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article imageThe Website that combats Phone Fraud Special

By Alexander Baron     Oct 9, 2013 in Crime
London - There are all manner of predators out there, and all manner of people who are fighting them. Meet the man who monitors phone crooks.
Now that most of the population walks around with phones in their pockets, phone crime has boomed. It isn't only on the streets that you need to beware though. True, nobody is going to physically steal your phone over the Web, but there are plenty of scammers out there who if you give them the chance will use it to rob you in other ways.
Although both law enforcement agencies and netizens dispense advice to the unwary, are there any websites out there devoted specifically to combating phone crime? I found unknownphone.com by accident - literally because I don't have a phone. Apart from a landline! The guy who runs it lives in my neck of the woods, and although he didn't want to divulge his full name, he did agree to explain how his baby came about.
Alexander Baron: Thank you for taking the time to speak to us. Can I ask who you are, sir?
Alberto: My name is Alberto, I work as a software engineer for a company based in London.
AB: What inspired you to start this service?
A: A few years ago I received a text stating I was entitled to be paid up to £3,000 for an accident I had. The only thing I had to do in order to get my money was call them back. This was very suspicious as thankfully I've never had an accident. It was clearly a scam. I looked on Google to find out the origin of the text and the company name, but I found nothing.
The phone number given in the text was a special number, so special rates would apply if I called them back to ask about the text or to find out where they got my phone number - about £1.20 per minute.
I realized a lot of people might be getting the same text at the same time as me. Maybe some of them would call the number just because they were curious, or because they had actually had an accident. So I started to work on a website where users could share their experience, tips and warn others about these kinds of phone numbers... So this is how unknownphone.com started.
AB: You have very little text on your homepage; do you deal only with mobile phones, all phones and/or anything else?
A: We deal with all phones, mobiles and landlines. Calls and text.
AB: Are you planning to expand?
A: Yes, our aim is to help users anywhere in the world.
AB: What success stories do you have, ie have you seen any crooks prosecuted or are you solely an advisory/preventative service?
A: We have been online for more than two years and we've seen lot of different scams. Currently one of the most common in the UK is receiving a text from an unknown phone number asking you to call back as soon as possible.
If you call back it turns out you pay a really high price per minute and you are not even warned about this charge. So they try to keep you on the phone as much they can.
After a certain amount of time, when you are tired of wasting your time, you just hang up. At the end of month when you get the phone bill is when you realize what actually happened.
Thanks to the website we have seen lots of these phone numbers stop their activity.
AB: What sort of people do you come across and what sort of scams?
A: Normally it's a user who has received an unwanted call/text and wants to verify the identity of the caller or simply just check if it's safe to call a number back.
AB: The website has a domain and presumably a paid host. Can I ask who funds it and why?
A: The website and the hosting is paid by the community through donations and advertising. We started as a free open website with the intention to help users to fight phone scams and we will always remain free and open.
We will never ask a user to provide any personal data such as name, surname, email...in order to just register on the website. In our opinion the fastest way to share the information is just displaying it, without any barrier between the user and the information.
AB: If you accept donations, how can people donate?
A: We do accept donations, although the donate button appears only when you submit a comment to the website. It's where we understand the user is fully using the website and its resources. Asking for donations on any webpage seemed too obtrusive for us and it wouldn't be good from the point of the user experience.
AB: What countries do you cover and are you planning to expand the service?
A: Currently the website operates in 11 countries and languages. Starting a website in a new country - with all its potential language limitations - takes a lot of time, although we hope one day to be able to help any user in any language in the world.
More about unknown phone dot com, unknownphone, Alberto
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