Scam bulletin. Dealing with a scam phone call

A friend of a colleague answered a phone call which said they were from BT. The instruction was they she needed to sign her BT contract again immediately otherwise her phone would be cut off. Luckily she didn’t fall for it and hung up immediately. Scam avoided.

How do I know if this is a scam call?

If you’re not a BT customer then it would be pretty obviously fake. But what if you are a BT customer?

The threat of consequences – being cut off, is a sure sign of a scam.

The speed – do it now / immediately, press now – all are signs of a scam.

And of course, being of top of your own bills and contracts you might realise that nothing is amiss.

The biggest factor though is that THIS IS NOT HOW BIG BUSINESSES ACT. If BT or another business is trying to get hold of you, they’ll do it much more professionally – send you a letter maybe – and they will NEVER act with threats, immediacy or do anything to get you to act straight away or give your money or data away.

In fact on the BT website here they say:

We’ll never be forceful, and we’ll understand any security concerns. We’ll tell you to call us back once you’re ready to do so.

We’ll never:

call you to say we’ve found a problem with your computer.
ask for payment details over email.
call you out of the blue and ask for remote access to your computer or other devices. (In cases where we do remotely access your PC, you will have contacted us for support and given us permission to do so).
tell you your router or IP address has been compromised.
tell you your broadband has been hacked.
threaten to disconnect your service unless you make a payment immediately.
ask for your PIN or online banking password.
ask you to transfer money via PayPal or money transfer websites.
send someone to your home to collect money.

So even if you were in the situation of being behind on your bills and BT were ready to cut you off, you’ll have received letters and sensible communication many times already and even then the phone calls wouldn’t be acting in this same way.

What to do when I get the call?

Be cautious.

If at any point you are suspicious, simply hang up.

“Take 5”. I.e take 5 minutes to think things through, to double check and so on. If you need to tell the caller this then do so and feel free to hang up.

Don’t offer any information at all. If they say they are from “your provider” then ask them which one – a scammer might have to guess!

If they ask to double check who they are speaking to ask them to tell you who they are wanting to talk to. Don’t give your name unless it matches one they’ve said. But even then don’t give out any more details – postcodes, banking details etc. Remember that if it’s really a business you do business with then they will know exactly all the details of who they are phoning and why. They will even give you the chance to phone them some other time when it is convenient or you are ready.

So double check. Ask a friend if in doubt.

Call the company: not on the number they just called you from, and not on any number they may have given you. Look up the contact number for the business online or on any paperwork you might have or phone someone you trust to look it up for you. Phone the company (e.g. BT) and ask about your account and if they have been trying to contact you. They are likely to run through security questions with you to check that it’s you.

Overall – remember “my data, my money – I don’t think so”. Don’t say anything you don’t need to. End the call if necessary and contact the company directly.

How to report it

If you’ve actually been scammed – followed through, perhaps given bank details out or lost money – then you need to report it as a crime to the Police (101) or contact Action Fraud and report it formally.

But if you’ve just hung up on a call you think is a scam, you can still pass the details on to help stop the scammers.

Each company has their own way to do this. So BT has a web page here to report it, or you could phone them up and give them the details.

How to prevent it

Scammers make phone calls at random sometimes to lots of numbers – it might just be unlucky that you were the one that they called. If you don’t give them any information and hang up, then with a bit of luck you’ll be a less interesting number to phone in the future.

If they have your number from other sources then you can still engage as little as possible and, again, with luck, they’ll drop you off the list eventually.

In the meantime – can you block the call? Some services like BT or mobile contracts or your phone handset will allow you to block that number that called you so that they can’t get through in the future. Perhaps speaking to your phone company you can get their advice on blocking numbers.

A physical device like TrueCall costs money but can screen calls before you receive them. This can help a lot.

You can register with the Telephone preference service but this does require businesses to be honest and check the service before they call. It might stop dodgy marketing techniques from businesses but not necessarily scammers.

Blocking calls is one of your best approaches.

But “take 5” and saying no (or hanging up) is your very best protection.

Be cautious.