The New Zealand Telecommunications Forum (TCF) has issued a warning to consumers buying bargain second-hand mobile devices through channels such as Facebook groups. “If it seems too good to be true, it usually is” says TCF CEO Geoff Thorn.
The TCF operates a mobile blacklisting service, so any reported lost, stolen, or fraudulently obtained devices are disabled across all mobile networks in New Zealand. The TCF website also has a look-up service where you can check the serial number of any device and see whether it has been blacklisted.
But the system is not fool proof. “While the vast majority, over 90%, of lost or stolen phones are blacklisted almost immediately, and listed as such on our lookup service; phones obtained and sold through fraudulent activities can be blacklisted at a later date” says Geoff.
The telco that sold the device has up to 120 days from an occurrence, such as a missed bill payment, to classify a device as fraudulently obtained and blacklist it across all NZ networks. The blacklisting delay gives retailers time to investigate fraud, and protects consumers suffering financial hardship from being wrongly classified as fraudsters and having their devices blacklisted.
Anecdotal evidence suggests the majority of fraudulent devices are being sold through Facebook groups; as buy/sell websites sites such as Trade Me have clamped down on fraudulent activities. Mobile providers receive multiple calls per week, an increase from past years, from consumers who have no idea why a phone they purchased from Facebook has now stopped working.
“The fraudsters are quite clever in making the sale appear legitimate. The excuses used to justify the sale often seem genuine at first glance. Usually the buyer of the device is only saving $100 - $200 off the original retail value, which is a very small saving for a phone that only works for three months” says an industry representative.
Facebook is also being used to recruit mules to purchase phones. Postings to Facebook groups offer cash in exchange for new phones purchased on contract; with the fraudster claiming to have a contact at the mobile provider who will wipe any evidence of the contract. This fictitious friend/brother/uncle fails to wipe the contract and the mule is obligated to pay for the device eventually, despite ads claiming the deal is “101% legit”.
Statistics show that while these cases are the minority at less than 6% of all blacklisting cases, there have been almost 10,000 cases reported as fraud since the service began in 2013, which is still a significant number.
Consumers are encouraged to check any second-hand mobile before purchasing it, using a free look-up service available on the TCF website, mindyourmobile.co.nz.
“Buying through unconventional retailers such as Facebook groups, pawn shops or mobile traders increases the risk of buying a fraudulently obtained phone, even if the serial number hasn’t yet been blacklisted. Buying through an established retailer or mobile operator is the only way to be sure your device has not been obtained through fraud”. says Geoff.
For more information, please contact: Geoff Thorn, TCF CEO
Ph: +64 21 937 920 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
www.tcf.org.nz | Twitter: @TCFNZ