Enter the maze

Hustlers go mobile

a pound coin and a five pound note

Living your life like Paris Hilton isn’t as difficult as you might think. All you have to do is get your mobile hacked. The American socialite and top goddess in the famous-for-being-famous pantheon had her phone broken into in 2005. Her address book was posted online. Her celebrity chums whose numbers were suddenly available to any obsessive with basic Googling skills were mightily hacked off at the time.

Given Paris’s reputation for smarts, it’s maybe not that surprising that her details were stolen by guessing the password for her online account with her service provider (it was the name of her chihuahua). But in the few years since that break-in, some cleverer scams have arisen to separate you from your money by using your mobile. Here are a few of them, seen on BBC Three’s The Real Hustle.

Premium pain

Scams to get money out of your mobile mostly depend on signing you up to premium rate services without your knowledge. The simplest way to do that is just to get hold of your phone and reconfigure it. One way is to pick your pocket. The scammer sits down next to you and, while your attention is elsewhere, dips his or her hand in your pocket and nabs your phone. This works especially well if you leave your phone in a loose pocket, like in a jacket. The scammer quickly reconfigures your dialling preferences so that calls you make are directed via a premium rate calling service rather than your usual network. You won’t know it’s happening until the sky-high bill comes in.

Another scam involves coming up to you on the street and asking to borrow your phone to text someone. Except rather than texting a friend, they’re messing with your settings again, signing you up to one of those services that sends you ringtones or jokes for, say, £1.50 a go. You’ll discover it, of course, as soon as you receive your first joke, but by then the scammer is long gone and you’re subscribed to a long-term contract that could cost you hundreds of pounds.

This one’s got teeth

In the days of Bluetooth, though, con artists don’t even need to get hold of your phone to swindle you. Using a technique called ‘bluejacking’ they can hack into your phone and potentially see the data you keep on it. A hustler can also use it to make calls from your phone to, you guessed it, a premium rate number. They can do all this with the phone still in your pocket, so you won’t discover the call until you next look at your phone. By then you could have already spent a packet.

Staying protected

How do you guard against these scams? The best way is to keep your phone in a secure place, and not to loan it to strangers. Plus, you should keep the Bluetooth function on your mobile turned off unless you’re using it. You’ll save on battery power that way too.

If you’ve got a fancy smartphone, you should keep your software updated as well. This summer a security glitch was found in the iPhone’s SMS software, and when a fix was ready it was included in a software update. Oh, and make sure to use a passcode if your phone has that feature. You always want to stay ahead of the scammers – and be careful about exactly which ways your life is similar to Paris Hilton’s.