Belize Telemedia Limited is putting out a warning to prepaid customers that it has been targeted by scam artists. With more here is general manager for public relations and customer services, Dionne Miranda.
Dr Dionne Miranda – BTL Public Relations
“We are not exactly sure. We are investigating and like I said, I’ve done a bit of Web searching as well, but one of the things that you have to realize is that whenever a call goes out, we pay a settlement to the international provider. So, those calls that go out, we will get a bill for it. And, some of them may have set up with a VOIP provider in the States that they have a premium number for instance, which costs like maybe $15 a minute or however they want to do it…and then there’s a co-relation where they share the profit. We are not exactly sure because we are not involved within a scam environment like this, but that is typically how it is being done, and…so, basically, you have to have set up with some level of a provider that will terminate your calls. The scam artist also has to have a premium number in place. So, these numbers, when we check it into our system, they are not charged at regular international rates. When we get the bill that comes from that international settlement provider, it will be high bills, trust me! So, we do have to pay for it. A lot of customers are saying: well, I didn’t know, but we still have to pay that bill when it comes in, the same way that you have to pay when you made that call, which is why it’s a conscious decision, don’t return these calls. Find out who it is and find out what it’s all about before you return because that is when the scam begins, not on the inward direction”.
Dionne Miranda gives more details about how the scam works.
“And the reason we’re doing that is because we don’t have control of over what is happening. Actually, the customer has control over their personal devices and the only thing that we can recommend. Is that they do not respond to these calls, and you do not return the calls; because is how it appears that the scam is being done. It doesn’t happen when the calls come in our network at that point. It’s when you dial back out and you use the external provider’s network to get the call is where they are able to pull and confiscate your telephone minutes”.
BTL is asking customers who have been affected to take precautions.
“The things that we have to realize, is that all of us get a numbering series and we register that into the Public Utilities Commission for us and our competitor. Pretty much, if you dial any number within a particular series like, say, for instance, that one of our series is 636, you can call from 636, 1000 right through to 9999 and you will get a BTL customer. And, conversely, so, realistically, is not very hard. We actually follow a number series and the minute you open up a prefix, it just follows directly after that”.
“Will the call stop at any point? “
“One of the things that BTL has found out about scam people is that they are a bit lazy. They don’t want to necessarily dell further. It’s a quick scam, either they are trying to make money very rapidly, so, once they realize that Belizeans are aware, and that the information is out there and they are no longer being trapped, and that systems are being put into effect to ensure that it doesn’t occur, then they move on to the next country. In fact, from what we understand, is that this has been a Caribbean Focus direction, and right now it’s Caribbean focus, but it may well be Europe, it may well be other parts of the world. What they do is they pretty much where there is leakages and where there is ease of access and where people are not as knowledgeable, and then they just jump in”.
The company plans a cyber-security forum to further address issues of telephone security for business and personal consumers. BTL provides both landline and cellular services to a majority of the country and until the entrance of SMART in the industry was the sole national provider.