Those damn cellphone thieves
August 26, 2008
I know this is an old issue, but I feel like rambling about it a little.
I received a rather unconvincing post a while ago about cellphone fraud. The thing that bugged me was that it was being spread at my work place. Firstly, by people who have no idea about cellphones and how they function. Secondly, by people who don’t really understand that they are being the spammers here. And finally, by people who don’t realise that their standard naive outlook on these things can be rather costly for them.
I reproduce here in full the email as I received it:
Subject: FW: Urgent Warning from Cell C & Vodacom
If you receive a phone call on your mobile from any person, saying
that, he or she is a company engineer, or saying that they’re checking
your mobile line, and you have to press # 90 or #09 or any other number.
End this call immediately without pressing any numbers.
There is a fraud company using a device that once you press #90 or #09
they can access your ‘SIM’ card and make calls at your expense. Forward
this message to as many friends as you can, to stop it. All mobile user
s pay attention if you receive a phone call and your mobile phone
displays (XALAN) on the screen don’t answer the call, END THE CALL
IMMEDIATELY, if you answer the call, your phone will be infected by a
This virus will erase all IMEI and IMSI information from both your
phone and your SIM card, which will make your phone unable to connect
with the telephone network. You will have to buy a new phone. This
information has been confirmed by both Motorola and Nokia.
PLEASE FORWARD THIS PIECE OF INFORMATION TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS HAVING A
My first observation about this email was that apparently only two of the four cellphones providers in my country is effected by this phenomenon. This immediately made my bullshit alarm start tingling. Why on earth would ONLY those two companies be effected and not the others? In an attempt to start figuring out an answer to this question I decided to start searching for some answers.
I did a cursory search for cellphone fraud and almost immediately came up with these hits:
We can see that there is a partial truth to the claim if it were for telephone fraud. Sadly, the claim in the original email is for cellphones.
This is the results of a poll on cellphone fraud. We can clearly gather that the original mail is rather untruthful about it’s claims. I personally can’t help but be suspicious with the poor appeal to authority by adding a picture of a “Special Investigating Unit”. Also, at the end of the email the appeal to “a better nature” by asking the email to be spread around is a dead giveaway.
I firmly believe that not being skeptical about claims like these is to a person’s detriment in the long run.