Unsolicited premium SMS scams sneakily draining your mobile credits

This morning, the Mrs had an unusual text message from Telstra on her pre-paid mobile phone. Basically it said that she had less than $5 left in her prepaid account. When we checked she only had 40 cents left in it. This got us scratching our heads because the plan we use gives unlimited text messages and unlimited phone calls, with 3gb of data to use. If the data runs out then it just restricts Internet access and doesn’t let us go over the limit. So how on earth did $39.60 vanish from her pre-paid service in the space of 3 weeks?

Having a look at the SMS usage, it turns out there were 6 charges with no number attached that simply said “Content”. So we called Telstra 24x7 who had a quick look and then informed us that if we checked our text messages we would see that we are getting a premium SMS text for each $6.60 charge and that we need to be more careful when we send texts to 1900 numbers.

There were two major problems with this. First, we did not receive any of these SMS messages and secondly, we have never actually even attempted to access a premium service. We don’t do competitions via the phone and don’t sign up for ring tones or what-have-you. Telstra then argued the point that they can’t be wrong and that there is no way that we could be signed on to any premium SMS services unless we actually signed on using the phone that was getting charged for the things. Well, obviously there is a way, otherwise we wouldn’t be signed up to this hidden service that charges Telstra for SMS messages that we don’t even get. We didn’t even get a message that we were signed up to the thing in the first place.

Telstra’s solution? Send a reply SMS to the messages that says “STOP”… erm… Telstra, we just told you that we aren’t actually getting any messages, so how can we actually send a reply to the things??? Telstra then offered to block our phones from being able to access premium SMS services, but that would not stop any current subscriptions from continuing to charge us. We would have to contact the company involved and tell them to remove our number from their database first. The woman at Telstra then gave us a customer service number for the offending company and the 1900 number that was used so we could ask them to cancel the subscription and refund us our money. So we did this and apparently the scammers will be sending us a cheque within the next two weeks, although we won’t be holding our breaths expecting that we’ll actually get one, or at least one that is real.

A quick google search of the 1900 number in question shows that quite a lot of people are being scammed by this service with both Telstra and Optus customers being affected. The customer service number, a 1300 number, takes you to a company called Admagnet which is based in India, and they confirmed this when I spoke to them. They didn’t even check how much they’d scammed from us and simply asked us to tell them how much the refund cheque should be worth. After cancelling their subscription we actually got an SMS to say the service had been cancelled with a final sentence written in it that said $6.60 joining fee and $6.60 per SMS, so hopefully we haven’t just been signed on to a new scam SMS service. We then called Telstra back and they then blocked premium SMS messages from our phones.

As far as we’re concerned we’ve just been done out of close to $40 for a service we didn’t sign up to and didn’t even know we were being charged for and Telstra has decided it’s not their problem because apparently we did this ourselves. I think I’ll be calling the Ombudsman on Monday and seeing what he has to say about it all.

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So how did you get signed up for the service without your knowledge? How can a message go through the Telstra billing system but not get to you?

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Thanks for letting people know about this. On a kind of related topic. Providers such as Telstra obviously have holes in their systems…eg: This is more an id theft thing but it shows how easy it is to do.
I was burgled a few years ago and they got some of my ID. They used part of this online to set up a mobile account in my name…as they ran up a bill of $1,800 I assume they got a nice new phone too. I’m still on pre-paid (Telstra) and have an old 4sIphone… Anyway I only found out this when I got a call from a debt company demanding this money. The gap in the Telstra system is that the account was NOT EVEN IN MY ADDRESS…so no checking going on. Then it was up to me to prove to Telstra and the debt company that I didn’t open that account. This actually took alot of work as I had to provide alot of proof. The debt company Panthera were reasonably helpful actually, thank goodness as it was stressful enough already. I have passed the mobile number and address it was made in (one assumes not theirs either) on to police and Crimestoppers but I guess even though they might be able to see the log of phone calls made from this phone, are there the resources to follow up this type of crime? Good luck with your situation, super frustrating.

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We had such a bogus account set up a few years ago. By pure chance we were on to them in hours and reported it to the police amongst others, and the police were less than useless even though we could provide the perps details and address as well as documentary evidence of identity theft. They logged it in their ‘little book’ and that was their role as they saw it as a civil not criminal problem for us to sort, while the telco having the bogus account could have pursued it as a criminal issue (fraud) if they did not get paid. :open_mouth:

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How can this be done?

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So, looking up online about how to contact the Ombudsman about this, it states that we first have to register a formal complaint with Telstra ourselves, so I went to Telstra’s online complaints form, filled out the details, typed about 2000 characters of text in the complaint box and around 1000 characters in the what outcome would we like box, clicked on submit, and was directed to a Telstra page that said, “Sorry, something went wrong, please try again later”, and of course hitting the back button on the web browser shows a completely blank form. So I shall have to retype everything in a text document on my computer, where I can save it and then try to resubmit it via copy and paste later on. Unbelievable!!!

