Mobile scam under microscope

Authorities yesterday heralded a crackdown on companies that have been swindling mobile phone owners out of large sums by means of an Internet scam involving advertisement banners offering readers the opportunity to take IQ tests or trace their friends’ location by submitting their cell phone numbers online. The initiative was announced following a meeting between Emmanouil Sfakianakis, the director of the police’s electronic crime squad, Leonidas Kanellos, the president of the Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) and Evangelos Zerveas, the Consumer Ombudsman. «The cooperation we have launched is the first step in a series of initiatives we have planned to protect consumers,» Zerveas told Kathimerini. The EETT alone has reported receiving more than 400 complaints from consumers claiming to have fallen victim to the scam, with some claiming to have been cheated out of hundreds of euros. The Greek Quality of Life Consumer Union (EKPOIZO) also had reported receiving countless complaints from cell phone owners. Some claimed to have been besieged with text messages that can cost up to 2 euros each to open. Others reported being registered with services that run up their mobile phone bills. In all cases, consumers had keyed in their cell phone numbers after clicking on the banner. Banners include enticing messages such as «Find out where your loved one is» and «Discover your IQ.» Only a close reading of the advertisement’s fine print reveals the cost of the text messages to come. The Internet scam has reportedly created problems for dozens of parents who have found themselves obliged to pay off huge mobile phone bills incurred by their Web-surfing children. According to sources, more than 20 companies linked to the scam will be investigated by police and, if implicating evidence emerges, will face serious charges.