Scamwatch: new mobile phone con

You could be automatically billed for visiting a website...

Updated: 
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Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, the latest mobile phone fraud, which involves crooks tricking users into visiting sites containing code that charges users via their mobile numbers.

How does it work?

Victims of so-called direct-to-bill payment fraud are lured in with a series of pop-up adverts that eventually lead them to a website that charges a fee for access.

They generally only realise they have been scammed when they receive a text saying something like: "You've paid £5 for one entry to our website".

Direct-to-bill online services allow consumers to pay for services using their mobile phones, and are often used for charity donations, for example.

However, security company Malwarebytes is warning mobile users that fraudsters are now abusing the system by tricking people into visiting the sites.

Christopher Boyd, a malware intelligence analyst at Malwarebytes, said: "Victims may be convinced they have not even interacted with the page in terms of clicking on buttons, filling in forms or signing up to something."

How can I avoid being caught out?

These links go through a series of redirects before eventually landing at "one-time use" URLs that are simply blank pages if you try to retrace your steps.

This makes it difficult to determine exactly how the scam works, although Boyd and his colleagues suspect the criminals use hidden payment buttons.

Their advice for those keen to avoid being taken in includes using mobile ad-blocker software such as Adblock Plus.

It is also sensible to ignore any pop-up ads that appear on your mobile phone.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

Direct-to-bill payment services such as Payforit are regulated by PhonepayPlus, the UK's premium rate phone-paid services regulator.

If you are caught out by a direct-to-bill scam, you can therefore call its helpline on 0800 500212.

Alternatively, you can also report all types of fraud to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

You are unlikely to get your money back, but at least this way you can help to prevent more people getting caught out.

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