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WARNING - SMS Shortcode theft

35 posts in this topic

Posted

Hi all.

Just a word of warning to steer you away from Vodafone UK.

I have been a Windows smart phone user since the start with Orange UK but decided to try the Vodafone 3G service.

I bought a Samsung z500v on E-bay and got a free sim from Vodafone.

Things were ok initially but disintegrated yesterday when I switched on my phone.

When I switched on I received 5 text messages, each of which deducted ?1-50p from my PAYT account.

The text messages were from some outfit named Logogo -UK with the shortcode 84212.

As I had not ordered any ringtones or phone content from anyone I called Vodafone customer services.

They gave me telephone and E-mail contact details for the company which had sent the messages and taken the money from my account.

I telephoned this company (answer phone) and E-mailed them but have had no response.

Tonight I contacted Vodafone customer services again to request that they investigate this matter.

They advised me that they would not as it was a Company registered with them.

I find it beyond belief that Vodafone, when advised of a possible theft, refuse to investigate it.

Thoughts anyone?

Davy.

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Posted

Seeing as you've posted the same on Modaco and on here, I'll just copy/paste my reply here too:

Actually, their response seems normal for UK network operators.

Reverse SMS billing is a disaster waiting to happen. The networks are passing on the charges to you. They cannot just reverse the charge - the charge has to be reversed by the party who initiated the charge - ie. the company who sent the SMS.

They have done what (AFAIK) all network operators do and provide you with the details of the company who sent the messages, and therefore billed Vodafone (who then bill you).

Specifically, the advice from ICSTIS (the organisation who oversee and 'police' the premium rate telephone servers) is "If you are receiving chargeable text messages that you want to cancel, we would recommend that you get in touch with your mobile provider and ask them for details of the company operating this shortcode. When you have this information, contact that company and request to be unsubscribed from it. We are unable to do this on your behalf."

The network themselves aren't the ones to sort this for you.

Sending STOP or STOP ALL to the short code *should* stop it - but that doesn't help you reclaim the money from the company who sent the messages.

Again, it is not Vodafone who have wronged, and the premium rate regulator will also say the same.

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Posted

Seeing as you've posted the same on Modaco and on here, I'll just copy/paste my reply here too:

Actually, their response seems normal for UK network operators.

Reverse SMS billing is a disaster waiting to happen. The networks are passing on the charges to you. They cannot just reverse the charge - the charge has to be reversed by the party who initiated the charge - ie. the company who sent the SMS.

They have done what (AFAIK) all network operators do and provide you with the details of the company who sent the messages, and therefore billed Vodafone (who then bill you).

Specifically, the advice from ICSTIS (the organisation who oversee and 'police' the premium rate telephone servers) is "If you are receiving chargeable text messages that you want to cancel, we would recommend that you get in touch with your mobile provider and ask them for details of the company operating this shortcode. When you have this information, contact that company and request to be unsubscribed from it. We are unable to do this on your behalf."

The network themselves aren't the ones to sort this for you.

Sending STOP or STOP ALL to the short code *should* stop it - but that doesn't help you reclaim the money from the company who sent the messages.

Again, it is not Vodafone who have wronged, and the premium rate regulator will also say the same.

swampie,

I have posted this on modaco, as well as other sites, to warn people that Vodafone do not seem to care that I have had money stolen from my account.

I have NOT ordered anything from the company that illegally removed ?7-50p from my account.

Vodavone do not seem to care about theft from my account, it may be happening to others too, and refuse to investigate it.

Effectively Vodafone are happy for anyone to use my mobile number to buy downloads at my expense.

The texts did not appear to have anything attached to them. They simply stated I would be charged ?1-50p.

There was no option to reject the text/charge.

davy.

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Posted

Hey I work for Cingular which I know is an entirely different company but...the other poster was right. How it works is the 3rd party company charges the provider, who of course charges you.

Here, legally, all these sort of companies are supposed to stop charging you or sending messages when you reply to any of theirs with the word "stop." Unfortunately I have seen cases where when you reply with stop, it'll send another message where you have to send another message with something like "stop flycell" and then the subscription continues anyway.

With Cingular, when a customer gets charged by one of these companies they are usually shocked and I've seen TONS of cases where people are charged daily and don't notice. We usually dispute the charges for them and the customer gets a refund. I'm not sure if Cingular has an agreement with the 3rd parties, but that's how it works.

The 800 numbers and email addresses are pretty much useless for these companies. About the only reliable ways to stop the subscription is to reply with the word stop, and like I said that doesn't always work. Cingular has started working with the 3rd party companies to implement ways for the customer service reps to cancel the subscriptions from Cingular, but maaaany aren't that easy.

