Goodbye scams of unwanted subscriptions: the first anti-VAS SIM cards are about to arrive
New features for SIM cards on the market in the coming months: a default blocking system will prevent the activation and therefore the charging of VAS, i.e. the paid services that were so controversial last summer. TIM was the first to communicate this choice, honoring the promise made to AGCOM after the formal warning of the Communications Authority to all telephone operators.
The measures that, according to the proposal of TIM, will be available from next November are the result of the working table set up with AGCOM after the investigation of the Milan Prosecutor's Office against some telephone companies that would be guilty of having allowed the activation of VAS on the numbers of their customers with a mechanism not very clear. The Authority for Communications Guarantees then moved against these companies in a harsh manner, contesting the failure to adopt appropriate measures to prevent the activation of premium services without the explicit consent of customers. The result of this long bout is the new TIM SIMs, which will make it much more difficult to activate value-added services without the user noticing.
New SIMs and paid services: how it works
As anticipated, from next November the new generation SIMs on sale on the market will have an automatic block of VAS. At any time, however, it will be possible to verify the presence of the method of defense against unsolicited activations, through a procedure customers of telephone operators can check the status of the system.
Not all value-added services will be blocked. Staying out of the loop are all those VAS that, although third-party, provide banking and public transportation services. To buy a bus ticket or receive a notification in case of withdrawal from the POS, it will not be necessary to request the cancellation of the block.
Old SIM cards and paid services: how it works
The activation of value-added services on old SIM cards will be blocked by an OTP mechanism, that is a password that can be used only once and that will allow the activation of VAS provided by third parties. It will therefore no longer be possible to activate paid services involuntarily or automatically, but it will be necessary to enter the credential in order to access what has been requested and thus be able to use it freely (but always for a fee).
According to the agreement between TIM and AGCOM, it has been estimated that in order to access the VAS the user will have to type 17 alphanumeric characters, in five different situations. From the phone number, to the purchase confirmation, from the receipt of the text message on the phone containing the OTP provided by TIM to the insertion on the page, up to the confirmation on the landing page. There are therefore many intermediate steps that will allow the user to protect themselves before starting the service and the related charge.
SIM and blocking of paid services: the announcement
To remind all users of the transition to this new blocking mode, TIM is creating an information campaign that will start next November and will continue until December 31, 2020 and will be spread on all communication channels of the company, such as website, sms and app.
VAS malware and scams
The big problem with value-added services is that, all too often now, they are activated in the background and without the user noticing by various malware. So when a user downloads and uses an infected app, they often find their phone account drained by "Value Added Services" that are completely unknown to them.
These are often foreign services, whose only reason for existence is to pull off scams like this, exploiting the carelessness of users (who download dangerous apps) and the ease with which VAS can be activated (which will hopefully soon become a thing of the past).