Qtel warned its customers about a highly sophisticated fraud, which uses a blend of next generation technology to convince Qatar residents that they've won a European lottery, only to attempt to steal personal details including bank and credit card numbers.
The fraud operates by sending people an SMS message, telling them they've won a grand prize in a European lottery, and providing them with an international number.
Callers who dial the number are put through to an automated voice response, in Arabic, which tells them they will be sent a significant sum of prize money under secure transfer.
The automated answering service takes the caller through a number of questions, including questions related to family and bank details, choice of credit card, and credit card number.
A number of factors indicate this is a particularly sophisticated fraud. Although Qtel has blocked the original numbers and traced the call origin, the fraudsters have quickly switched the number combination, and continued to send texts to Qatar-based residents. In total, over 20 number variations have been detected and blocked thus far.
'The sophistication of this new fraud, and the fact that it is being targeted directly at the people of Qatar, reflects the growing challenges posed by international fraudsters using Internet and mobile phone technology. Qtel continues to be vigilant and we again advise our customers to be careful when responding to communication from people they do not know,' said Adel Al Mutawa, Executive Director, Group Communications, Qtel.
In addition, the fact that the calls appear to originate in Liechtenstein - a Western European nation which has a population of less than 36,000 people - suggests that call routing is being used. Finally, the automated response system appears highly professional, with a female voice speaking in clear Arabic and a series of number chimes and tones used throughout the call.
Qtel is repeating its warning to customers not to fall for lottery offers, and to never share bank details or financial passwords with persons unknown via text or phone.
Qtel launched an awareness campaign against 'Spam' and fraudulent messaging in the summer of 2008, and has been actively addressing the situation carefully since then.
As the Qatar market opens up to new entrants in the telecommunication services sector, Qtel has noted a spike in the number of illegitimate operators looking to harvest the mobile phone numbers of its customers.