If you just got the service and you're getting charged, the number was probably recycled and the previous owner of that number had signed up for these services. You can possibly request a number change...

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Posted

jorsher,

thanks for the input.

At least Cingular actually try to do something for there customers.

Vodafone UK flatly refuse to help.

I would like to think that the other UK operators would at least give the impression that they were happy to assist a customer in recovering money stolen from there account.

TBH the lost money doesn't bother me that much. I would have used it anyway whilst evaluating the Vodafone service prior to deciding on getting a monthly contract with them or not.

Needless to say Vodafone will not be getting any more of my cash.

The main reason for posting is to make as many people as possibe aware of how Vodafone UK treats there customers.

davy.

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Posted

This type of response from UK operators is typical, across the board, I'm afraid. They do not view it as theft and so, do not treat it as such.

Personally, I think this is deplorable behaviour. To think that this Company can enter your mobile number onto their system and charge you ?7.50 without your consent IS theft - whether you actually miss the money or not :D (And without any recourse for complaint / refund / investigation by any monitoring body).

If someone walked up to you in the street and rifled through your pockets for ?7.50 in change, you might not miss it too much - but it would still be robbery.

Grrrr. Makes me mad it does :)

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Posted

I'm going to edit the title of this thread, as Voda do NOT condone any type of theft, and it is slanderous to accuse them of this.

Voda are merely doing the same as every other mobile operator who supports this sort of service on their network - by passing the contact details of the company involved to yourself, they are doing their bit and it isn't their responsibility to further action this.

That's just the way it is I'm afraid.

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Posted

I'm going to edit the title of this thread, as Voda do NOT condone any type of theft, and it is slanderous to accuse them of this.

Voda are merely doing the same as every other mobile operator who supports this sort of service on their network - by passing the contact details of the company involved to yourself, they are doing their bit and it isn't their responsibility to further action this.

That's just the way it is I'm afraid.

Hi,

I do not believe there is anything slanderous in my comments.

I have advised Vodafone of a theft from my account. They have refused to do anything about it.

By refusing to investitgate the matter the are effectively condoning theft.

If someone stole money from your bank account, credit card, etc it would be investigated by the Company and most likely by the Police.

It would most certainly not be shrugged off as thats just the way it is.

davy.

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Posted

davy, there is nothing Vodafone have done that condones theft.

As has been said many many times in this thread, Voda are merely following procedure that is set in place.

If you feel so strongly that Vodafone have been a part of a crime, I invite you to visit your local police station, or to call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 - Who I'm sure will be happy to help you with your case.

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Posted

sporkguy,

thanks for your input.

The purpose of this thread is to make people aware of how Vodafone treat there customers.

If Voda are merely following procedures then I believe there procedures are wrong. I am sure many would agree with me.

Do there procedures state how many customers can have money stolen by a particular short code company before they investigate the thefts?

I am not going to waste the valuable time of the Police by reporting this matter to them.

Should however some other unfortunate Voda customer reading this suffer from theft at the hands of the same shortcode company I am quite happy to provide evidence that Vodaphone are aware of the matter and have done nothing about it.

Cheers,

davy.

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Posted

sporkguy,

thanks for your input.

The purpose of this thread is to make people aware of how Vodafone treat there customers.

If Voda are merely following procedures then I believe there procedures are wrong. I am sure many would agree with me.

Do there procedures state how many customers can have money stolen by a particular short code company before they investigate the thefts?

I am not going to waste the valuable time of the Police by reporting this matter to them.

Should however some other unfortunate Voda customer reading this suffer from theft at the hands of the same shortcode company I am quite happy to provide evidence that Vodaphone are aware of the matter and have done nothing about it.

Cheers,

davy.

Happened to my wifes phone on Vodafone, and this was exactly the reason I left them and moved to Orange with both my accounts. I realise it's a very difficult situation but as Davy has said, the complete lack of interest shown by them was an eye opener.

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Posted

elgato65,

thanks for the support :) .

Perhaps I should have mentioned earlier that I have never had such a problem on any of the other UK networks.

I have had contracts with Orange, T-mobile and 3 over the years without any thefts occurring on my accounts.

Yet within the space of a couple of weeks after joining Vodafone this happens!

Coincidence I am sure.

Obviously as such thefts have not happened on the other networks I do not know how they would react to such thefts.

Has anyone suffered such thefts on any of the other networks?

If so have they refused to investigate the matter?

Thanks for reading,

davy.