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yes it’s all very frustrating. The first time I went to a Telstra shop to send my proof of fraudulent mobile account situation…they send it to the Philippines (oh great all my ID gets sent to the Philippines)…then I received another notice from debt collectors saying that it hadn’t gone through…so I had to go into Telstra again (great when working fulltime) and they had to send it all again. When I rang my ‘case worker’ in Philippines about it, with the number they gave me, I thought it would be direct, oh no so I had to wait an hour on the phone…I thought I would see how long it took, then I started tweeting my complaints on twitter while I was waiting and that got more action…my point being if Telstra’s systems cause problems for you they also don’t have much of a system in place to support you with the problem. They just make it harder. Still one has to just push through, not much choice. Make sure you get the exact reference when you finally get to send that complaint message, you will need it again when you followup. I would try social media though if you use it, they have people monitoring it and some of those people are actually helpful.

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yes it’s scary how easy it is for them to do this. I gather this is happening all over the world. Frustrating when you have their details. That’s interesting that they saw it as civil when it is theft and fraud. I printed off a log sheet from IDCare which was helpful in keeping all the details of my contact with the debt company and the phone company. I’d recommend this to anyone who has to keep tabs with the outcome of ID theft.
Hopefully nothing else happens !

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Someone just needs some very basic information and off they can go. There is apparently not a lot of checking on self-made IDs. Your name and address seems sufficient to get them rolling.

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I have that problem frequently. Position your cursor in the form box prior to trying to submit it.
(for onlookers not familiar with cut and paste commands)
Ctrl-A (selects all text)
Ctrl-C (copies all selected text)
Open a new notepad, wordpad, or word document and position the cursor in it
Ctrl-V (pastes the text into that document)
save the document

If you have not copied anything else you can Ctrl-V the text back into your now empty form box, or get the text from your saved document by the same process.

Companies know your time is valuable and your submission is important. :open_mouth:

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Thanks. Hopefully that will help others here. I’m a qualified IT tech so completely fluent in keyboard shortcuts. :wink:

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It looks like this Ad Magnet outfit (also referred to as ig8) has been causing trouble for Telstra and Optus customers for some time. There are a few references on the Telstra forums describing the same situation as @NubglummerySnr, so while an individual customer service rep might not know about it, there should be some knowledge of it at a management level. The company gets away this scam by getting your number and then breaking the Telecommunications Code of Practice.

The TIO is the right place to go to escalate your complaint. It’s easy to see that the companies breaking the code and scamming consumers rely on consumers that put chasing a refund in the ‘too hard basket’. However, if enough people make complaints then it not only sets things right, but it could save others the same issues. So, great work for following up, and let us know how you progress.

Here’s a story from the ABC covering the issue, which affects around 12 percent of people according to the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network:

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I’ve had this happen on various sites too. Now I always copy my text before I submit.

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Because the Mobile Network Operators enabled Premium SMS a about 3 years ago you have to disable this otherwise you can be charged up to $5.00 for a simple msg which is a Premium SMS.
I recommend you immediately log onto your company and disable Premium SMS otherwise you will be charged for every PSMS that is sent to you and this will cost a lot as they sent 5 in a few seconds which will mount up to well over $100 in no time.
Yes this is a rip off and yes it is allowed and yes it is not exactly nice ok already.

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I always compose long online submissions offline then paste on the web page and email a copy to myself with the page url. Sometimes you can take a screenshot of the web page before pressing submit but usually the message box is too small to show all the message without scrolling, so a single screenshot doesn’t work. Emailing Citibank is a real challenge. Maybe it’s changed now, but they used to accept only lower case letters and numbers. NO punctuation or control chars even return.

Most likely using your phone for bitcoin mining

Carolyn the same happened to my boss. He has a holiday house and discovered after a credit check that someone had set up an account in his name using the holiday house address but the WRONG birthdate. NO CHECKING. Same as you, much time was spent at police stations, stat decs ect to prove he didn’t open the account or accrue the charges.

crazy hey, the phone companies obviously don’t care. I guess all we can do is spread the word for people to look out for this type of thing and give them some emotional support when it does ! Seems like the fraudsters can just get away with it.

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Exactly the same thing happened to me recently. After carefully considering the wording and sequence of events to detail my complaint, I clicked send and … try again later. A sneaky ploy to ensure most complaints aren’t logged, perchance?

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Hi guys,
I think we should sell off services like Telstra because the service will get better and the cost will go down if its privately owned - what a scam that was…
Service is zero, cost = same as everybody else… We were scammed again by our politicians.
For every-bodies sake don’t let them sell off anything else.

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