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Vodafone text info scam

Written By: - Date published: 3:19 pm, March 3rd, 2012 - 19 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags:

My Vodafone bill this month listed some text “info” payments from 5655 – $6.08 a week for several weeks. I had no idea what it referred to so rang Vodafone to ask. They said it was a service called MobileFun, which I had never heard of. I wasn’t the only person questioning it apparently and there seemed to be no problem taking the amounts off my bill.

I rang the 0800 number listed for MobileFun to enquire how my account had been billed as I have no record of agreeing to it. The call centre in South Sydney said MobileFun was run by  a New Zealand company called Heiss investments. They could not answer how my account had been authorised, and said someone would ring me to discuss. I haven’t heard from anyone.

I looked up Heiss Investments. It has an office registered at Level 20 ASB Tower in downtown Auckland. This is an advertised address for virtual offices. The sole director of the Company is Photis Photiou, who lives in Nicosia, Cyprus.

I looked back in my accounts and found another set of texts from 2434, which had also billed me through my Vodafone account. Vodafone told me this service was called Wordgame. Wordgame took me to another company, Free Msg Limited, represented by Sanjay Kumar and registered at Oswin Griffiths – dfk Limited, Level 4, 52 Symonds Street, Auckland , New Zealand. The sole director (surprise, surprise) is also Photis Photiou, 6 Kolokotroni Street, Nicosia.

This is the address of the office of Ph Photiou and Associates Law Office, which specialises in setting up shelf companies in Cyprus and other well-known tax shelters such as Belize and British Virgin Islands.

I have now discovered that this practice has been going on for years. Like  many others on this post I wondered why Vodafone was billing me on behalf of Photis Photiou. He’s obviously clipping my ticket; but so is Vodafone. I was advised by a Vodafone customer representative:

With all our 3rd party txt messaging services Vodafone has a strict rule when people opt in for a service. The procedure for a customer they must first give their mobile phone number to the service and await a txt message from the service containing their temporary password which they then put into the system in turn subscribing that person to the service.

I’ve never done that. How does Vodafone check? As far as I am concerned I have been billed by Vodafone for a service I never asked for, acknowledged or received.

I think Vodafone should give Photis a ring and check him out. I wonder what other numbers he’s got up his sleeve. Vodafone can’t be that hard up for cash that they have to let this go on.


19 comments on “Vodafone text info scam ”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    Hi Mike, can you give me a contact at Vodafone so I can set up a similar scam please? It seems like a really easy win/win for Vodafone and myself. If I can get your mobile number at some stage, I’ll be pleased to add you as a valuable client. A million vodafone users, $6/user per month, it’s almost (though not quite) as good as printing money electronically.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    I think Vodafone should give Photis a ring and check him out.

    I’d be contacting the police. If you haven’t opted in and they’re taking money from you then it’s theft.

    • Macro 2.1

      the police have people investigating these sorts of scams – just a phone call away.

      • Jimmy 2.1.1

        And as we know, they have time on their hands…

        • Macro

          Actually when I reported a scamming attempt (” we have received complaints that your computer etc etc – please log on and we will down load – to which they got a resounding FO!”) a month or two ago I got a very helpful reply. Again these were coming from Sydney.

  3. tsmithfield 3

    I would also go to the ministry of consumer affairs website where there is a facility to report scams.

  4. Campbell Larsen 4

    “I have now discovered that this practice has been going on for years.”

    Yep – I wrote this for Fleetfm news in 2005 when another scam was doing the rounds:

    Txt Hoaxes – Innovative marketing or manipulative deception?

