Spanish police bust crime gang using premium numbers

Spanish police bust crime gang using premium numbers

By Andy Gent

Interesting news from Barcelona where the local police force have managed to crack a crime syndicate that had been using a premium number scam to defraud mobile operators.

Premium number frauds are not uncommon.  Typically, fraudsters will purchase premium numbers in international countries and then steal phones to order.  They will then connect the phones to these premium numbers indefinitely until the operator cuts the call off.  If the phone is on contract, thousands of dollars’ worth of fraud can be committed in a matter of hours.  If the phone is on pre-pay, the phone is used until the credit runs out.  This is not an uncommon scam in any organisation where large numbers of phones are returned with credit on them and is very lucrative for the fraudsters.

In this case the level of sophistication is extraordinary.  Criminals have used false websites and IMSI manipulation to create a web of corruption.  The gang appears to have been stealing phones to order and then relying on the delay between the resolution of roaming bills between operators to generate a quick €500,000 in revenues.

Fortunately the Barcelona police have caught up with the group, but with the world of mobile communications visiting Barcelona next month for Mobile World Congress it is a timely reminder that, amongst the new phones, operators and tariffs, mobile is still the target for an obscene amount of crime.