Con artist dupes mobile-phone users

  • 2004-11-01
  • From wire reports
TALLINN - Someone posing as an employee of a nonexisting Latvian company has been sending SMS messages to Estonian mobile-phone owners in an attempt to steal their prepaid calling-card codes, the daily Eesti Paevaleht reported.

A number of EMT and Tele2 customers received SMS messages announcing that they had won 2,500 kroons' (160 euros') worth of free calling time from a Latvian company named Incom Service.

In order to receive the award, the person must buy a Tele2 prepaid Smart card with 200 kroons' worth of calling time and reveal the card's code to an Incom Service operator.

"It smells like a plan to cheat people out of calling time, as anyone who knows the secret code could download call time to whatever account," EMT spokesperson Kaja Pino told the newspaper.

The messages are sent from a mobile telephone with a Latvian number, and all calls to that number are answered by a Russian-speaking man identifying himself as an Incom Service operator.

The man, who has not yet been identified, promised that 2,700 kroons-worth of calling time would be downloaded into the mobile-phone owner's account within an hour after revealing the pin code.

"We have a special international company, and the business is in Latvia," he reportedly told Eesti Paevaleht. Inquiries with the Latvian business register revealed that no such company exists in Latvia.

Pino said that EMT had warned the Latvian party to immediately cease using EMT as a false identity.

"If nothing changes, we'll have lawyers and police dealing with it," she added.

Tele2's chief spokesperson in Estonia, Kersti Gorstov, called Income Service a fraud, adding that similar malicious schemes had been used earlier.

"I would like to point out that the code of a prepaid card is the key to the client's money. It must not be revealed to others, just like you wouldn't reveal the PIN code of your bankcard to other persons," Gorstov said.

Tele2 is considering to file for criminal proceedings, as the Estonian consumer protection authority says the Latvian company is guilty of fraud.