Short calls to mobile telephones

You received a missed call alert on your mobile telephone from an unknown number. When you called back, an answering machine told you that you had won a prize and invited you to send personal data. What's it all about? We can help you to find out and give you some advice to avoid some pitfalls.

What's it all about?

Since September 2005, many users have been seeing a "missed call" alert on their mobile telephone from an 044 718 5… or 044 727 …. number. Occasionally other numbers are used and displayed.

If the call is returned, it is connected to an automatic announcement. The text which is sent varies from case to case but the scenario is always similar: callers are congratulated on winning a prize and asked to indicate their age and sex by pressing keys. They are then informed that the "General Terms and Conditions" apply and that they should hang up only if they wish to forfeit the prize. If they do not hang up, the automatic message system thanks the caller for accepting the "General Terms and Conditions" and asks the caller to press "0" to listen to the General Terms and Conditions or to press "5" to find out what they have won.

Pressing "5":
"You have won 20 free minutes on our telephone chat service, worth CHF 42.00. To claim your prize, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: …"

Pressing "0":
The General Terms and Conditions are read out. It is suggested to callers that they have concluded a contract. All the caller's rights and legal remedies are excluded or declared null and void. In particular, the caller grants permission to be sent advertising, offers and other unsolicited information with an unlimited number of SMS/MMS messages, e-mails and mailings. If the caller wants to withdraw from this contract, he should press "4". Generally, pressing this key does not work and the caller is switched back to the start of the message. Sometimes the message mentions a premium-rate service number (type: 090x….) to dial in order to cancel the contract. A call to this type of number may be expensive, e.g. a connection charge of CHF 10.00 plus CHF 5.00 for each minute of the call. However, it is not possible for this charge to be billed to you if your call has been automatically routed to this number from your original call to an 044 number…

OFCOM's assessment

The primary aim of such short-duration calls seems to be to incite recipients to call back. In this way, for example, the caller can generate a list of valid mobile telephone numbers which can subsequently be used for targeted sending of advertising (spam). This suspicion is reinforced by the fact that the promised "prize" has to be claimed using a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

OFCOM's recommendations

With regard to spam, OFCOM recommends that the following points be observed:

  • If, for example, you are asked via an automated call or in an SMS message to call back, only do this if you consider the sender and/or the indicated telephone number to be trustworthy.
  • Never reply to spam calls or spam SMS messages to express your indignation. Make a note of the important information and report the incident to your mobile telephone operator.
  • In the case of abusive calls, you have the possibility of obtaining the name and address of the holder of the number in question from your telecommunication services provider. However, to do this you must make a credible case that this information is essential to provide proof of the inconvenience. It is sufficient if you indicate the time and duration of the calls and the provider can check this. This information will then enable you to bring a charge against the caller or callers for misuse of telecommunications equipment (art. 179.septies of the Swiss Penal Code), if you are of the opinion that an offence has been committed.

Warning ostensibly from OFCOM

A fake warning from OFCOM has been circulating by e-mail since the end of September 2005.

The following message, written in German, may have arrived in your e-mail inbox:

This e-mail was not sent by OFCOM. It is a fake message.

The statement that if a call is returned to an 044 number the caller is automatically connected to an expensive 0900… number is incorrect. Every telecommunication services provider charges its customers precisely the same rates for all calls to 044 numbers. Today it is technically not possible for the costs of call forwarding (e.g. to a mobile number or a number abroad) to be charged to the calling user. In all cases, these costs will be billed to the party setting up the call forwarding.

Specialist staff
Last modification 06.12.2005

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