Wangiri Warnings in Czechia, Greece and Poland

Do you ever get the feeling that issuing public warnings about telecoms fraud is an effective way of reducing crime? No, neither do I. But as too few people in the telecoms industry have the brains, balls and resources to do anything more effective, here is yet another addition to the Commsrisk series on wangiri warnings from regulators, telcos and journalists around the world.

A few weeks ago Czechs were told not to be fooled by ‘swindlers from Sri Lanka’ per a headline on (in Czech). The choice of words was poor given the the article went on to explain that calls to wangiri numbers beginning with Sri Lanka’s +94 code would probably be diverted elsewhere. This news splash followed an announcement by the Czech regulator Český telekomunikační úřad (Czech Telecommunication Office, CTU) which observed there has been an increased number of wangiri calls from overseas, with most of them using the +94 country code. The CTU announcement went on to state that the most effective defense against this type of attack is prevention, by which they meant ordinary people should not call the number back. In this respect the CTU were half-right, except the most effective defense is that regulators and telcos pull their fingers out of their bums and work on how to block calls made by criminals.

British journalists also like to libel foreigners so it made a refreshing change to discover an exposé by Athens Magazine (in Greek) that said there had been an increase in wangiri ‘from abroad and especially from the United Kingdom’. Their article discussed other telephone scams before focusing on wangiri and giving four examples of UK numbers used by the fraudsters: +447845298158, +441616433060, +441424819149, and +447544133916. Fraud managers working for O2 and the other networks to which these numbers were allocated may want to contemplate the long-term ramifications of allowing wangiri to persist unabated, not least because Athens Magazine went on to advise that ‘a smart idea is to block the prefix of the country from where they are calling you e.g. block +44 XXXXXXXXXX’.

Poland produced the first mathematicians who cracked the German WW2 Enigma communications code before passing their knowledge to the more famous British codebreakers at Bletchley Park. However, the frequency with which Poland features in Commsrisk updates about wangiri warnings suggests their best brains still cannot determine the correct response to a recurring pattern that involves a single ring before hanging up. The CERT team at Orange Poland again resorted to Twitter to tell customers about wangiri fraudsters using a specific number in Mali. How have we reached the year 2021 only to find there are computer emergency response teams who lack the technology to block a 20 year old scam so instead turn to social media to confirm their impotence to every criminal on the planet?

Wangiri is a fraud that is both astonishingly simple and widespread. The Japanese identified and named this fraud at the beginning of the 20th century. It has since been used to exploit victims in every country because it is independent of language. However, it is safe to predict that Commsrisk will publish another update about wangiri warnings in a couple of months from now, then a couple of months later, and then again, and again, and so on. How many warnings will be issued before our industry admits the need to do better?

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.