This report was first published in November 2005.
A would-be warning, which has been circulating since at least 2005, claims that scammers are hijacking mobile phones by tricking users into pressing a specific combination of digits. A variant of the message claims that terrorists rather than scammers are using the trick in order to make calls at your expense and frame you as a criminal.
Some versions also warn you not to answer a call that displays “XALAN” on your phone screen because answering will infect your phone with a virus.
Warning is an Old Hoax
However, the warning is a hoax. None of the information provided in any versions of the message 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 or terrorist 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.
XALAN Virus Warning Is Also Untrue
The information about the supposed “XALAN” virus is also untrue. Although mobile phone malware is certainly a growing threat, 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.
Note that “terrorist” version of the hoax also sometimes appears at the bottom of another misleading message that warns you not to return missed calls from numbers starting with +375 or +371.
#90 or #09
on your Mobile when asked by any caller.
It’s a New Trick of Terrorists to access your SIM card, Make calls at your expense and frame you as a criminal.
Forward this message to as many friends as U can, to stop it.
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.PLEASE FORWARD THIS PIECE OF INFORMATION TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS HAVING A MOBILE.
Since you’ve read this far……can I ask you for a big favour?
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