Cellphone woes ongoing

22:33, Jul 23 2013
phone hacking
OUT OF CREDIT: The reason why Alison Latimer's prepaid phone credit was disappearing has been solved - but the problem is still occurring.

Spammers continue to target a Timaru woman's prepaid cellphone.

Alison Latimer first noticed her credit dropping earlier this month and notified Telecom when she noticed someone had been text messaging an overseas number from her number at 80c a text.

Her account was credited later that day after The Herald made enquiries, but the problem is ongoing despite Telecom earlier confirming a fault in the system had left some customers short of credit because of a billing error.

It was initially explained there was problem with the network so instead of registering the text in New Zealand, it was registering overseas and was charged as a roving text rather than a domestic text.

However, the explanation did nothing to calm Ms Latimer's anxiety as her phone kept losing credit.

''How are they going to stop them using my number? An apology is great but the fact is an explanation has not been forthcoming and nothing has been fixed. I can't have this going on forever.''


The Herald went back to Telecom with Ms Latimer's concerns and was told her phone had been targeted by spammers.

''Offshore spammers have found a way to use Telecom mobile numbers as a conduit for spam messages. As a result, the Telecom customers who the number belongs to have been incorrectly charged international SMS rates for the messages sent.''

Telecom said it had processes in place to identify spamming, block the spammers from using partners' networks and gateways, and credit customer accounts as soon as possible. Telecom said no customers had been left out of pocket.

''We can also assure customers that at no point have their personal details or text messages been accessed or viewed. The spammers are merely choosing these number ranges at random to use as a conduit for sending messages, the spammers are not even aware of whether the numbers are valid or not.

''Unfortunately, identifying and crediting these accounts can take a few hours which may result in some prepay customers receiving low balance alerts as was the case with Alison.

''We apologise for the concern or confusion this has caused and can reassure customers that their phones are safe and they will not be left out of pocket.'' 

Ms Latimer said Telecom's explanation was ''ridiculous''.

''I want them to fix it. Are they going to have to change my number as somebody is using it?''

Telecom would not elaborate but said it was working on a long-term technical fix to the problem.

The Timaru Herald