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Posted

Obviously as such thefts have not happened on the other networks I do not know how they would react to such thefts.

Has anyone suffered such thefts on any of the other networks?

If so have they refused to investigate the matter?

Google through the uk.telecom.mobile archives and you'll find that all the networks have had similar complaints regarding unauthorised reverse charge SMS.

You'll find that in general, they all say the same thing (ie. they're following Ofcom's and ICSTIS' policies - not their own) - that the refund has to be instigated by the SMS company, and they are obliged to provide details regarding who billed them, and contact details to dispute the charge. Once the SMS company refunds the charge to the network, they'll then refund it to you.

Reverse SMS billing is nothing like Direct Debit where you have a guarantee and you can dispute the transaction and you'll get your money back. Neither is it like a Credit Card, where any unauthorised charges can be refunded by your CC company before the offending company is investigated.

What it actually is like is a Debit Card. Anyone with the card number and relevent details can make a debit against your account directly. To get a refund, you must get the retailer to refund the money - your bank will do little about it. Note the fraud protection is 99% of the time with credit cards - not debit cards.

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Posted

But what are the rules as regards this case. In other words for unsolicited texts? If I haven't signed up to any service and yet I receive texts that cost me ?1.50 a time then I am being conned, robbed, call it what you will. I would have been furious. And once I reported it I would expect the mobile operator to be able to stop that SMS from reaching me.

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Posted

But what are the rules as regards this case. In other words for unsolicited texts? If I haven't signed up to any service and yet I receive texts that cost me ?1.50 a time then I am being conned, robbed, call it what you will. I would have been furious. And once I reported it I would expect the mobile operator to be able to stop that SMS from reaching me.

It would be nice if the operators could all create a website where customers can put in their mobile number to 'opt-out' permanently to all of these SMS billings - sortof like going ex-directory, if you will.

I agree that these unsolicited text charges are ridiculous - but there really isn't much more the network can do unfortunately :)

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Posted

Well, I guess these charges make there total amount billed look that bit more fat on the stock exchange. Also, of that ?1.50 how much do they charge the sender?

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Posted

if voda own the company they should investigate and they should return back the charges as its the 3rd party company or whatever is part of them. I believe naturally its agains the law - if the company is with voda then they should investigate and be helpful and not be a monopoly or whatever.

I would also threaten them with legal action as unfortunatly these days, this is the only thing that works without rational reasoning. Silly really.

I would also go into a voda shop and shout it out, make a protest also (daft as it sounds) as then the people @ voda would make a slight (but not none) interest

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Posted

I believe a website already exists where you can block 3rd party SMS requests. I saw it recently in a release at work. With regard to the charges, you have to bare in mind that the reason Voda will simply not refund them is because they would be giving you that money out of their pockets. As mentioned, they are charged by the company and pass the charges on to you. If they refunded these charges for everyone who called up to complain they would be thousands of pounds out of pocket. Also as mentioned, the law does not require them to take any action. If you are unhappy with this, blame the government! Write a letter to your MP raising the issue. At the end of the day, they are a BUSINESS, people forget that about mobile operators and get pissed when they don't get their' own way as if the mobile operators have a requirement to make them happy... At the end of the day you're not always going to agree with their decision.

davy: It sounds to me like your case is one of a recycled number. I don't believe anyone has subscribed you, individual or company, it is likely nobody has decided to randomly bill you. Another user was probably subscribed, their number was cancelled or became inactive for some reason... It was recycled and given to you. The premium SMS messages have probably been sent over and over since the number became inactive until it was reactivated for you. It's like a spam list. If the e-mail address dies the emails are still sent to it over and over... They just bounce but nobody ever checks or cares. I've seen this happen many times before. Although you have no case as far as getting a refund from a network is concerned, you may have a case for a free number chnge (not a right, a case) - I doubt you'll get anywhere unless you ask to speak to a manager. To support your case, you can ask them to check your call history for your outgoing text to begin the subscribtion - which obviously they will not find. If the number is PAYG though, it is unlikely they have a record of more than 100 previous actions on file.

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Posted

Yes it would be interesting to know what percentage, if any, Voda receive from these sms's.

Several posters have stated that Voda are simply following Ofcom procedures. I am sure Ofcom would not penalise any operator who took the initiative and set up their own procedures to investigate such matters in the interests of their customers and to prevent recurring theft of this type.

I firmly believe that blaming Ofcom procedures is simply an excuse on the part of the operator.

A poster also mentioned legal action. I am sure it is only a matter of time before this happens to a Voda customer who has the financial resources to sue Voda. I have little doubt that such a customer would win the case.

