A scam so simple that it is likely to fool many is being increasingly played out by criminals – and parting unsuspecting householders from their money and credit card details.
Croydon Council’s trading standards team and local police have received a number of complaints regarding the phone-based con, and are keen that residents and businesses are aware of how it works, and do not become victims.
The rip-off starts with a phone call from, it is claimed, BT informing the account holder that unless an unpaid bill is settled immediately, the phone will be cut off. One Waddon resident was told that payment of a £31 sum would save a later reconnection fee of £118.
The real point, however, is not to get the payment, but the victim’s credit card details, including the security number, leading to a potentially much larger fraud.
The resident told the caller that his phone account was not with BT, but was coolly informed that his phone company paid a percentage to BT for line rental, and the outstanding amount was due, regardless.
When pressed, the caller gave his name as John Peacock and his phone number as 0800 0800 152. He said that he could prove he was from BT by temporarily disconnecting the resident’s phone line.
The resident was told to hang up and to try to call another number; he would be unable to do so. As predicted, the phone line was dead until Peacock called back and asked if that was sufficient proof of his credentials.
He said that immediate payment should be made, by credit card. The householder refused, saying that he had no intention of paying, didn’t believe that Peacock was the caller’s name, nor that he worked for BT.
After hanging up, the resident called the police and was told that, far from being the first to be approached with this scam, it was an escalating problem, and that he should inform friends and family members to alert them to the danger.
Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
“The fact that the phone goes dead would probably convince some people that the call’s genuine, but it isn’t, and people should be aware of what’s going on.
“The ‘cutting off’ of the line is achieved by the caller staying on the line with the mute button pressed. You can’t dial out, but he can hear you trying. This is because the person who initiates a call is the one to terminate it. When he hears that you’ve stopped trying, he hangs up and immediately calls back, reinforcing the impression that he had control of your phone line.
“The thing is, the scam’s so seemingly plausible and simple to work that it will fool those who don’t realise that all he’d done was hold the line open, effectively putting it out of commission until he hung up.”
If you have been scammed, report it to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk/ or by calling 0300 123 2040 to help stop it happening to others.
For more information, visit Citizens Advice Consumer Service at www.adviceguide.org.uk