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Communications: a fraud of horrifying simplicity

Editorial Staff

Users who downloaded copies of Angry Birds and other software for their mobile phones from websites other than Google's Play (formerly Android Market) have in some cases found themselves being charged GBP15 every time the open the app on a phone.

A scam called RuFraud affected several unauthorised distribution channels and it raised almost GBP28,000 before being stopped just days after launch.

The fraud was simple: unauthorised copies of the apps were modified to include an SMS shortcode. Every time the app was opened, the phone sent three SMSs to a premium rate number, charging the customer GBP5 each time.

Industry regulator PhonepayPlus says that it has blocked the funds before it was distributed to A1 Agregator (sic) Limited and imposed a civil penalty on the company of GBP50,000.

The software hid its activity and did not include the sent SMSs in the phone's logs so customers either did not find out until their bills arrived or wondered where their pre-paid credit was going.

The blocked funds will be refunded to customers.

It's not a money laundering seizure but it is nevertheless a very swift and effective action.