Phishing
Phishing iStock

A telephone scam has deluged Israel recently, one that initially appears to be an innocent incoming call but is part of an international deception racket that can cause a user major difficulties with little effort, reports Sivan Cohen on Channel 10's HaKol Kalul program.

"Last Wednesday I got a call from Lithuania, which in itself was very strange. I answered and for a half a minute there was no response. Yesterday I understood that apparently it was a sting and I'm a bit confused now because I don't know whether to cancel my credit card; I'm now waiting for answers from both my credit company and the phone service provider," said one interviewee on the program.

"I have the 'Me' app, which identifies calls not on one's contact list, and it said the incoming call was a scam and not to answer or return the call, because if you call back, they take money from your account," said another near-victim.

Another man reports: "It's a week now that I have been suffering from phone calls at all hours of the day. Scores of calls from outside of Israel reach me, the voice mail answers, and the credit company isn't giving me answers. I don't know what kind of bill I'll be hit with at the end of the month."

Cohen spoke with Adi Naeh Gamliel, Head Technology Manager of 2bsecure information security group, who said that the scam is a global phenomenon, which visits Israel intermittently. "What happens is that automated systems phone random numbers in Israel, mainly cellular numbers, and the method is very simple: To lure people into calling back to an extremely expensive provider, which defrauds those who return the call to the international providers."

"It can cost a few dollars or lots of dollars. Generally the calls come from Russia, Latvia, even from Australia. Anyone who has acquaintances in these places can use an app like WhatsApp to make sure someone real is looking for him.

"The area codes we see such calls arriving from include 646, 509, 373; all these area codes are arbitrary, and connected to very expensive providers whose goal is for people to call them back so they can charge consumers a lot of money."

Cohen asked Gamliel what happens if someone falls into the trap; is the money lost? "The provider will charge you for the expensive international phone call. It can reach hundreds of dollars, especially if we're talking about satellite providers."

To avoid problems, Gamliel recommends ignoring unknown calls. "It's very hard to prevent. If you recognize an area code, such as one in Russia or somewhere else you know, you can try to use the WhatsApp to clarify who it is. If it's from a different country, simply ignore it. It's also recommended not to answer, because what happens is that now they know you're alive; if someone answers this number, they will make sure to call again," said Gamliel.