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Three UK Warns of Mobile Phone Based Scams, Smishing and Wangiri

Monday, Jul 30th, 2018 (10:31 am) - Score 57,518

Mobile operator Three UK has warned about a wave of mobile phone-based scams, which is seeing fraudsters use “new tricks” to fuel Smishing (SMS Phishing) and Wangiri (one ring and cut) style scams that aim to steal personal information from customers across all major Mobile Network Operators (MNO).

No doubt everybody reading this will have already experienced the annoyance of traditional SMS spam and nuisance calls. Most of those merely reflect unwanted marketing messages and Three UK already has a special firewall in place to analyse incoming traffic and block suspect content. Customers can also report suspicious messages for free by forwarding them to 7726 or 37726, while nuisance calls can be reported to the same number by simply texting CALL and the number in question.

However, Three UK has warned that mobile users are increasingly also being targeted by a new generation of scams (or a twist on some older methods), which tend to be criminal in intent (fraudulent) and often aim to steal your personal details and / or money.


Smishing (short for SMS Phishing) is a growing trend whereby scammers attempt to trick people into divulging personal information via a text message. In recent months Three has spotted further sophisticated Smishing scams which asked customers to input their payment details onto copycat websites. Scammers are able to target mobile customers by using publicly available number ranges for each provider.

Whilst Three’s security team continue to monitor for suspicious activity and take the necessary actions to block content and contact at-risk customers, the mobile network is also offering the following proactive tips to help its customers:

* Do not submit any personal details when requested to do so via text message
* Delete any suspicious messages without opening links
* If you have already entered your bank details after receiving a text message, contact your bank immediately and cancel your card while monitoring your account for unusual activity
* Do not give out any personal information to anyone claiming to be calling from your bank on an unknown number. Always hang up, and call your bank direct to check if they need to speak to you
* Contact Three if you think you may have received a smishing message – reporting any suspicious message to the free of charge number 7726


Wangiri (literally translated as ‘one ring and cut’ in Japanese, where it first originated) is a scam that involves a fraudster calling a mobile phone number at random, hanging up after one or two rings, and therefore encouraging the recipient to call the number back. These numbers are often from an automated system resulting in a dramatic increase in such calls and are usually internationally-based meaning a customer could receive a charge for returning the call.

Since identifying the scam Three has implemented a new intelligence system to proactively monitor and protect customers, successfully blocking millions of numbers known to be used for Wangiri and saving its customers hundreds of thousands of pounds. Three is alerting customers to take the following action if they receive an unexpected call from an unknown international number to avoid falling victim to the scam:

* Do not answer the phone
* Do not call the number back
* Never share any personal information

Bank Fraud via Mobile Phones

Whilst ‘Smishing’ is one tactic deployed by fraudsters to commit bank fraud, there are other means too. Since May 2018, there has been a rise across all UK networks of bank fraud and in particular ‘port-out’ fraud which sees scammers contacting providers and requesting to change a mobile number to a new mobile network, before using it to empty victims bank accounts.

Number porting is a genuine service offered by networks to allow customers to keep an existing mobile number and transfer it onto a new SIM when moving to a new network. As a particularly hard scam to monitor, Three is encouraging anyone who receives a notification or message about a PAC Code or number swapping request that they did not initiate it themselves to immediately contact their network so they can terminate the number porting and protect their mobile phone accounts with passwords as an extra security measure.

According to Alex Ammoune, Lead Fraud Risk Specialist at Three: “Whilst we have seen an increase in Smishing and Wangiri activity this year, these fraudulent tactics are in no-way limited to the Three network. Fraudsters are an ongoing problem faced by all UK phone networks, but we hope that by sharing tips and guidance it may help prevent our customers falling victim.”

Protecting our customers from fraud and mobile scams remains a top priority and we continue to invest in new measures to help monitor and protect them. We want our customers to be free to have a fun and hassle-free mobile experience, but we also want to them remain vigilant and one step ahead of the scammers,” added Alex.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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7 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Alan Loughlin says:

    If abroad what number do we text to report scams?

  2. Avatar photo Brian says:

    This happened to me at 2 am

  3. Avatar photo Adolf Click bait says:

    Callback scammers have been operating in the UK since the inception of premium rate numbers

  4. Avatar photo A says:

    This is news? I’ve had wangiri calls since I joined three years ago

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Not everybody knows about them or the latest twists on older ploys (if they did then it wouldn’t be a problem anymore) and the important thing when it comes to scams is to keep raising awareness, as Three UK have done. I make no apology for helping operators to highlight fraudulent scams against consumers and will do so again in the future.

  5. Avatar photo Zaza says:

    Three UK now going through Counti Court for criminal damage to sold by Three UK mobile phones

  6. Avatar photo Gabby Klint says:

    Looking to fix your credit score permanently and get that loan you want so bad? Contact cyberspyne@gmailcom for your professional hacking services; social account cellphones tracking, relationship and special investigation, locating missing persons.

Comments are closed

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