NEWS

Unsuspecting cell phone users parted from their cash by scams

A cell phone that one uses as a toy and object of entertainment might end up causing harm not only to the nerves of the user but to the pocket as well. This is because the extras a subscriber might order – usually a ringtone or a screen logo – are often never sent, resulting in users being charged 25 cents to 1 euro simply for sending the order. It’s a simple procedure, and apparently innocent. The subscriber receives a message from his cell phone company informing him how to order a ringtone via an SMS message. Usually, there are five choices of well-known tunes, whether Greek or foreign, with each song having its own four- or five-digit code. A first message asks the user to dial in the code and then, as a second stage, his cell phone number. In the meantime, the company informs him or her that the process is going ahead smoothly. Then, during the last stage, when the client is asked to send his cell phone type, he or she will receive a message to the effect that «This number does not exist.» This is the very same four-digit number that had been valid for the order, and it suddenly no longer exists. The promised service is never received and the caller has been charged for nothing. He does not lose more than 3 euros, but cheating is cheating. Of course, companies rake in huge profits given the number of subscribers who go through the procedure in vain. Moreover, there are dozens of ways of ordering sounds and logos through third companies advertised in brochures and on the Internet for their advanced technological services. Many of them are scams. Some of these do indeed offer what they promise, but others do not. Logos and ringtones can be ordered only via their recorded answering service, which the client can call only via a fixed-line phone on one of the notorious 090 numbers, and be charged 25 to 30 cents for every 15 seconds (1 euro per minute) spent on the call – plus VAT of 18 percent. According to OTE statistics, over 120 million lines in Europe have access to telephone information services, while in Greece, demand for audiotex services is increasing exponentially. Already, the National Council for Radio and Television, Greece’s media watchdog, has levied fines on a number of channels that broadcast games that have an 090 number. During game shows, TV stations will henceforth have to flash this warning on their screens: «Taking part in TV game shows over a high-rate telephone line (090) can cause financial harm to users.» In the meanwhile, charges against game shows flow in thick and fast at consumer centers and institutes. The main grievance is that viewers trying to phone in for the promised present or monetary sum cannot get through. Whether they get to speak to the presenter or not, they all have to pay larger telephone bills at the end of it. Most of the time, viewers are unable to speak to show hosts because the line is kept engaged by dozens of supposed players, who give unbelievably illogical and mind-bogglingly incorrect answers. However, most viewers seem to have got wise to the fact that the games are rigged. Those who truly know the correct answer simply switch channels.