5G Phone Confusion Opens Scam Floodgates

Three (3) new 5G phone scams you need to know about and sidestep: Internet Scambusters #937

5G phone technology is on its way. And so are the scammers.

They’re using misinformation and confusion about this latest cellular communications tech to bamboozle people into paying for protection devices that don’t work or handing over money for supposed upgrades.

In this week’s issue, we’ll explain the latest con-tricks and how to avoid them.

Let’s get started…

5G Phone Confusion Opens Scam Floodgates

Wherever there’s confusion, misunderstanding, conspiracy theories and fake news, there’s bound to be a scam. So it is with the latest debate about the safety of 5G, the new cellular phone technology that’s current being rolled out across the US.

We won’t enter into the debate about whether the technology carries any risks — that’s not our focus — but we can highlight some of the tricks that scammers get up to when they spot the opportunity that flows from rumors and differences of opinion.

Without going into the details, the aim of 5G is to make cellular communications, clearer, faster, and more reliable. The controversy has blown up because some people believe the 5G towers, which handle the advanced communications, or even the phones that use them, emit dangerous levels of radiation.

In some cases, the masts have been blamed for causing or spreading viruses and diseases, including cancer, killing birds and increasing suicide rates.

There are 300 million cellphone subscribers in the US and phone service providers, scientific advisers, communications specialists, and technology experts say none of this is true.

A good measure of fake news has been mixed into the debate, So, it’s no surprise that some people are genuinely scared; in some cases, notably in the UK, worried consumers have been damaging towers.

“A Fast Buck to be Made”

All this fear and uncertainty is perfect prey for scammers. They’ve jumped at the opportunity to “protect” you.

As the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) notes: “While health studies about any relationship between the emissions from cell phones and health problems are ongoing, recent reports from the World Health Organization will no doubt convince scam artists that there’s a fast buck to be made.

“Scam artists follow the headlines to promote products that play off the news – and prey on concerned people.”

Online tech site CNET reports that one Facebook user even claimed the introduction of 5G was a plot hatched by Microsoft founder Bill Gates to reduce world population.

The number one 5G scam right now is a spurious claim that a new device can eliminate or shield the electromagnetic waves emitted from cellular towers. And the crooks have been selling them for up to $400 apiece, presumably with no shortage of uninformed buyers.

The most common of these devices plugs into USB ports on computers, laptops, and all manner of mobile devices. The sellers claim it can neutralize electromagnetic emissions.

Investigating the latest 5G tricks, online tech site The Verge declares: “Please don’t waste your money on this piece of junk and remember: Radio waves can only spread computer viruses, not human ones.”

The scammers use fancy names and jargon words like “quantum” and “hologram” to try to convince victims of the device’s tech pedigree. In fact, says The Verge, it’s just a cheapo, regular USB memory stick. Even then, it only has 128 megabytes of memory, barely enough to store a dozen high-resolution photos.

However, one of the firms identified by The Verge says its product is backed by “a great deal of technical information, with plenty of back-up historical research.” It suggests the technology is built into a sticker on the outside of the USB.

But the tech site quotes a researcher who dismantled the device as saying: “Now, we cannot say this sticker does not have additional functionality unused anywhere else in the world, but we are confident you can make up your own mind on that.”

Code Call

Another scam that’s also costing victims a big chunk of money is a simple phone call pretending to be from their phone service provider saying they need to pay $500 to upgrade to the new 5G standard. Otherwise, they say, you’ll lose your service.

This is simply not the case. First, while it’s true that you need a 5G-compatible phone to use the service, there’s currently no requirement to switch to 5G.

You can stick with your old phone and existing 4G technology, at least for now. Furthermore, 5G is only in the early stages of roll-out and is not available in many areas. Users are not being charged a lump sum to switch (other than for a new phone), although most providers are charging more for it on a monthly subscription.

A variation is used to trick phone users into supplying a security code that gives them access to your cell account.

We’ve written about this before. First, the scammer pretends to be the target victim, phoning the genuine service provider to ask for the code to access their account. The code is sent to the victim by SMS text. Then he phones the victim, posing as the phone company and asks for the code. Done. He can now access the victim’s account.

That’s why, when your phone company does send you a genuine security code, it’s usually accompanied by a warning that they will never phone you and ask for the number.

So, never give out your phone security number, ever, over the phone. If anyone demands money, just hang up and call your service provider. They’ll set you straight.

It’s likely that in the coming months we’re going to be hearing a lot more about 5G phone scams.

If you want to know more about 5G technology and some of the facts and myths that surround it, check out the CNET report mentioned earlier: 5G Myths, Debunked: 5G Won’t Replace 4G, Doesn’t Cause COVID-19 and Is Still Rolling Out.

Alert of the Week

A new version of the “hitman” scam has appeared, demanding protection money from targets to avoid being injured or killed.

It adds a new dimension of fear and credibility by sending victims — by email or text — information about them and other family members, which has actually been gleaned from online records.

They may add personal or gruesome “victim” photos. They want payment by one of the usual untraceable routes — gift cards, wiring cash or paying with cyber currency.

Ignore them. Or if you’re worried, contact the police. Just don’t send the money.

That’s it for today — we hope you enjoy your week!