back to article Brits conned out of nearly £24m in phone scams in one year

Brits have lost three times as much money in phone scams in the last year than they did the year before, according to Financial Fraud Action UK. The organisation, which works with consumers, retailers and the police as well as the financial services industry, said that 58 per cent of people said they’d received suspect calls, …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I suppose

    ...that given the inability of the criminal "justice" system to catch fraudsters and lock them up for a good long time, a publicity campaign is a good idea.

    I imagine the scene at a top London "creative" agency. A bunch of hard nosed rozzers are looking suspiciously across the table at some weird looking "creatives". The atmosphere is tense, with the police having sat unblinking, and saying nothing for a good ten minutes.

    Head creative: "So, you want us to create a compelling above the line campaign, with glossy and engaging imagery, with the subtext 'if you're a victim of fraud or identity crime, don't bother us, its your own fault'?

    Head rozzer: "That's it. Just like those endless, agressive anti-piracy ads from FAST that bore everybody stupid at the beginning of films and DVDs."

    Head creative: "But they clearly don't work, and they're targeting the wrong people, surely?"

    Head rozzer: "You leave the thinking stuff to us, and just make the bl**ding adverts."

  2. Roo
    Windows

    3xLosses in just one year ?

    Is that because the banks/police are giving 3x as much of a toss about it as last year ?

  3. Clamps Silver badge
    FAIL

    line open

    "and then keeping the line open "

    That still works????? Thats amazing! I'd have thought with the leaps and bounds in digtisation , cpu power , exchanges and god knows what the telcos would at least be able to tell when you've hung up! Its one of the basics surely?

    Do blue boxes still work?

    Right , I'm off to right a ten quid per minute line that never lets anyone hang up.....

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: line open

      That still works?????

      Thats amazing! I'd have thought with the leaps and bounds in digtisation , cpu power , exchanges and god knows what the telcos would at least be able to tell when you've hung up! Its one of the basics surely?

      It's a feature, actually. It dates back to when cordless phones weren't as common. The idea is that you can put down the phone you answered with then walk to another room and pick up the phone there without losing the call. There is usually a timer so that after a while the line is dropped anyway. BT reduced the timer duration a while back.

      Ah here we are.

      1. david 12

        Re: line open

        2-3 minutes! (now reduced to 10 seconds).

        On the old analog system, the line would stay connected for (long time) to (forever). In Aus this led to some very large call charges when mobiles first became popular. But AUS long ago went to something like 45sec for landlines, and almost-immediate if either of the phones is a mobile.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: line open

      "Right , I'm off to right a ten quid per minute line that never lets anyone hang up....."

      No exactly sure what you are saying, but it only works when you call someone not the other way around. So the ten quid a minute line company would have to call you, but they wouldn't make any money on that. If you called it, then the call would clear when you hung up.

      One trick could be to make your premium rate service answer the call with a ringing tone so that it sounds like it still hasn't connected and the caller doesn't realise they are being charged for the call.

  4. Chronos

    Wrong tree

    I shall say it again, the legislators are barking up the wrong tree. The telcos need to enforce caller ID and anonymous call blocking properly, not the half-arsed 10 specific numbers and maybe block anonymous calls if they're in the UK, or maybe not, depending on wind direction and the position of Mars. Caller ID spoofing should be an offence too. If the caller is in darkest Mumbai, the caller ID should damned well say so. Translating the different caller ID schemas is not rocket science for an industry that can now cram video on demand down a flaky fifty year old pair of copper wires.

    The problem remains that cold calling, scams and fake tech support calls are lucrative for the telcos. Until that is addressed, this will continue. Giving the subscriber a little control over who they allow to make their 'phone ring would be a good start, too. Yeah, yeah, TruCall. It's not enough to expect granny to pay for a box to stop her getting scammed and mithered every five seconds because some telco wants the termination charges.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Wrong tree

      I agree with most of what you say (I have a TrueCall unit and wouldn't be without it) but there are a couple of wrinkles where anonymous callers are concerned.

