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Monday, September 27, 2021

Qatar residents advised to protect themselves from phone scams

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Updated to include more information from Ooredoo and Snopes.com

As the number of complaints from Qatar residents about phone scams increases, the nation’s telecom providers and ministry is advising mobile users to take extra precautions to protect themselves.

This week, an Al Raya article discussed the increasingly common “one-ring scam,” in which mobile users receive a missed call from an unknown international number.

Those who call the unknown number back could lose money and give up valuable personal information, a representative of Qatar’s Ministry of Information and Technology (ictQatar) has warned.

Speaking to Doha News, a ministry representative said that when the missed calls are returned – particularly those with country codes from Latvia, Senegal and Belarus – some $15 to $30 can be charged to the mobile user each minute.

He added that within three seconds, hackers can also gain access to personal bank accounts, statements, photographs, contacts and everything else registered on the user’s mobile phone.

However, according to Snopes.com, a website that debunks common internet rumors and urban legends, simply calling a phone number back won’t expose a mobile user to this type of fraud:

“That sort of information would be compromised only if another party somehow hacked into the user’s phone (via a malicious app or other code) and/or the user actively did something to enable access to it. (In either case, there’s no obvious reason why such a scheme would require the victim to place a call to the information-stealer rather than the other way around.)”

Whose responsibility?

Despite efforts, keeping up with mobile scam developers has been difficult, the ictQatar representative said:

“Although the scams started happening during Ramadan, we’ve been receiving increased complaints from phone users. We are fully aware of the problem and direct each person concerned to our telecom consumer protection department to blacklist scam numbers, but the numbers keep changing through the use of internet applications such as Skype and Facebook.

But we can’t personally do anything about stopping the calls, it must come from service providers.”

The main international numbers to look out for are those beginning with +371, +375 and +221, although others could appear at any time.

Telecom providers Ooredoo and Vodafone said they are also trying to stem the tide, but obviously cannot block all calls with these country codes.

Both companies told Doha News that the best way to avoid getting scammed is to not call back unknown numbers.

A representative at Ooredoo has stated that they are taking the necessary steps needed to put an end to scams:

“Ooredoo is actively working with police services and with overseas operators to trace and report these numbers using the latest scanning technology to identify suspicious multiple calls.

We are also urging customers to report any suspicious numbers by dialing 111, so that we can take immediate action.”

Ooredoo currently offers a mobile application that allows users to block unwanted SMSes only, but has said that their technical team is working on updating the app so unwanted phone calls can be blocked too.

Going on the offensive

For iPhone users, the manufacturer has provided instructions on blocking numbers online here; for Samsung users, the information can be found here; and Nokia users, here.

There are also several free apps that can be downloaded to help, including Truecaller, a four-star app available on Android and iPhones that provides a caller ID function and a number blocking option.

General information on how to protect your mobile phone from receiving spam and scam can be found on ictQATAR’s website here.

Have you been affected by scam calls? Thoughts?

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Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
7 years ago

A little bit of internet digging about the so-called “One Ring Scam” and you can easily find out that the there is a lot of unfounded misinformation being circulated. According to Snopes.com:

It’s certainly not true, as stated in the example cited above, that the mere act of calling a particular number would allow a phone user’s contacts and banking information to be stolen by someone else. That sort of information would be compromised only if another party somehow hacked into the user’s phone (via a malicious app or other code) and/or the user actively did something to enable access to it. (In either case, there’s no obvious reason why such a scheme would require the victim to place a call to the information-stealer rather than the other way around.)
Read more at http://www.snopes.com/fraud/telephone/onering.asp#pZzsXF4YklwkdPdY.99

I don’t see why ICT Qatar is helping to spread false panic about untrue rumors.

Shabina921
Shabina921
7 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

We thought it was a bit crazy when we read it in Al Raya, which is why we double-checked with ictQatar. Our assumption was that hackers use the mobile phone user’s connection to the internet to do their damage.

That said, will add in what Snopes has to say about the matter until we get more clarification.

٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶
٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶
7 years ago

“He added that within three seconds, hackers can also gain access to
personal bank accounts, statements, photographs, contacts and everything
else registered on the user’s mobile phone” – thank you “ministry representative” I haven’t laughed so hard in a very long time.

What an utter load of nonsense and misinformation.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
7 years ago

Exactly. It’s entirely likely that when you return these calls you’ll get charged an excessive amount.

But to suggest that this is some dangerous hacking scam? That’s absurd and idiotic. I can see why “Ministry Representative” wants to remain anonymous.

BBCA
BBCA
7 years ago

hahah I thought crac cocaine was illegal in Qatar. It appears that some one has gotten thier hands on some. Doha News should really vet these stories before they post them. They are going to destroy their own credibility.

Joson John
Joson John
7 years ago

My Dad Used to get calls from +371 atleast once a week around 10.30pm to 12am…

Big Biker
Big Biker
7 years ago
Reply to  Joson John

Same with me, I’ve had two +371 calls in the last ten days, at 11pm and 6 am. I never call back as I don’t recognise the numbers. As mentioned by Ben how do they get our numbers.

Sloqat
Sloqat
7 years ago

Got one of those 2 weeks ago when I was travelling in India. We actually have a supplier from Latvia so I called back. The phone was ringing for a good 2-3 minutes (I was distracted) before I realized the timer on my phone’s screen was counting the duration of the call! I realized I have been listening to a recording of a ringing tone for 3 minutes! And yes my phone bill went from a regular 300 QAR/month to almost a thousand…
That’s how this really works. They get you to call back and then use all sorts of tricks to keep you on the line.

BBCA
BBCA
7 years ago
Reply to  Sloqat

Uhhh Who lets the phone ring for 3 minutes? After 10 rings hang up brotha… they must be busy. You can call them back later. Sorry you got scammed.

Sloqat
Sloqat
7 years ago
Reply to  BBCA

Fully agree. But I was distracted at the time doing a few things at once – so yes I am partially guilty.

CeePeeEm
CeePeeEm
7 years ago
Reply to  Sloqat

What call details did the bill show for your “almost a thousand” Riyal phone bill? You should have been going through each and every call of that month, I suppose, if this is TRUE!!

Sloqat
Sloqat
7 years ago
Reply to  CeePeeEm

It showed a long (roaming) call to Latvia – I thought that this was obvious.

CeePeeEm
CeePeeEm
7 years ago
Reply to  Sloqat

Apparently you paid for a call to a premium overseas rate number where the intention was to keep you on line as long as possible in order to get the maximum payment from you. Or, you were connected to a lengthy recorded message, or held in a continuing call queue. The rates
for these calls are around USD 30/- per minute, I understand.

Guest
Guest
7 years ago
Reply to  Sloqat

300 QAR to thousand !!! sure !?!? do u work in doha news ?

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago

I’ve known about this for at least 7 years, why are they warning people now. QTel back then said there was nothing to do as they have not broken any laws in Qatar and have to charge the account holders for making the calls.
Ignore the stuff about hackers getting access to all your details, what nonesense. Does anyone actually do any screening of candidates before they are recruited or appointed to these positions????

Saeed Ahmad Khan
Saeed Ahmad Khan
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

I dont trust ur comments

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago

You are learning. Trust no one, not the leaders and especially those that try to sell you religion.

Yacine
Yacine
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

What is even more shocking is that the guy talking this nonsense is a representative of the main technical body of the country. Now we know why hackers like to target Qatar. They know they will be able to play freely with the network.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
7 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

It is disturbing that the spokesperson for the ICT regulator in Qatar seems to lack even basic knowledge about ICT.

Ben
Ben
7 years ago

Other networks around the world are able to block these numbers, they dont just try and call here. They know they can.
Also, how do they get hold of everyones number? My guess is that someone in Ooreedo is giving numbers out (not to the scammers, but they are then able to get hold of them somehow).

greg
greg
7 years ago
Reply to  Ben

Not only ooredoo, you go to a shop, they ask for your phone number…
I keep on receiving from City center, Intercontinental, LAgoona and other I dont even remember.
Where could we report them???

