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No friends in Samoa? Then don’t call back, warns Finnish watchdog

Finland’s communications watchdog is urging caution due to a phone scam that has spread in recent days.

nuori nainen käyttää kännykkää
Authorities suggest placing blocks on children's phones to avoid unpleasant billing surprises. Image: Esko Jämsä / AOP

The Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (FICORA) has issued a warning about a recent wave of telephone fraud cases targeting consumers in Finland.

On Monday the agency said people should ignore phone calls from unknown foreign numbers, especially those beginning with the country codes +881- and +675.

The communications watchdog says it has noticed a recent rise in so-called wangiri (meaning "one (ring) and cut" in Japanese) calls to Finnish numbers.

These are brief calls, usually to mobile phones, that cut off after one or two rings. The aim is to entice the victim to call the number, which may incur high costs.

Pacific calls can be pricey

Calls to numbers outside the EU can cost several euros per minute, while those to satellite numbers can cost more than 10 euros a minute.

Finnish numbers are not usually billed extra fees for calling premium service numbers abroad. However even a call to a regular foreign number can earn big bucks for fraudsters, who may split the profits from such calls with unscrupulous telecom operators.

According to FICORA, there has lately been a spate of such scam calls from numbers beginning with these prefixes, among others:

  • +387 Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • +675 Papua New Guinea
  • +685 Samoa
  • +8818/+8819 GlobalStar (satellite phones)

The watchdog notes that such calls have also come from other area codes, and warns consumers not to call back to any unexpected call from an unfamiliar foreign number.

“If you’re not expecting a call from a distant country, and don’t believe that you might have anything to do with Samoa or Papua New Guinea, for instance, then don’t do anything,” says FICORA in a statement.

"Finns are reasonably enlightened"

If such calls are repeated, it suggests placing a block on these numbers through one’s own smartphone if possible. Some Finnish telecom operators have already installed blocks on calls to expensive satellite numbers.

Operators report more than a million such fraudulent calls annually to Finland, potentially reaching one in five phone users. However only about one to two percent of users call back to these numbers, indicating that "Finns are reasonably enlightened in this regard," the agency says.

FICORA also points out that smartphones can be programmed to prevent any calls or messages to foreign or premium service numbers, which it suggests may be useful to avoid unexpected costs from devices used by minors, for instance. Generally telecom operators do not charge a fee to impose such blocks, but may do so to remove them.

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