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Patrick Jordan, our researcher who seems to live in places on the Internet where NOBODY should go, has begun to notice a trend. Billing through cell phone accounts is a growing vector for social engineers.

Beware of any online contest, quiz or survey that asks for your cell phone number.

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After you take the quiz, you see: “Enter your cell number to get your test results.”

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You put in your cell phone number. They send you the PIN number to see your results via text message and they also enter your “Amazing Facts” subscription for $9.99 per month. The “Amazing Facts” subscription text isn’t in bold face type, which could cause a casual reader to ignore it in his or her burning haste to see the test results.

Simple? Yes. Dishonest? Well, let’s just say it is certainly aimed at those who don’t read the fine print.

In many cases, there is ample warning in the “terms of use” for what you’re signing up for. Here’s an example from the above page (emphasis ours):

“Summary terms: This is an auto renewing subscription service that will continue until canceled anytime by texting STOP to short code 70438. Available to users over 18 for $9.99 per month charged on your wireless account or deducted from your prepaid balance for 2 clues & 1 quiz per week on T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, Nextel, Virgin Mobile USA, U.S. Cellular, Cellular One, Cincinnati Bell, Centennial Wireless, and Unicel.”

Patrick also pointed out another ugly possibility here. Someone who knows your cell phone number could sign you up. Your recourse is to cancel the subscription once you notice it, which will be when you get your next cell phone bill, assuming you actually read your cell phone bill (you’d better start if you don’t.)

If you don’t notice it immediately, the “Amazing Facts” folks might give you some push back since they list 30 days as the limit for getting your money back:

“Call for your money back within first 30 days of service if you are not satisfied.”

So, if you start getting text messages full of “Amazing Facts” other than those that your friends send – check your cell phone bill.

Thanks Patrick

Tom Kelchner