Mobile Phone Scams get Technical Upgrades

Scammers have started adopting technology to get the best out of their fraudulent activities as well. They are now making use of call recording capabilities to trick people into their scams as well.

I received a call from a Warid number, from a person claiming to be the regional manager for Warid Telecom. He informed me that I had won a Rs. 500,000 prize in a lucky draw and I had to call back on the number to get all the details. I am wise enough to know that these are all scams, but just for the heck of it, I called back.

The ring tone I was hearing was a customized tone of the Warid Customer Care Centre music. The music was of course recorded from a previous call and a naive person can be tricked into thinking that he has indeed won the prize, as the call is from an official channel. The call was picked up by another person, who claimed to be another regional manager. He informed me that I had won a bumper prize of Rs. 500,000, a Nokia N96 and two months of free call time. The lucky draw was organized jointly by Warid Telecom and Telenor Pakistan (God, he has to be kidding me; a joint lucky draw).

He started the conversation by trying to sound official. He asked by name, CNIC and other details (of course, I faked them). He then continued to inform me that I had won the prize courtesy a Rs. 100 scratch card that I had loaded in the previous months (I never use a scratch card below Rs. 500). I continued the conversation, and he informed me that the call was simultaneously being recorded at the head offices in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore.

The “Regional Manager” first asked me to note down a file number for further references. He told me that my name and prize will be announced on the TV shortly in the news tickers and a team would come tomorrow to my house to give me the prize money and record my interview. They would also give me a Telenor connection for free.

The technological advancements these scammers have started using involved asking me my name and other details, and then playing these all back to me for confirmation. The file number and all other details were also counter checked using the same recording strategy. Any naive person can be tricked into thinking that only companies have access to such equipment and the call must be official (although the recording gimmick is cheap, it seems to attract our people who think that it is a big gizmo).

The “lucky draw” required me to buy Telenor prepaid cards worth Rs 2,000 and a Warid prepaid card worth Rs. 250. I obliged and told him that I’ll call him after five minutes as I will reach the market then. The “Regional Manager” was cunning enough to ask me to load the Warid card into my connection so that I would be assured of the legality of the system, and that I was not being scammed. He asked me specifically not to buy a Rs. 1,000 prepaid card and only to use Rs 500 or Rs. 250 cards.

He asked me to read out the serial number (not the scratched number) of the first card and read the scratched numbers of the next three. I asked my local stationary shop person to give me three used cards and I told him the numbers. These numbers were also played back to me for confirmation.

With each card, he told me three number of the Rs. 500,00 cheque and by the end it was a complete cheque number.

The “Regional Manger” then asked me to write down a special number of a person whom I had to call. The number was indeed his very own number appended by 0092 at the start and 8888 at the end. He said that “this was a special number I would have never seen or heard of” and was the number of the “owner” of Warid Telecom. I was almost laughing now, but continued to play along. Any person with little knowledge of dialling codes can be tricked into thinking that number was not just the same guy’s number appended with the international dialling codes 0092 for Pakistan but to access a special number of a very special person. By the way, the name of “the owner of Warid Telecom” was supposed to be Haji Akram.

I also talked with a “female CSR” who took further information and also asked for a “bank account number”. By this time the conversation ended and I promised that I would call “the owner” immediately and thank him for this great prize. I was told that the lucky draw codes and prized will be delivered after I talked to him and he would also tell me the details of how to pay Rs 3,500 as fee to the “head offices“ in the three cities.

I called Warid Customer Care Centre and registered a complaint against the number and then returned to my normal activities. I received numerous more calls from the same number and didn’t pick them up hoping that Warid would ask PTA or any other authority to track this guy down or at least get more information about him as his cell phone kept on.

I finally picked up his tenth call and told him that the story is over now and he should wait for the authorities to catch him soon (hopefully). He needed the conversation politely by saying, chalein aap to agar naheen chahiyein paisay to theek hai”.