Ooredoo has said it is investigating what it suspects to be a local gang running a phone scam in an attempt to defraud residents.
The country’s largest telecom firm said in a statement that it has received reports of its customers being called by individuals who are falsely pretending to be representatives of Ooredoo and other local companies.
Appearing to be calling from a number within Qatar, these individuals tell their would-be victims that they’ve just won a major competition. In order to claim their prize, however, they must send in the codes from Ooredoo’s Hala prepaid wireless service vouchers as “processing fees.”
Ooredoo said it is not running any such competition and would never request its customers’ Hala voucher numbers over the phone. The company is reminding customers never to provide their financial information or other personal details.
“We ask our customers to be cautious when receiving calls of this nature,” Ooredoo spokesperson Fatima Sultan Al Kuwari said in a statement.
The company did not state how many of its customers had been affected or what losses had been incurred. However, Ooredoo added that it was working with local authorities to track down the perpetrators as well as supporting several measures to help prevent its customers from being victimized.
This is not the first time that a local telecom company has issued an alert about its customers being targeted by fraudsters.
Last summer, both Ooredoo and Vodafone warned of an increasingly common “one-ring” scam, in which customers received a missed call from an unknown international number.
If they called the number – often originating from Latvia, Senegal or Belarus – back, ictQatar said residents risked being charged massive long-distance fees and unknowingly surrendering access to personal bank accounts, statements, photographs, contacts and everything else registered on the user’s mobile phone.
However, some observers cast doubt on the suggestion that simply calling a phone number back won’t expose a mobile user to this type of fraud.
What to do
Additionally, mobile customers can avoid receiving unwanted SMS messages numbers using the “Block List” feature in the latest version of the Ooredoo app, which is available for free via Google Play or the iTunes Store.
Residents are also advised to avoid answering calls or responding to text messages from international and local numbers that they do not recognize.
It also offered several guidelines:
- Don’t display or give your mobile number to retailers, restaurants or websites;
- Don’t provide your mobile number when you participate in surveys or filling out random questionnaires;
- Ask questions if you have any doubts or don’t understand why a company needs to have your mobile number when you buy a service or product; and
- Check incoming spam messages to see if there is an option to stop receiving future messages through an opt-out procedure.