins with 0906. What the fraudsters don't tell you is that this is a premium rate number, that the call will last several minutes, and that you won't receive your prize

Missed call fraud

With missed call fraud, your mobile rings once then disconnects, leaving you with a missed call. If you ring back, you're redirected to a premium rate line for a prize. Again, these calls can be expensive and the promised prize never materialises. According to some sources, the missed call often comes from a number with the prefix 0709. These numbers are not normal mobile numbers and often attract a high charge. To be safe, treat 0709 calls as you would treat calls from a premium rate number.

Then there's reverse texting, where you end up paying to receive text messages such as ringtones and wallpapers.

Meanwhile, subscriber fraud happens when criminals fraudulently obtain your personal information and use it to set up a mobile phone account in your name.

What should I do?

Check with your mobile phone provider how much it costs to call or text phonepaid/premium rate services from your phone. Currently, these services cost between 10 pence to £1.50 per minute for calls or text messages. Please note that your phone provider (landline, cable or mobile) may also add an additional charge in addition to the advertised rate. Any additional charge will vary depending on your phone provider.

To avoid fraudsters

  • It’s best to be safe and not respond to unknown numbers at all
  • If you get a text message from someone you don't know, don't reply. If it is important, they will call again
  • If you receive a text message offering you a prize, delete it without replying. Remember, you can’t win a prize if you have not entered a competition
  • Don't reply to any number with a 090 prefix. It's a premium-rate line
  • If you respond to a missed call, hang up at the very first indication your call is being redirected. For example, when a recorded voice says: "I'll put you through", or something similar. Also, be aware that fraudsters often use a recording of what sounds like a ringing tone to keep you on the line for longer
  • If you call a number back and get a recorded message informing you that you’ve won a prize, hang up immediately
  • Don't subscribe to anything that you suspect involves reverse texting. Investigate before you do anything.

If you have been defrauded

  • Tell your mobile phone provider. They won’t be able to refund your money, but they can investigate and inform others
  • Inform PhonepayPlus, which regulates premium numbers and has statutory powers to stop mobile phone frauds and fine the offenders
  • With reverse texting: if you text the word STOP to the subscription number, the sender is legally obliged to stop sending text messages immediately. If they don’t, contact                 PhonepayPlus, which investigates complaints about phone-paid services.

There are companies that use premium numbers legitimately. However, they should always make it clear that they are using premium numbers and you should check their small print before signing up to anything.

Contact your mobile phone provider. They won’t be able to refund your money, but they can investigate and inform others.  

Reporting fraud

If you're a victim of fraud that is a crime in progress and you need an immediate police response dial 999.

If it is a non-emergency situation,

call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

You can also report fraud or find further advice and information on the Action Fraud website.