Qatar Telecom (Qtel) yesterday warned customers about a highly sophisticated fraud attempting to steal personal details, including bank and credit card numbers, from residents here.
The fraudsters operate by sending people a text message telling them they have 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 by electronic transfer. The automated answering service takes the caller through a number of 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. Although Qtel has blocked the original numbers and traced the origin of the message, the fraudsters have quickly changed the number combination and continued to send texts to Qatar-based residents. In total, over 20 number variations have been detected and blocked so far.
“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. Qtel continues to be vigilant and we again advise our customers to be careful when responding to communication from people they do not know,” said Adel Al Mutawa, Executive Director, Group Communications, Qtel.
In addition, the fact that the calls appear to originate in Liechtenstein — a Western European nation which has a population of less than 36,000 people — suggests that call routing is being used. Finally, the automated response system appears highly professional, with a female voice speaking in clear Arabic and a series of number chimes and tones used throughout the call.
Qtel has warned customers not to fall for lottery offers and to never share bank details or financial passwords with unknown persons on phone.
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