An interesting point to sign off with is that I believe there still exists in Scottish Criminal Law the Common Law crime of aiding and abetting or causing or permitting a crime or offence. I do not know if such a law exists in England/Wales.

Not sure if the crime is pertinant to cases such as this but if I was a Voda customer services advisor I would be seeking clarification from my senior management that I was not breaking the law by refusing to investigate reported thefts from customer accounts.

davy.

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Posted

There is a slight workaround you can try - it sometimes works.

If you are 10000% sure you havn't initiated the SMS by sending anything to this short code, ask vodafone to show you an itimised billing of where you sent the SMS. If they cannont show that you actually sent an SMS then its actually their problem.

Sidestep the entire premium SMS issue and go for the 'network security breach' argument, and say that someone has fraudulently billed your account.

The point is that your contract is with vodafone and at no time have you authorised anything to this third party. Its vodafone's responsibility to protect you from this. Claim they are in breach of the terms of their contract and have the right to disconnect imediatly (regardless of your contract comitments).

When they tell you nope you can't do that and sorry thats our last word we can't do a thing, contact OFCOM and raise a complaint. when the directors department get back to you repeat the argument.

Most lilkely they will just give you the money back to shut u up. If not i advise you raise a complaint and ask for a CSAS reference. It will get your money back after a adjudication, but more importantly if more people take it that far it will force the networks to deal with this.

Really, if you have sent just one SMS to subscribe to this they have every right to say they won't get entagled with if this company billed your corectly or not. BUT if you can show you never ever subscribed to this, then its a netwok security issue which they can be forced to deal with.

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Posted

kam_,

thanks for the reply.

I did not send any texts to anyone whatsover.

I only had the sim for a couple of weeks (direct from Voda website) to evaluate the service. I used it to phone once. Also browsed Vodafone live and tried out the free for 30 days TV service. I definitely did not send any texts.

Are you saying that these short code sms's can only be sent after you firstly send a text to the shortcode to subscribe?

davy: It sounds to me like your case is one of a recycled number. I don't believe anyone has subscribed you, individual or company, it is likely nobody has decided to randomly bill you. Another user was probably subscribed, their number was cancelled or became inactive for some reason... It was recycled and given to you. The premium SMS messages have probably been sent over and over since the number became inactive until it was reactivated for you. It's like a spam list. If the e-mail address dies the emails are still sent to it over and over... They just bounce but nobody ever checks or cares. I've seen this happen many times before. Although you have no case as far as getting a refund from a network is concerned, you may have a case for a free number chnge (not a right, a case) - I doubt you'll get anywhere unless you ask to speak to a manager. To support your case, you can ask them to check your call history for your outgoing text to begin the subscribtion - which obviously they will not find. If the number is PAYG though, it is unlikely they have a record of more than 100 previous actions on file.

fleabag,

thanks for the input.

I have to disagree about my case for entitlement to refund from the network though. Especially if this matter turns out to have been caused by a recycled number.

I ordered the sim new from Voda's website (one of there free sim offers).

Nothing in the terms and conditions mentioned that I would be responsible for pending premium sms's ordered by a previous user of the number allocated to my new sim.

cheers,

davy.

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Posted

Are you saying that these short code sms's can only be sent after you firstly send a text to the shortcode to subscribe?

A bit of a grey area. Technically no. You can be signed up by someone manually typing your number into their system. Some sites allow online signups too.

However, I believe that if you can sign up away from the handset, then they are required to send you a SMS to which you must reply to before any reverse charged SMS. Basically, this ensures that the person in possession of the handset actually authorises the charges.

In reality, not all do this, and therefore you can be signed up online without your permission. HOWEVER: if the network cannot prove you signed up (ie. sent them an SMS first) then there's no proof you agreed to the charges.

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Posted

Swampie,

thanks for the info.

I have e-mailed Voda yesterday asking for any details they hold on my account regarding the logogo sms's so that I have it in writing.

No reply yet.

I sent a further e-mail today specifically asking them to check my call records and to advise me of details of any sms's sent since I activated the sim 2 to 3 weeks ago. I know I have not sent any.

I will try to contact this logogo outfit again this week.

Depending on what happens with the above I will refer the matter to Ofcom.

Cheers,

davy.

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Posted

davy: may I suggest you call Vodafone directly, as they probably don't prioritise emails and therefore you will be waiting a while for what will probably be an automated response.

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Posted

sporkguy, thanks for the advice.

I have received automated responses for the mails already which Voda have allocated reference numbers to.

I can wait a few days to see if they respond.

davy.

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