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Not long ago I had heard that someone from my family had an suspicious situation with SMS service.

What happened was this person receive message like

Service 'Play music on calls' have been enabled. To turn off this service,
send message ENABLE to number xxx-xxx-xxx

First lets start off that this person did not turned on any service manually, and I never experienced anyone to have service like that turned on automatically - it always was optional and was turning on through text like ENABLE. Also for me it was seemed suspicious that you have to send message ENABLE to turn off service, and the number was 9 digit which is not used for services like this in this specific country, where most of such services are 4 up to 6 digit long.

The person with this have went to local office of this mobile operator, and the young lady (about 20-25 years) in there and looked like on idiot, and said that you need to send this message to turn it off, without checking number and anything else.

Then this lady sent message ENABLE to this number and then return message was sent something like:

To turn off service you need to send back this randomly generated key: XXXXXX

The lady in there send this key back to this number, however I have no more informations, did she also accepted something else as well etc.

Unfortunately this is also suspicious for me, because I never heard of service which would require you to send back randomly generated key, to be turned off.

The service apparently was disabled, however there are various problems now such as it seems problematic to make incoming call to this member of family.

Also later on I have checked this number on internet and there was opinions that it is malicious number, not specific for such services.

I got few questions:

  • What could be attackers point in such attack - the attacker did not get any personal data etc. so it doesn't seems to be phishing.
  • What type of attack this could be
  • What should be done in such case and how to explain it to older person which have no knowledge about social engineering and how it works.

Also this family member want to go back to the same local office of mobile operator, which I think is a bad idea due to what happened last time. I think that this person should call the main customer services from this mobile operator.


Please note that I have no idea which tags give to this question.

  • I would have required that lady from the mobile operator to give back a report stating (a) that the customer did not want such service and (b) the actions she performed on the phone. You know, just in case the mobile operator later that the client sent those messages and in doing so agreed into a service… – Ángel Jun 14 '16 at 21:55
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This seems to me like it very much could be a cramming operation or a premium SMS scam. The US has cracked down on both practices in recent years, but they haven't disappeared completely, and of course, the situation is different in other countries. It would be wise to monitor future bills to make sure that there's no extra charges resulting from this.

(It could also be legitimate, not that I'd make that assumption based on the ignorance of an entry-level worker at the phone provider.)

At the very least, if this is malicious, by responding, your family member verified that it's active number, and that the current user is relatively easy to scam. That's information that's valuable to scammers.

As to how you address that, your guess is as good as anyone's. I agree that going back to the same clueless idiots that didn't help the first time isn't a great idea, and that the phone company's customer service line would probably be a better approach. Having said that, if there was an easy, one-size-fits-all solution to not getting scammed, people wouldn't still fall for basic scams that have been around for decades, but they do, so don't get your hopes up.

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I would assume the 9 digit number is a normal subscriber's number in your country? In that case, the sender probably can't gain anything financially from the messages alone, so this is probably preparation for further scams.

The crooks probably batch sent these messages to find out 1) which numbers are valid and 2) which users are naive enough to believe them.

Be prepared to receive more elaborated scam calls in the near future.

BTW, if possible, send a recorded letter or fax to the headquarters of the mobile operator explaining this situation and ask for clarification about this "service". This will probably be handled much more carefully than the normal customer service fronts.

  • In that case, the sender probably can't gain anything financially from the messages alone How do you figure? Could be a cramming operation, where that text could be used as proof that the consumer signed up for a paid "service" that gets added to their phone bill. – HopelessN00b Jun 14 '16 at 19:22

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