Alas, one of the family has started to receive text news alerts on a mobile, despite not having subscribed to any such (or other) service. It isn’t clear yet what charges are being made to the phone account, but they will not be accepted! It appears to be some sort of scam, but if so why don’t the operators torch it?
The mobile operator (Vodafone) has been contacted in our case and has promised to bar texts from this number; also as these texts indicate that a spurious subscription has been lodged, we were given a number (0845 1309911) to call to cancel any subscriptions (whether unauthorised or not).
The general procedure for terminating subscriptions to Short Code services is to text STOP to the number, but this method perhaps might not work in the case of a scam?
The background is that short codes are simply special mobile phone numbers, obviously notably shorter than full numbers (so they are easier to use and remember), which are used for SMS messages. They are unique to each operator, and are widely used for value-added services such as television voting, charity donations and mobile services like a news service – short code number usage can be billed at a higher rate than a standard SMS and as above can subscribe a customer to a recurring monthly service that will be added to their mobile phone bill.
The big problem is that short code services can be targeted for scams in the same way that many other telephony services have been in the past (with company telephone systems being hacked to generate bills of thousands of pounds in premium rate calls, or private mobile numbers being stolen or even cloned to be used for the same purpose). Possibly such abuse is frequent, or massive, or perhaps it doesn’t even get reported – it is almost certainly involves the most vulnerable, including children.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of transparency in what is happening with all these kind of telephone facilities, and there is often a global dimension to improper and criminal use– most people don’t understand the complexities and can be easily fleeced by charges for expensive calls. Who actually owns these short code numbers, who runs them, what are the mobile operators doing to protect their customers, and what are the regulators doing to prevent scams, and punish the perpetrators?