Bite Latvija, the Latvian mobile operator that is part of the Bite Group, has launched a system to protect its customers against inadvertent subscription to high priced services, some of which are scams.
According to Oksana Stankevica, the head of customer service at Bite in Latvia, the new system sends a warning SMS to any customer who has requested a value-added service. Only by clicking in approval and sending an SMS back to Bite can the subscription be approved.
In most cases, Bite's customers and the customers of the other mobile operators, Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) and Tele 2 deliberately choose such extra-cost services as games, music downloads, apps and the like. However, a Latvian consumer organization's representative said that it had received some 400 complaints over the past year about deceptive marketing of extra-cost services. Stankevica also said that some 12 % of customer calls to Bite concerned added-price services that were marketed deceptively.
One common scam has been the appearance of internet banners and pop-ups urging the viewer to take an IQ test, some other test or even, bizarrely, to learn the date of his or her death. In order to get the test results or to learn one's last day on earth, one has to send an SMS, which automatically triggers a subscription to some mobile service, costing 2 lats ($ 4) a week or more. The new Bite service, essentially software in the "back office" of the operator, which handles third-party connection requests, would block such a subscription until it is approved through Bite's own SMS, which contains information about the cost of the requested service.
The scams and "small print" deceptions even go so far as to attach themselves to US TV series episodes downloaded by this blogger (yes, yes, there are issues..but hell will freeze over before they show The Pacific in Latvia). In order to open the .rar formatted file, one has to get a password, which in turn requires taking a Latvian-language IQ test and getting the results (or maybe not, I didn't try) by sending an SMS to one of the scammer numbers.
Oh yes, the otherwise respectable mobile games, gadgets and gizmos company Aspiro is connected to these deceivers, apparently as their agent (the real company is Israeli?) in Latvia.