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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 02:40 GMT
Text scam warning for consumers
Person texting
One con involved an "I love you" text message
Scams using e-mail, text messaging and faxes are increasingly ripping off consumers, the UK Government has warned.

Unscrupulous firms often use bogus prize draws and special offers to entice recipients to reply, the Department of Trade and Industry has said.

The growing number of people with the internet and mobile phones has raised concern that the problem is increasing.

There is particular concern that because of the popularity of texting among children, they could often be the victims of cons.

Text scam awareness
Premium rate lines usually begin 090
Premium reverse texts usually have a 4 or 5 digit code number to reply to
All premium rate services should tell you the price
Most phone companies can bar certain calls
The Telephone Preference Service can stop unsolicited texts
Source: Icstis
In one example dealt with by premium rate watchdog Icstis, mobile phone owners received the message "I fancy you."

It then invited the person to call a premium rate number without making clear the call charges.

In another scam, hotel and restaurant owners were asked to fax copies of their brochures and menus to a potential client. The fax number turned out to be a premium rate line.

Children targeted

Some people targeted by a text message scam reported they had received the same message up to 40 times in one day.

Spotting a scam
The approach is unsolicited
There is a short time to claim a prize
A processing or management fee is demanded
You have to buy something, or phone a premium line, to obtain the prize
The source of the promotion is overseas
They want credit card or bank details
You only get a reward by getting others to join a scheme
Source: DTI
The DTI is encouraging people who think they may have fallen victim to a scam to contact the Office of Fair Trading, their local trading standards office or Icstis.

Consumer Minister Melanie Johnson said: "Every day, people throughout the UK open their mail, turn on their computers or switch on their mobile phones to learn that they've won "an exciting prize" in a draw, lottery or some other promotion.

"While much of the marketing conducted in this way is legitimate, unfortunately it also includes examples which are misleading or untrue.

"All too often those people taken in by scams make the mistake of being too trusting and lose money as a result."

New rules

A European directive which came into force in the UK in August was designed to combat unwanted e-mails.

Messages should make it clear in the title what they are so the recipient can delete it straight away if they wish.

Stricter rules on the sending of spam will be introduced next year. This will require prior consent from the recipient before most spam is sent out.

Under the Data Protection Act, companies collecting the e-mail addresses of visitors to their websites must make clear any intention to use or disclose the address for marketing purposes.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Caroline Bayley
"The regulator has received a huge increase in complaints"
The BBC's Max Foster
"You don't really know where these messages are coming from"
See also:

08 Oct 02 | Business
06 Nov 02 | Technology
28 Oct 02 | Technology
25 Jul 02 | Business
22 May 02 | Business
09 May 02 | UK
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