These days the net is full of warnings about scams. In many cases, the warnings ARE the scam, by trying to get the whole world to pass on the email about some urban myth that adapt as time goes on.

However, this warning is very real and quite logical if you sit back and think about how it works. Many scams are variations on previous ones, but are sometimes so subtle that people don’t even realise what they’ve fallen for until it’s too late.Anyone with a mobile phone has probably had at least one call from someone claiming to be calling from their mobile network. Often they speak very quickly, so you hear it as, say, ‘I am calling from Three’ when they said ‘calling on behalf of Three’. They’ll be calling you to try and get you to upgrade your phone and sign up to a high-priced tariff for 18 or 24 months, having taken an educated gamble that you’re actually still on Three (in other words, you haven’t ported to another network) and are now at the end of your minimum contract period. Sometimes they guess, sometimes they obtain information from dealers or even the network directly. Let me also add that I used Three as an example, as no network is immune to the plight of the phone slammer.

That’s frustrating enough in itself, but now it seems the phone slammers are making way for blatant phone scammers that just want to empty your pockets. These people don’t want you to upgrade, they simply want to hijack your account.

Depending on how much information they already have, they can quite easily fool you into passing over information without you considering there to be any risk.

Firstly, they don’t need your mobile number as they already called it, so don’t assume that it must be a genuine call because you don’t give your number out. From the days of ‘hacking’ calling cards, people have fallen for the fact that the caller already has a vital bit of information.

Secondly, they called you and could be anyone, so why should you trust them when they ask for your password, your post code and the house number for security reasons? The scammers will often attempt to deceive you by asking for as little information as possible, but as most people will know – asking for your post code and house number (as if they’re just asking for a small part of your address – so what’s the harm?) is easily filled in by looking up the Royal Mail postcode database.

Now if you’re on your guard for anyone calling from your bank or another financial institution, why assume it’s innocent if your phone network calls? Your mobile contract is actually worth a lot of money if you think about it. When these scammers use your details to contact your network afterwards, they will request a new SIM card.

Using your password, they can also change the billing address so the replacement card is sent out to them, along with bills and other contact (just to make sure that it takes that little bit longer before you realise what has actually happened).

In a day or two, the replacement SIM card that they receive will be activated and your one will stop working. For some time, you might just put it down to a network problem or a damaged SIM card. While you think about what to do, the scammer will be making full use of your account to make calls for free. Most likely premium rate calls, where the scammer receives a cut of the revenue generated. Of course, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to also expect the SIM card to be taken abroad for a bit of roaming or rented out to other people to make international calls at a discounted rate.

Regardless of how the SIM is used, you’ve also lost the use of your number and now have someone else with the ability to receive your calls and text messages. Assuming you haven’t got your voicemail service set to require a PIN when calling from your own phone, there’s also the ability to listen to all of your voice messages. Who knows – perhaps this will be the new way of hacking the accounts of celebrities and politicians in the future!

But, before I get carried away (but remember I said this when it happens in the years to come!), the biggest problem to you will be the battle to convince the network that you didn’t call them up to change your SIM, or make those calls.

Remember that you gave away your password, so who is liable – you or the network? Sure, the network can see that the SIM was used in another phone – but so what?

The simple solution is to not trust anyone that calls you up and asks for any personal information, no matter how basic. While you can tell the caller how your day is going if they ask, treat them with suspicion if you don’t know them or weren’t expecting a call. It’s a bit different if you called your network and they offered to call you back!

If in doubt, say that you’ll call back and then use the appropriate contact number from the mobile networks’ website, or stored on your phone in the address book as is the case with many network branded handsets. The advantage here is that you’ll also get rid of those phone slammers at the same time!

Finally, this warning probably should finish off by saying ‘pass this on to as many people as you can’ or try and add authenticity by saying it was ‘mentioned by the BBC’ or the ‘New York Times’, but as far as I am aware it hasn’t – yet.

But, hopefully I will have helped you keep one step ahead of the fraudsters. That is until they think of something else!

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Written by Jonathan Morris

Writing about technology, with a focus on mobile, since the early 1990s! Former editor of What Mobile magazine, writer for The Telegraph, Stuff, Know Your Mobile, Pocket Gamer, Smart TV Radar and more. Regular Tweeter, occasional YouTuber, keen amateur photographer and forum moderator. If you like what I write, please consider deactivating your ad blocker or making a donation via PayPal to help fund this site.

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