    Have you ever received a txt message claiming to be from Vodafone or Telecom which promises fifty dollars free credit if you pass the message onto ten others?
    If it sounds almost too good to be true then you would be right – it’s a hoax. I rang Vodafone customer services to check out this too sweet deal before I spent my one dollar – as it turns out hoaxes like this one are often or constantly cropping up. When asked what was being done about the problem Vodafones response was ‘nothing’- a disappointing reply which got me thinking – the only ones who could benefit from the sending of bogus advertising are Vodafone and Telecom and as it is their customers who are suffering as a result, surely they have a responsibility to ensure that people are informed of deceptions involving their businesses. Vodafone customer services seemed to think that contacting all one million customers was unfeasible – despite their willingness to send out bulk txts when it suits them and blockading the recharge menu with other marketing. My suggestion that they use the national media to inform people was met with politeness but skepticism.
    It does not take a genius to realize that we are being deliberately deceived and manipulated – most probably by the marketing departments of those companies that stand to profit from the deception.
    New Zealand has some of the highest cell phone charges in the world – Telecom and Vodafone make huge profits as a result – they have a duty of care to ensure people are informed of hoaxes as they become aware of them, anything less can be viewed as an unofficial endorsement.
    Don’t let them get away with it! If you receive a txt promising free credit check first with your service provider before falling for the deal – chances are it a hoax – if it is ask your service provider what they are doing to prevent further hoaxes and where they think the hoaxes are originating from – since only Vodafone and Telecom could profit from such activity.
    We people must be the conscience of business, for business has none.

    • Vicky32 4.1

      We people must be the conscience of business, for business has none.


  5. DH 5

    Yep these sure have been going on for years. They’re mostly targeted at youngsters & are often run from websites that offer competitions, instant prizes & the likes. Parents often just pay the bill thinking their kids signed up rashly without thinking, the truth is most are straight out scams that don’t ask people to opt in.

    Vodafone get a cut out of every text sent so they love it. I’m quite staggered that it hasn’t been banned, it’s such an obvious rort & it should be illegal for calls to be sent collect like that.

    If anyone gets a big bill of this type get forceful with Vodafone & if need be threaten to take it to Fair Go & the likes. They like the dosh it brings in but the last thing they want is publicity, push hard enough & they’ll usually wipe the bill.

  6. infused 6

    You’ve opted in at one time. There is no other way for this to happen unless you opt in.

    • DH 6.1

      Horseshit pal. Many don’t even have an opt-in menu, they just ask for people’s mobile number. Others hide the fact they charge for the texts behind a myriad of fine print, which incidentally is illegal in NZ. It’s verbotten under the Fair Trading Act.

      These are mostly Aussie scammers who figured out the Commerce Commission years ago, didn’t take long for word to get around the scamming community that NZ is an easy mark.

      • rosy 6.1.1

        Or you get a message on your phone, from a number you don’t know… something like ‘hi, I’m in town’ and if you reply to it you’ve signed up.

        • DH

          Cripes has it got that bad now? That’s what happens when the authorities sit on their butts & do nothing. The Commerce Commission in particular are notorious for letting scams run on & on.

    • jbc 6.2

      “You’ve opted in at one time. There is no other way for this to happen unless you opt in.”

      This is no time for sarcasm.

    • IcI 6.3

      With smart phones and all those wonderful free apps from the market/store, you’ve already opted in by downloading the app.

      Sorry for you!

  7. jbc 7

    Coincidentally my parents just told me they have been bitten by a similar scam fronted by Telecom. Charges for some mobile game that they know nothing about. They are pensioners and unlikely to be playing games with the phone so I doubt they willingly signed up.

    Telecom told them there is nothing that they can do because the other party is a customer of theirs (the scammer) and they need to protect them. There was also an 0800 number that was answered in Australia and further pushing ended up with contacts in China.

    It’s disturbing that Telecom are allowing this to proceed and seem unwilling to do anything about it. The charges are on Telecom’s bill so I’m damned sure they can do something about it. They are complicit in the scam otherwise.

    I suspect they will do nothing until the news media shows Telecom as operating a front for scammers -then the story will be “oh, they were given wrong information. We take this seriously, etc.”

  8. ianmac 8

    I have a prepaid Vodaphone. Two nights ago I received a message saying:
    “AppleIphone Promo. You won $1,800……… e-mail claims to…. include name , mobile no to….. etc”
    I assume that this was a scam and resisted the temptation to reply out of curiosity.
    Glad I didn’t, as I might have signed up for Mobile Fun or something like it.

    • Vicky32 8.1

      Two nights ago I received a message saying:
      “AppleIphone Promo. You won $1,800……… e-mail claims to…. include name , mobile no to….. etc”

      Fortunately, when I got one of those, I couldn’t be bothered firing up the computer, getting on line etc, as it’s a performance! (Dial up). If I had always-on broadband, I might have checked it out…
      Laziness protected me!

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