NEWS

Scammers have about 200 ways of leaving you a huge telephone bill

Not only individuals, but major organizations have fallen victim to phone fraud. Athens University, the Democritos National Center for Scientific Research, and other large organizations have been billed with tens of thousands and even millions of euros because of phone scams at their telephone centers. There are a number of ways this can be done. Modern telephone centers are equipped with an Internet port to facilitate the center’s operation off-site. These ports do not usually have a security code and so the lines can be diverted and calls charged to them, or else they can be tapped. Someone can also break the security code and obtain a line through the answering machine. If all this sounds complicated, the results can be impressive. A major airline was billed for about 4.5 million euros when its telephone center was broken into by Pakistanis who broke the security code and called home. Telephone companies themselves have fallen victim to these scams. «A gang of Syrians ran up a bill of one and a half million euros that was charged to OTE, by opening a telephone retail outlet with 19 ISDN lines on the island of Crete. As soon as the first phone bill arrived, they disappeared. In a similar case in Athens, the culprits were caught,» said Mavis. A new type of scam that is becoming widespread is through the roaming service. «Someone takes out subscriptions for mobile telephones in a European country, then comes to Greece, rents them out to as many customers as possible over a period of two or three days, the time it takes before high usage reports can be submitted to the phone company. «The phones are rented out through advertisements for one or two hours at a time. The Finance Ministry police (SDOE) recently discovered 50 of these SIM cards at a store in Omonia Square; they originated in the Netherlands and could have run up charges of at least 800,000 euros.» Worldwide, there are more then 200 different ways to commit telecommunications fraud, but fortunately many of these methods have not yet been used in Greece. «Most occur through chat rooms on the Internet. The masters of this art are the Pakistanis, who are very knowledgeable about new technologies,» said Mavis. «We try to keep up with all the ways of breaking into systems and with the new viruses, as things develop at a rapid rate,» he said. So what happens if someone realizes he or she has fallen victim to one of these scams? «If it is a land line, then you have to lodge a complaint with OTE to have the line monitored,» explained Mavis. If evidence is found of a violation, the subscriber will be informed and credited. The procedure is more difficult regarding telephone centers at companies, but the victims can apply to EFTA (at 010.611.7937) so that every possible avenue can be explored. If you lose your mobile phone, however, and do not declare the loss immediately, or if your child calls an 090 number from your home, then you yourself are responsible for all charges.