      Our CPs can't force anyone in Mumbai to send an ID signal. So if there is no caller ID what are CPs to do? They can't arbitrarily block anonymous incoming international calls as that would be interfering with your service. Okay so perhaps they will allow you to 'opt out' of anonymous calls. But then what happens if your granny is on holiday in Mumbai and needs help and she just happens to be using a phone that doesn't transmit caller ID information?

      Which leads on to the second part of the problem which is that quite a few organisations that deal with sensitive personal information like to withhold their number. GP surgeries often do for example.

      1. Chronos

        Re: Wrong tree

        ACOur CPs can't force anyone in Mumbai to send an ID signal. So if there is no caller ID what are CPs to do? They can't arbitrarily block anonymous incoming international calls as that would be interfering with your service. Okay so perhaps they will allow you to 'opt out' of anonymous calls. But then what happens if your granny is on holiday in Mumbai and needs help and she just happens to be using a phone that doesn't transmit caller ID information?

        Precisely that. If I use *227# to signal my unwillingness to receive anonymous calls, it should apply to all anonymous calls, whether wilfully or technically castrated of CID. Granny will just have to get in touch with the consulate, I'm afraid.

        Which leads on to the second part of the problem which is that quite a few organisations that deal with sensitive personal information like to withhold their number. GP surgeries often do for example.

        Good point, which is why this needs to be discussed properly. I'm not suggesting my rant above is a fully-arsed solution but it makes a much better starting point than the mess we have right now. It may be possible, just as an example, to allow certain government and healthcare departments to bypass anonymous call barring. I'm pretty sure the police are already able to do so if needed. This must not be extended to surveys, market research or political parties, however.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Wrong tree

          Granny will just have to get in touch with the consulate, I'm afraid.

          Oh dear.

          :)

          1. Chronos
            Thumb Up

            Re: Wrong tree

            Have an upvote, cleverclogs :-)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wrong tree

          " It may be possible, just as an example, to allow certain government and healthcare departments to bypass anonymous call barring."

          It's not possible. That's the problem. If you create a "government override' flag in the signalling message, the people three or four links back in the chain of telcos who are spoofing their CLIs today will just set that flag incorrectly as well.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wrong tree

          "Precisely that. If I use *227# to signal my unwillingness to receive anonymous calls, it should apply to all anonymous calls, whether wilfully or technically castrated of CID"

          They're not anonymous though - the ID has been spoofed at the start of the chain. Blocking anonymous call won't stop these calls.

      2. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Wrong tree

        > GP surgeries often [withold CNID] for example

        OK, I'm at a loss. Why the hell is that? I'd think if I was going to discuss my healthcare, I'd want confirmation I was talking to my doctor's office.

        I deal with things by never answering my phone. If they can't bother to leave a VM, it wasn't important.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Wrong tree

          OK, I'm at a loss. Why the hell is that? I'd think if I was going to discuss my healthcare, I'd want confirmation I was talking to my doctor's office.

          A discussion about it here..

          Please note - I'm not condoning this practice, merely pointing it out. As I live alone most of the time I don't really care. Ironically I got a call a month back from my surgery for someone else (a wrong number basically). They left a message on the machine saying that they were the surgery so withholding CLID was rather pointless I feel :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wrong tree

      " shall say it again, the legislators are barking up the wrong tree. The telcos need to enforce caller ID and anonymous call blocking properly,"

      Which telco? A call may have traversed 5,6,7 or more networks before it hits the one that terminates the call. Each telco can only see the information in the signalling message from the previous telco in the chain. If any of the telcos in the chain has misbehaved, or more likely just not policed their inbound SIP traffic properly, the CLI will be wrong.

      There's no easy answer - if there was it would have been done. You can't turn off 'wrong country' CLI on inbound international routes because that's how mobile roaming works. It's also useful for a UK country with a customer service centre abroad to be able to present a UK number for a customer to call back on.

