Have you been signed up for premium rate services you didn't order? Better check your phone bill…

13 August 2012

Mr Hole's unwanted text message (c) Mark Hole

Most of us are far too wordly wise to ever sign up to a spam texting service. No matter what the dating knowledge, psychic insight or genitalia-enlargement offered, the cost of the service is almost certainly going to outweigh the benefit. Even if that service were free. However, a UK mobile phone user has just discovered that he could sign up anyone he liked to one of these services, after finding fraudulent charges on his bill.

Consultant Mark Hole found charges for a fortune-telling service on the mobile phone bill of his business mobile. Certain he had not bandied around his mobile number in places spamsters could get hold of it, he complained to his service provider, Orange, who shrugged and said he must have signed up and to naff off (or words to that effect). Mr Hole also complained to Buongiorno, the “content maker” behind the iFortune service he was getting without asking.

However, Mr Hole was not your average mug, and decided to investigate how his number had been signed up for the service. Using a Firefox add-on that pretended his computer was an iPhone, Mr Hole found that he could sign up absolutely anyone for premium rate services from content maker Buongiorno with just their mobile phone number and knowing if they were on the Orange network. He went on to demonstrate this by signing up a BBC reporter for the fortune telling service.

Buongiorno described Mr Hole’s investigations as a “bug” and  assured the BBC that once they “found out” about it, they  “very quickly moved to pin it down, find out what happened and stop it from happening again."

Gareth Maclachlan, head of mobile security firm Adaptive Mobile, told the BBC that Buongiorno was not doing a good enough job of checking which net addresses were making sign-up requests. "There's a potentially criminal opportunity here," he said, describing how hi-tech thieves could set up a fake premium rate service, sign people up and then sit back and wait for cash to roll in.

Information about Mr Hole's findings have been circulated to the GSMA security working group to ensure other operators are aware of the loophole. Buongiorno are convinced the impact of this “loophole” was minimal, but given that Mr Hole’s situation suggests the window was open for at least 14 days, it remains to be seen if other mobile phone users have fallen foul to the same or a similar scheme. So get checking your bills now- and if you find anything, please let us know.

TOPICS:   Mobile   Scams

12 comments

  • Alan
    The service providers are not interested if you contact them. They do not do themselves any favours. Every time I called I was told 'they must of subscribed to it' yet when I checked their texts etc I could find no trace. In the end I cancelled my kids contracts with Vodafone because they cannot (or will not) block them I now have a Tesco contract with a fixed charge which means they can block it. Money for old rope...
  • captain c.
    This has been going on with other premium numbers for quite a while, my son got his Orange phone signed up to a load of premium services without his knowledge over four years ago. We never did get Orange to admit there was a problem, and had to cancel the contract after the con cost us nearly £1,000 over 3 months.
  • DragonChris
    One word sums up such companies and the 'services' they offer: CUNTS.
  • DP
    Mr Hole... *titter*
  • yak
    hats off to mr hole …. (snigger)
  • Dick
    That is probably a serious story ... but Mr Hole. Really? Change your name if you want to be taken seriously. Yours, Dick S. Potter
  • Darryl
    Yes this has happened to me as well. Same company (ifortune). Never clicked on anything to sign up to this but somehow i was signed up?!?! Charged me 10 dollars every week!
  • Jeff
    I had noticed a charge on my other (wife's) phone for the Mobivillage fortune telling service for 10$ per month. I informed my wife, who had no clue about it, so I left it for it thinking maybe a oncetime use charge. Saw it again and did some research that led me to this article. This is a pretty blatant "loophole" intended to rake in huge piles of money off the backs of unsuspecting victims.
  • Jeff
    Oh and I'm from Canada and on Rogers, so it's not just associated with the UK provider Orange as is implied above.
  • Brett
    I swapped back to an old phone when my current phone died. It asked me if it could send a text message. I didn't think anything of it. Thought it was probably for set up commands. Well it was a setup!. Setup bloody Buongiorno premium sms service. Bloody company should be shut down with antics like this.
  • Keith
    Same thing here! I found it in my bill with FIDO in Alberta, Canada. I inquired FIDO why I was charged, some Lindsay told me I may have signed up for it. I insisted I did not since I really did not sign up for it. I asked to speak to a manager, apparently they are all busy and she said they will call me back. REALLY????? and oh yeah, I back tracked all my bills, it was ongoing for a while so be careful,... check check check your bills. To all busy people like me, spot check your bills once in a while. They can collect you lots of money for something you did not use. I also tried calling this I fortune number from my bill, it disconnects when it goes to the part where it asks options of either "cancel or other inquiry" I don't want to cancel, I want other inquiry why they charged me for it, but it just disconnects... Waiting for FIDO call back... Hope they can help take the unnecessary charges.
  • Caroline
    I have been charged over £100 paid from this company. I am normally a very finically aware person but my bills were high due to other issues with Orange which were continulaly trying to resolve and I had therefore not noticed these, I feel quite ashamed about this. I would like to claim my money back. I have never signed up to any companies. All the text messages said 'free message' and I had assumed they were junk like emails. I can not believe how utterly dishonest some people can be, Any advice how to attempt to get this money back? EE have said that it is not through them.

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