‘Unprecedented’ Wangiri Plague Hits Ireland

Phone users in the Republic of Ireland have been missing a lot of calls lately. The country has been flooded with wangiri calls from Liberia and the Comoros Islands, generating many headlines and adding two new Japanese words to the vocabulary of the average Irishman. Ireland’s three mobile operators – Meteor Mobile Communications, Three and Vodafone – responded by issuing a statement via their lobbying body, the Irish Cellular Industry Association. The statement says the telcos have taken action to stop the problem:

To protect customers against Wangiri, operators in the Irish market have implemented controls which allow mobile providers to block their customers from calling these numbers back.

Independent.ie is one of several news sources that ran a story about wangiri, implying the scale of recent fraudulent activity was massive, but without clarifying how many customers had been affected:

“It would appear that all Irish mobile number ranges have undergone an unprecedented attack from this in recent weeks,” said a spokeswoman for Three, Ireland’s second largest operator.

The advice issued by the Irish regulator, Comreg, was mostly orthodox:

We would advise consumers that returning calls to unknown international numbers can be costly and we advise consumers to exercise caution when they receive a missed call from such numbers.

However, I was surprised that Comreg suggested consumers might call them about the problem. It was unclear what the regulator could do for customers except to offer sympathy. Comreg also recommended the following:

If you are getting persistent missed calls from an unknown number, contact your service provider in the first instance.

Whether this is good advice will depend on how much common sense is applied by customers. So be careful when calling your deaf Irish grandma. If she misses three phone calls in a row you may find your number is added to the blacklist too.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns

Eric is a recognized expert on communications risk and assurance. He was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and others.

 

Eric was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He was a founding member of Qatar’s National Committee for Internet Safety and the first leader of the TM Forum’s Enterprise Risk Management team. Eric currently sits on the committee of the Risk & Assurance Group, and is an editorial advisor to Black Swan. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.

 

Commsrisk is edited by Eric. Look here for more about Eric’s history as editor.

  • Michael Lazarou

    We had a similar “unprecedented” attack in Cyprus with calls from Maldives, Congo, Algeria, etc and usually calls were made in the middle of the night. Obviously to increase the chances that you miss the call and call back or simply because of time differences with the originating party. We used the opposite remedy: blocking incoming calls from weird / unallocated ranges.

    What I found interesting though was that some people were telling me that the new Android OS notifies you of potential spam callers allowing you to block them (some info here:). So big tech companies are providing another service to users that telcos are unable or too slow to react too. Given that they have all your contacts stored on their servers they can provide a service that is of value. Apps like truecaller etc are also trying to do this. Obviously there are the usual issues of giving your private data to a company to process.