      Changing how signalling works would require a synchronised global change organised between every single telco in the world and software changes and upgrades to every single switch, if not outright replacement. Most telcos have switches that are old in technology terms that they're keeping alive until wholesale replacement with a VoiP/SIP core becomes viable (it's hard to justify big capital outlay on a service with ever declining revenues).

      It sounds more like something for the ITU to scratch their heads over but given the scale of the problem that might be as far as they get. How would *you* fix this without breaking the PSTN?

      1. Chronos

        Re: Wrong tree

        AC: It sounds more like something for the ITU to scratch their heads over but given the scale of the problem that might be as far as they get. How would *you* fix this without breaking the PSTN?

        All very interesting technical points. Personally I'd give subscribers the choice between rejecting dubious calls with fine-grained controls, with the caveat that they may be barring legit traffic at their own risk, or continuing with the broken-arsed mess in case they need the old "features."

        Of course, none of this disproves my original assertion that it is the broken-arsed mess that is the core of the problem and the problem will remain unless someone with a little more interoperability-fu than I comes up with a solution. If anything, it has provided proof of the issue.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wrong tree

          "Personally I'd give subscribers the choice between rejecting dubious calls with fine-grained controls, with the caveat that they may be barring legit traffic at their own risk, or continuing with the broken-arsed mess in case they need the old "features.""

          The same people you'd be asking to set those controls are the same ones willingly handing over bank details on the phone. Is suspect their level of technological sophistication is low.

          "Of course, none of this disproves my original assertion that it is the broken-arsed mess that is the core of the problem "

          Indeed. The signalling protocols were developed and agreed in the days before deregulation and before anyone with a SIP server and some internet connectivity could set up as a telco. There was a degree of trust involved between the parties, who were largely state-owned at the time. I don't think that anyone predicted at the time that there could be a 'rogue telco'.

          I think the point stands though that it's not possible for one single telco, or even one single country's telcos, to fix this on their own. I think where we might end up is the former PTTs building 'trusted' international links between themselves and smaller, newer, telcos being excluded from that. If a call originates on one of those networks the CLI will be trusted and shown, if it doesn't "Unavailable". There'll be plenty of unintended consequences though - sign up with a cheap telco in a country, or use Skype or similar services, and your international calls won't get through anymore.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wrong tree

      "The telcos need to enforce caller ID and anonymous call blocking properly"

      A good analogy for this is to think of it in terms of letter delivery.

      It's as if we asked letter senders to write their address on the back of an envelope and then demanded that the postal service who actually put it through the delivery letterbox only do so if they've validated that the sender's address on the back is correct. How would they know? It's the same problem. If one organisation handled the whole thing end-to-end it's possible, but globally? That's a tough call.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Given the ludicrously high mobile subscriptions in the UK and the p*sspoor service and coverage they entitle you to. I would think that the UK public is relieved of far more than £24M per year in (operator run) phone scams :-)

  6. DaLo

    ORLY, DCI Stokes?

    "DCI Perry Stokes, head of specialist policing unit the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU), warned people that they always needed to be on their guard when asked for financial details on the phone.

    “The bank or the police will never tell you to take such actions, so if you’re asked it can only be a criminal attack..."

    Complete rubbish. Still, today, some banks will ring you up and start the conversation with "I just need to ask you some security questions before we start..."

    DCI Stokes needs to be speaking to the banks to stop this practice as they can't tell someone to never answer any financial or security questions to unknown callers when the banks themselves ask those very questions.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: ORLY, DCI Stokes?

      Plastic Crime Unit

      Playmobil or...

    2. Elmer Phud

      Re: ORLY, DCI Stokes?

      "Complete rubbish. Still, today, some banks will ring you up and start the conversation with "I just need to ask you some security questions before we start..." "

      And I say that to ensure security I need a reference number from them, then I'll ring back on thier usual number.

