I was a victim of mobile phone fraud.
And this post is to advise and let you all know that it can happen to anyone and is super easy to fall for.
Last year, I fell for a scam and this scam was orchestrated by my very own little sister, the one who I trusted and loved. We have different mums, but that made no difference, she was my sister, my blood and we were close. Her working background had always been phone shops, my previous contracts was taken out through her and it was always a really good deal because you know, we’re family and family always help each other out right? Late September 2016, I was due an upgrade and as per normal, I was pondering on whether to get the new iPhone 7, but decided against it because I was in the midst of getting a mortgage and really didn’t want to add extra costs to my living. However, my little sister, called me and said she could get me a really great deal on my contract and I could get the newest phone with the highest memory and all that jazz, so naturally, I was tempted and thought ‘why not, let’s just see what she can offer’. She called me the next day and told me she was in the store and ready to ‘sort me out’ and all I had to do was give her the code she was going to send to me. Not thinking anything of it, I willingly handed the code over as she was only just checking out my account and seeing what deal she can get and then the nightmare started.
I started to receive a series of text messages thanking me for refreshing my contract and taking out a new handset which was bizarre because I didn’t agree for her to do anything to my account apart from check it. I then proceeded to text, call, snapchat all means under the sun to find out what was going on and ask her why I have a new contract and phone and you guessed it, no reply. Long story short, she had walked in to a store, pretended to be me, gave over my details to the store assistant (no ID was presented, nor was any passwords given over), upgraded my contract, taken out a new phone all in my name and disappeared with it. So at that point, I was left with a new contract to pay for and had a phone basically stolen from me.
I can’t even begin to tell you how upset and angry I was with this situation, more so that the phone company who I have been a loyal customer of for years (it was O2) didn’t want to help me and kept pushing me away and telling me to contact the police, which I did, only for them to also push back and say the phone company is liable for this. For the next three months, we are talking all the way through Christmas and up to the New Year, I battled it out with O2 and guess what? She happened to do it again to me, just before the New Year and this time, it was trying to open a new line on my existing contract. I mean, how poor can O2’s security procedures be to allow this to happen to someone who’s account is already on fraud protection. Is this an inside job? Was the question that kept running through my mind, it must be if she can lift someone’s account from protection so easily or again, poor security checks on O2’s part? Luckily enough, this time, I acted quickly and she wasn’t so successful. I (well, the store manager) was able to stop her, just as the assistant was bagging up the phone and she was getting ready to leave. But, if I hadn’t called up customer services quick enough, she would have walked off with another one of my phones and I would have been left to deal with another fraud case right from scratch again, which trust me, isn’t something that I would wish on anyone, it’s an upsetting, exhausting and time consuming task especially when the phone company doesn’t want to help whatsoever. With my first case, I did the whole lot, reported to the police, reported to the O2 fraud team, reported to customer services and even to their higher complaints team and in the end, still nothing because at every corner of the battle, “it’s your fault” was thrown right back in my face.
Some may say that it is my fault for trusting her and giving the code away and yes, I admit to that, but the service I received from O2 was absolutely appalling and let’s not even go back in to their poor security measures in protecting their customers. I am in a much better place now (got my mortgage and all that, phew!) and this post wasn’t intended to be a ranty one, but more of an advice piece to let you all know that these things can happen to anyone and do happen often. So if I was to give you three tips on protecting yourself against mobile phone fraud, it would be:
If you get a text messages or emails asking you for a code or telling you your security answer/password has been changed or saying you have upgraded your contract or taken out a new phone, ACT IMMEDIATELY and don’t leave it any longer. The likelihood that someone is in a store or online on a computer is trying to access your account is very high and before you know it, the fraudster would have walked off with a brand new phone and new contract in your name.
Extra security measures
Add extra security measures to your account. Be it, an extra question to be asked when accessing your account, adding specific notes to your file or requesting for a particular way that only you know how to access it will definitely help in protecting yourself.
This one may not be for everyone, but changing your number and switching to pay as you go limits the risk as most fraudsters target those who are on contracts and due upgrades. They can just walk in store, pretend to be you (it really is that easy, no joke) and make up some random story about how they lost their phone or sim and need a new one activated and at the same time, they’re due an upgrade and want a new phone, blah blah, all in the space of an hour or less and off they go because store assistants (not all by the way, I’m pretty sure there are some genuine souls out there) just want to sell and make commission, they don’t really care about security of their customers.
That brings me to the end of this post and again, I didn’t intend to make it such a long one, but if I can help at least one person, then it’s all worth it.
Have you dealt with fraud before? If yes (and you’re willing to share), what was your experience like?