PHONE scams are a common way for criminals to con people out of money using various tricks to get your personal or financial information. They don’t really bank on calling a radio presenter who records them for the world to hear.
Scam phone calls are not a new thing, but scammers are getting bolder and more sophisticated. In 2010, more than 84,000 people reported phone-related scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The BBC reported in early March that a rise in messages from people purporting to be from HMRC had been noted across the UK and that these individuals were now also targeting landlines as these numbers were easily. Scammers are not just trying to gain access to bank accounts but also to information such as passwords and identities all of which are particularly valuable to companies and fraudsters around the world.
Scammers can spoof phone numbers pretending to be from your local area code, or even a number that you know. They can call you and it would look like your mum or your brother is calling, and you wouldn’t know the difference until you picked it up. If you even noticed it then. Many times, the scammer will call pretending to be your child, your spouse, or other family member and speak very fast as if they are in a hurry and need your information now.
You may have had calls recently telling you that there was a fault with your internet service. Perhaps they say that your computer is infected and that they are able to sort it out via remote access. You may have received emails asking you to call a number regarding your bank account. At first glance they all seem legitimate.
So it was that on a sunny day in April one of our partners at Radio BGM, radio presenter David Hurford got an early morning call from an unsuspecting scammer. Calling from a local (Carmarthenshire) number the scammer began by saying that Dave needed to speak to one of their (Talk Talk) engineers about a problem with his computer and that he should take urgent action.
Fortunately, David was able to detect the scam but he decided to play along with the caller as you will hear from the following recording. N.B. (Contains some bad language).
Having played ‘dumb’ David satisfied the first person that he was ripe for scamming and he was duly transferred to the bogus engineer. He introduced himself as Chris and said that he would show David what was wrong with his computer and why it was behaving so strangely. David played along and followed Chris’s (bogus engineer) instructions, which were essentially to get David to allow him remote access to his computer. Chris expertly guided David through the steps he required luring to the baited trap much as a mouse would be attracted to cheese and the certainty of death or in this case, the loss of personal information and possibly money. Chris was lees polite when David announced that the call was being recorded and would be handed over to the Cybercrime Unit of Dyfed-Powys Police.
Apart from their deviousness and the potential threat they pose the worrying factor is that many people simply don’t wish to put a blanket bar on local numbers in the same way that they would with an 0898 number for instance, a fact which these criminals realise and take full advantage of.
Once again the most vulnerable members of the community are at the mercy of the scammers who will it seems stop at nothing to get what they want despite causing misery and hardship along the way.
The message to anyone who is contacted by a suspicious caller is to end the call immediately, and register with the telephone preference service.
Phone scams by text message (smishing) are on the rise, according to the latest figures published by Financial Fraud Action UK. In 2014, it found that 58% of people had received suspect calls, a steep rise from 41% in 2013. Nearly £24m was lost to phone scams in 2014, which was treble the amount in 2013. Recent research from the Financial Ombudsman Service shows that 80% of phone scam victims are over 55 years of age.
Older people are often a target for scammers, so it’s important to be aware of phone scams and how to handle them. Fortunately, there are things you can do to protect yourself:
- Don’t reveal personal details. Never give out personal or financial information (such as your bank account details or your PIN) over the phone, even if the caller claims to be from your bank.
- Hang up. If you feel harassed or intimidated, or if the caller talks over you without giving you a chance to speak, end the call. It may feel rude to hang up on someone, but you have the right not to be pressurised into anything.
- Ring the organisation. If you’re unsure whether the caller is genuine, you can always ring the company or bank they claim to be from. Make sure you find the number yourself and don’t use the one provided by the caller.
- Don’t be rushed. Scammers will try to rush you into providing your personal details. They may say they have time-limited offer or claim your bank account is at risk if you don’t give them the information they need right away.
How can I avoid phone scams and cold calls?
- You can block or prevent some cold calls. Try these simple things:
- Register with the Telephone Preference Service– it’s free and it allows you to opt out of any unsolicited live telesales calls. This should reduce the number of cold calls you receive but may not block scammers.
- Talk to your phone provider to see what other privacy services and call-blocking services are available, although you may need to pay for some of these services.
- If you have a smartphone, you can use the settings on the phone to block unwanted numbers. If you’re not sure how to do this, you could visit your local mobile phone shop for assistance.
There are products to block some calls. Some local councils provide call blockers through their trading standards teams.
How can I report or make a complaint about a cold call?
There are privacy laws that protect consumers from direct marketing phone calls. If you’ve registered your phone number with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) or if you’ve told the company directly that you don’t wish to receive phone calls, you shouldn’t receive direct marketing calls from the UK.
If you receive an unwanted telesales call, an automated message, or a spam message, tell the company that you don’t wish to be contacted again.
You can complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office or report spam texts by forwarding the text for free to 7726.
Report the incident to Action Fraud. Remember that anyone can become a victim of a scam and reporting it could stop others falling victim to the same scam.
UK’s National Fraud reporting centre, monitoring and investigating cases of fraud. If you’ve been scammed or conned, let them know.
Report fraud by speaking directly to specialist fraud advisers. They will also be able to give you help and advice about fraud. 0300 123 2040 Mon–Fri, 8am–8pm