Mobile customers in the Middle East and specifically Qatar have been warned by service provider Qtel to be on the alert for a highly-sophisticated phishing fraud which uses a blend of next generation technology to convince them that they’ve won a European lottery, in a bid to steal their bank and credit card numbers.
The fraudster first sends users an SMS message, telling them they’ve won a grand prize in a European lottery, and providing them with an international number – starting with the digits 00 42 366 – to contact.
Callers who dial the number are put through to an automated voice response, in Arabic, which tells them they will be sent a significant sum of prize money under secure transfer.
The automated answering service takes the caller through a number of questions, including questions related to family and bank details, choice of credit card, and credit card number.
"A number of factors indicate this is a particularly sophisticated fraud," said a Qtel spokesman.
Although Qtel has blocked the original numbers and traced the call origin, the fraudsters have quickly switched the number combination, and continued to send texts to Qatar-based residents.
"In total, over 20 number variations have been detected and blocked thus far," said Adel Al Mutawa, a director of Qtel. “The sophistication of this new fraud, and the fact that it is being targeted directly at the people of Qatar, reflects the growing challenges posed by international fraudsters using Internet and mobile phone technology,” he pointed out.
The scam calls appear to originate in Liechtenstein – a Western European nation which has a population of less than 36 000 people – and this suggests that call routing is being used.
Qtel has cautioned customers not to fall for such lottery offers, and to never share bank details or financial passwords with persons unknown via text or phone.