Guyanese over the past week had taken to social media questioning the reason why they were receiving unsolicited phone calls purportedly from Russia, sometimes at all weird hours in the night.
For many who had answered and even those who did not answer, the phone calls seemed like a scam that they happily laugh at, since as far as they are concerned, they lost nothing more than some sleep time,
But according to a telecommunications security expert at British Telecom (BT), those Guyanese whose phones had received the Russian calls and are treating it as a joke, may soon have to stop laughing, since it is the scammers who will actually have the last laugh.
In an invited comment, the expert (name withheld as requested), the calls that were made to Guyanese is known as the Wangiri Scam – a very sophisticated international scam that is even beating the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and Scotland Yard, among others to the punch.
He explained that the Scam was given its name because it was first started in Japan, and became known as Wagiri (the Japanese word for “One Ring and Cut Off).
(Go and Google the word “Wagiri Scam” if that helps)
According to the FBI and other similar international investigating agencies, the scammers generates more than US$2 billion in profits per year, making more money than even some of the largest banks in the world.
In supporting this notion, the Telecommunication Security expert told this publication that despite stringent efforts by law enforcement agencies over the world, the scammers are almost impossible to stop.
After all, they are suspected to be operating behind computer firewalls under the cover of companies that can be functioning as genuinely going concern.
“These are scammers makes hundreds of millions of dollars per month, and can afford to own multiple large corporations from where they can operate under the cover of being a genuine enterprise”, he said, while adding that “many of the scammers themselves are well-educated people in the upper echelons of society and even hold powerful offices in some cases”.
Interestingly, the calls are not coming only from Russian virtual numbers. As a matter of fact, the scam network also uses non-traceable numbers from Bangladesh, Belarus, Liberia, Romania, Trinidad, and a host of other countries, to execute their crimes.
As such, targeting the figureheads of the Wangiri Phone Scam is almost an elusive pursuit.
Explaining how the scam works, he pointed out that a person’s phone number and details can be easily harvested either by a free App that the scammers themselves have developed and is giving away for free on the internet, and which may have been installed on the victim’s mobile phone.
Interestingly, scammers have seemingly genuine Apps and games for free download on the internet and even in the Play store, or via cracked mobile software.
An unsuspecting person using the free App on their phone (any from dozens of Apps) would not realize that what they really have a Trojan Horse.
Nonetheless, as the App is run on each mobile phone it collects information and creates digital packets to send out.
In this case, once the App has harvested thousands of numbers and details from a large number of phones, it collectively sends the harvested numbers and details back to its benefactors on the “Dark Web”.
These numbers and information can either sold on the black market, or the scammer can then use a cyber-bot to dial those phone numbers at a rate of around 3000 Phone calls at the same time, or simply about 30,000 calls per minute.
If the call was answered by the victim, a portal immediately opens up and route the call charges to a third premium number which would then hold the call for several hours even though the call may have been disconnected after one second.
Alternatively, if the caller has a Trojan software on their phone the bot from that App will automatically answer for one-tenth of a second via a cyber backdoor, while the unsuspecting victim would simply see a missed call on their phone screen.
If the call is returned, the situation is basically the same.
Therefore, the callers could have already been compromised even when if they did not answer the call themselves.
In all three scenarios, the bot will connect to a server with a revolving IP address, and then reroute the call to a real high cost receiving number, and just let the call run against the Phone number; – the longer the better.
Then through the scammers’ local telephone company, bits and bits of seconds of billing request will be made, sometimes every single month, or even for several years.
Those request would then usually turn into international payment requests for terminated calls that were supposedly made through the customer from GTT or Digicel.
This can then result in very small amounts of deductions being made from a person’s mobile phone balance over a long period of time, without them actually realizing it.
In order words, you will either end up with a large phone bill for which you knows nothing about, or suddenly realizing your mobile phone credit (balance) becoming depleted (after auto adjustments) without any logical explanation as to where it went.
In such a case, your phone number within a 3 to 5-year span, would have silently given away thousands of dollars, which will, in essence, benefit the scammers for those fictitious calls.
In the end, the ordinary telephone user becomes nothing more than a confused loser, while the phone scammers walk away smiling – often without ever being caught.
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Asked how someone can avoid falling a victim to this scam or rather what they can do to protect themselves from this scam, he listed a series of measures which are somewhat simple but for which a potential victim must pay key attention in order to apply his recommendations.
(But because of the lengthy aspects of his guidelines, we will properly document and post his recommendations in a separate article here on the Guyana Guardian and on our Facebook Page by Friday or Saturday morning).