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
7 years ago
Reply to  greg

If you download the Ooredoo app to your phone it has a “Block SMS” function. You type in the sender’s number or name and it will (should, it doesn’t always work) block messages from that ID.

It was the constant messages from InterContinental Doha that prompted me to start blocking these messages. Don’t businesses realize that they what they are doing isn’t attracting customers, but is instead driving them away?

I don’t know if Vodafone offers a similar service.

greg
greg
7 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

thanks!

Shirin
Shirin
7 years ago

I receive daily calls from +374. Blocking doesn’t help. I’m guessing the scammers continuously generate new numbers from which to call.

Altaf Patel
Altaf Patel
7 years ago
Reply to  Shirin

download truecaller from playstore or itunes. it notifies you about such spam calls. It basically collects feedback from users about spam numbers and accordingly store them to their spam database.

Saeed Ahmad Khan
Saeed Ahmad Khan
7 years ago

Please download clean master from playstore. Every thing will be fine

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
7 years ago

Do you work for ICTQatar by any chance? If not, you should try putting in your resume there. You would fit right in with the anonymous representative and his friends.

Saeed Ahmad Khan
Saeed Ahmad Khan
7 years ago
Reply to  Deepak Babu

Vote for me mr simpson

Saeed Ahmad Khan
Saeed Ahmad Khan
7 years ago
Reply to  Deepak Babu

By the way. Try it out and see the result. I did and the calls stopped and my mobile is as fast as a ferrari.

Yacine
Yacine
7 years ago

Clean Master or whatever app has nothing to do with the issue mentioned in the article. Are you the anonymous representative of ictQatar mentioned above?

Chilidog
Chilidog
7 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

I don’t think the poor guy realizes you’re making fun of him….. he gave you an up vote!

Yacine
Yacine
7 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

lolll

Chilidog
Chilidog
7 years ago

I’m sorry, but if you get scammed like this (or are so bored or insecure that you must call back every missed call), then you deserve to part with your money. #naturalselectioninaction

BBCA
BBCA
7 years ago

Has anyone ever picked up the phone to answer a number from Dubai only to hear a simulated explicit sexual act occurring on the other end? What is up with that?

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago
Reply to  BBCA

You lucky ba&@*#d!

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
7 years ago
Reply to  BBCA

Are you sure it was simulated?

Yacine
Yacine
7 years ago

“He added that within three seconds, hackers can also gain access to
personal bank accounts, statements, photographs, contacts and everything
else registered on the user’s mobile phone.”

This is a joke. I challenge the NSA to steal my bank account from a phone call, let alone some amateur hackers from Senegal. There is nothing you can steal from the phone in a phone call apart from the conversation itself if you record it and the usual metadata that goes with the call (phone numbers, call duration, location, etc.). What is even more hilarious is that this “representative” said photographs can be stolen in 3 seconds! Now let’s assume you can steal a photo as this guy is saying, with the standard bitrate of a phone call, you will need an hour to download a good-quality image like the ones we now have on our smartphones.

If this guy is really a representative of ictQatar, then this shows how amateurish the work of some institutions here is. One wonders why these people are targeting Qatar in particular. They seem to have an idea about the level of technical knowledge here.

Yacine
Yacine
7 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

I was just going through some comments and some people pointed out the same thing. At least I am not the only one who discovered this representative needs to be fired asap or at least sent for a 2-year training in technology before being allowed to speak again:)

Saffa
Saffa
7 years ago

Is any one else also getting unsolicited financial services calls? Got some over the last few days, didn’t answer them until this morning as I was distracted and just hit accept. Calls only show 4 numbers generally, +20 xx and +30 xx. They try to launch into a long spiel but cut the person short and hung up. Needless to say, most of the time I don’t answer my phone, unless the number of the caller is in my phone or its a local number.

SMH at the disinformation spread by the ictQatar bloke. C’mon those of us with a little bit of technical nous know this cannot be done, but you as a government body are supposed to provide proper information and reassurance to your people, not sow panic!

Altaf Patel
Altaf Patel
7 years ago

not sure how much true it is that a phone call still data from phone ! huge chunk of money will shortly cut.

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