Text messages being used to steal money from cellular phone customers
By M. Zeeshan Azmat
Karachi- “Last night I received a text message from an unidentified number congratulating me on winning free mobile balance worth Rs1,000,” 20-year-old Ali told The News.
Ali, a Ufone subscriber, was given instructions in the message on how to avail the opportunity. “I was told to forward the message to a Ufone number by typing in 03346488423u2u33 to 828,” said Ali. The sender guaranteed that the balance would be recharged.
What puzzled Ali, however, was that the message had been sent by 0313-6631145 – a Zong number. “I already know that such tactics are used to collect money from other mobile subscribers,” he said. “Instead of following the sender’s instructions, I called back to tell him to stop misleading people.” Ali was however forced to hang up after the person at the other end began using abusive language.
According to a mobile phone vendor, such text messages, written mostly in Roman-Urdu or Urdu, have become common. Yet another person received a similar text message from another Zong number, 0313-6598723, offering a ‘Mala Mal’ scheme from Ufone, even though Ufone never launched such a scheme.
When several mobile phone franchises were contacted, it was learnt that messages like these are widespread, since almost every cellular network has offered special text message packages.
“Cell phone operators should take strict action against such messages and permanently block the SIM of anyone found involved,” said Afzal, aged 32, a victim of such a scam. “Mobile companies are responsible for increasing the circulation of such fraudulent messages.”
In the past in Karachi it was common for mobile phone users to receive text messages from unknown numbers asking them to transfer a certain amount of their credit to another account supposedly to help an ailing patient in hospital or to aid someone trapped in dire circumstances. Upon further examination, such messages were discovered to be fraudulent and amounting to stealing money from a consumer’s mobile account via fake advertisements.