Mobile Phone Misinformation – XALAN and #90 Hoax

Email warning claims that a scammer can take over your mobile phone if you key in #90. The message also claims that a phone virus is circulating that can erase the SIM card of the infected mobile phone.

Brief Analysis:
This warning is a hoax with no basis in fact. None of the information provided in the email is valid for mobile phone users and the message should not be forwarded.

Dear All,

If you receive a phone call on your mobile from any person, saying that, he or she is a company engineer, or telling that they’re checking your mobile line, and you have to press # 90 or #09 or any other number. End this call immediately without pressing any numbers. There is a fraud company using a device that once you press #90 or #09 they can access your “SIM” card and make calls at your expense. Forward this message to as many friends as you can, to stop it.

All mobile users pay attention if you receive a phone call and your mobile phone displays (XALAN) on the screen don’t answer the call, END THE CALL IMMEDIATELY, if you answer the call, your phone will be infected by a virus..

This virus will erase all IMEI and IMSI information from both your phone and your SIM card, which will make your phone unable to connect with the telephone network. You will have to buy a new phone. This information has been confirmed by both Motorola and Nokia.


Detailed Analysis:
This message, which has circulated, first via email, and more lately via social media and text message, since at least 2005, warns that fraudsters are hijacking mobile phones by tricking users into pressing a specific combination of digits. It further warns of a supposed virus that can destroy your mobile phone if you answer a call that displays “XALAN” on your phone screen.

However, the message is a hoax. None of the information provided in the email is in any way valid for mobile phone users.

The first part of the hoax email claims that pressing #90 or a similar combination of digits will give a fraudster access to your sim card and allow him or her to make calls at your expense. This is untrue and has been denied by Australian telecommunications giant, Telstra, South African communications company, MTN, and other service providers around the world. This part of the hoax is derived from earlier, partially factual, warnings about scammers who try to use “90#” to hijack fixed line phones. Such a scam is possible on certain types of business telephone switching equipment that requires users to dial “9” to get an outside line. However, mobile phones are in no way vulnerable to this scam. It is not possible for a scammer to hijack your mobile phone by getting you to key in #90, #09, 90# or any other such combination of digits.

The second part of the hoax claims that a virus that displays the word “XALAN” can destroy your mobile phone. This information is totally untrue. Although mobile phone viruses are possible, there is no virus like the one described in the email message. There are a number of alternative versions of the “warning” message, some of which list the word displayed as “UNAVAILABLE” or “ACE” rather than “XALAN”. Again, Telstra, MTN, and other providers have denied the existence of such viruses.

Last updated: 8th July 2011
First published: 3rd November 2005
By Brett M. Christensen
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