No financial damages will be incurred when answering suspicious foreign calls

Joint press statement of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority, Magyar Telekom, Telenor Hungary and Vodafone Hungary

Published: 17 April 2018

Domestically, the mobile telephone bills of subscribers cannot be charged when answering a call placed from a foreign number, nevertheless the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH) and mobile service providers warn subscribers to proceed with conscious consumer behaviour and caution. However, should mobile telephone users act carelessly and choose to return the call from the suspicious foreign number out of curiosity, they could face issues: extra costs can be incurred and business-like offers can be received in the future.

Over the recent days, a number of complaints were filed with the NMHH and the customer service of mobile service providers related to mysterious phone calls placed from foreign numbers. Reports have recently appeared in the press and on various social media sites from concerned parties about foreign calls received, mainly from Ugandan, Russian, Czech or Polish numbers, or even from countries such as Burundi, Grenada, Samoa, Austria and Romania. In most cases, they did not react to the call, yet those who did, reported that the line was instantly disconnected. The phenomenon is most likely a so-called ‘wangiri’ or scam in which fraudsters call people en masse from foreign numbers, in the attempt to get the recipients to return the calls to the – allegedly – premium rate numbers. These fraudulent attempts resurface from time to time in order to mislead unsuspecting consumers, yet all that needs to be done is to ignore the foreign calls and text messages of unknown origin.

It is important to keep in mind that foreign calls received domestically via mobile or landline phones cannot be charged to the subscriber’s telephone bill. By default, premium rate calls or text messages cannot be received by clients. The only exception to this rule is if the client specifically requested the service provider to change these settings. Therefore, problems only occur – and, thus, financial damages can only be incurred – domestically by mobile phone owners if they decide to return the call from the suspicious number. In all other cases, this cannot take place as domestically, service providers cannot charge extra costs for receiving foreign calls. Obviously this is not the case if the domestic subscriber is residing abroad when answering the call in question, yet even in such cases they only incur the general fees for foreign calls stipulated in the service provider’s contract, both when receiving and returning calls. Most tariff plans in the countries of the European Union, as well as Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein, no longer charge users for incoming calls, yet those of the majority of other countries do. Particular care is to be taken when traveling to countries outside of Europe.

A number of inquiries have also been made to the NMHH about how the mysterious caller got a hold of their number, despite the fact that it wasn’t provided to any parties or was classified. Based on previous experiences, the phone numbers are taken from a random number generator and thus naturally, they may attempt to place calls to any phone number. Domestic service providers are continuously monitoring mass incoming calls from foreign numbers, and based on the reports filed with customer service points, are individually blocking the concerned and identified numbers in order to prevent returning the calls made from said numbers. Service providers are taking measures to minimize risks, under the effective legislation and according to the technical conditions, yet regretfully, new forms of scams are continuously being developed which resurface in a number of new variations and, thus, the most prudent measure is to adopt rational and cautious consumer behavior.