      I've refused to talk to people who demand security details but without them being able to prove to me who they are.

      1. David Pollard
        Flame

        Re: ORLY, DCI Stokes?

        "I just need to ask you some security questions ..."

        Southern Electric have twice now asked for my date of birth as a 'security check' when all I have done is to call to pay the bill.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Landlane 'Tax'....

    It was widely reported this week that BT and others are putting up their Landline costs to offset the desertion of landlines... For the extra cost of having one, you might expect extra features, not bugs.

    ---So why can't we always hang-up on callers, anyone know why this 'feature' exists?

    ---How about adding a calling list filter, similar to Skype etc. So that nuisance calls (including silent calls) can be automatically screened out, especially for vulnerable older generations. It sounds like a useful calling package add-on and another way for BT to make money IMHO.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Landlane 'Tax'....

      "--So why can't we always hang-up on callers, anyone know why this 'feature' exists?"

      It's to allow someone to put down the phone where they've answered it and go and pick it up in another room. There's a timer that starts running when the phone is put down and if one gets picked up again before the timer expires the call is still active. That timer length has been shortened recently as AndrueC mentions above.

      "How about adding a calling list filter, similar to Skype etc. So that nuisance calls (including silent calls) can be automatically screened out, especially for vulnerable older generations"

      How do you know what's a nuisance call in advance to know to filter it out? The criminals often spoof the calling line details in countries with lax regulation to make the number appear to be a valid UK one. See the post office analogy above - blocking these calls is like asking the post office to confirm the address of a letter's sender before they put it through your letterbox.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What do you expect?

    Why are people surprised by this behaviour when "legitimate" businesses (banks, utilities, credit card & phone companies etc.) routinely do almost exactly the same thing as the scammers? They practically train their customers to hand over personal information to anybody who phones them up.

    I've said it elsewhere before, but I'll say it again:

    Legitimate companies frequently ring customers at home (completely out of the blue) and then arrogantly demand personal information and answers to "security questions" without ever proving who THEY are first.

    These same companies then wonder why people get taken in by scams so often.

    In the past I have often said to such companies that if they prove who they first then I will answer their "security" questions. But invariably the companies involved are far too stupid to realise that trust is a two-way thing. As a result, every single one of them refused to prove their authenticity to me.

    They could have easily done this by using innocuous info - e.g. correctly stating 2 digits from my account number (or by quoting some other non-compromising info from a previous bill or statement that the customer could check). However, these companies expect only the call recipient to be verified, despite the fact that they're the ones who cold-called you, not the other way round.

    To make matters worse, up until a few years ago, most companies would withhold their caller ID, and yet they still expected you to jump through all sorts of security hoops for the benefit of an unsolicited call from total stranger with an unidentified phone number.

    I now just tell these companies to get stuffed (if I didn't request the call) even when I know that they're from legitimate businesses. The call is not usually for my benefit anyway, they're usually just trying to flog another one of their products or services. If it's that important then they can ask me to call them back on their main company telephone number.

    1. Robert E
      FAIL

      Re: What do you expect?

      Actually, I do exactly the same.

      Nothing annoys me more than some company - usually a bank - that cold calls me, then expects me to answer personal questions "for data protection". They get confused when I refuse, explaining that they called me - not the other way around. They could be anyone.

      When I ask them to prove who they are, I get strange confused responses, such as "here's our number, call us back". Pardon me? I dont know where to begin with that one - The stupidness of it really gets to me.

      Incidently these calls are almost always on a withheld number. Even if it wasnt, callerid can easily be spoofed. I had an app on my mobile a few years ago which could set your ID to anything you like.

      I will not talk to these callers unless they can prove who they are first. I have not had one be able to do that yet

      Unfortuanely my wife is far too polite, so wont do what I do - and as a result she has been scammed once before. She was in the process of handing over her bank details when I walked into the room a few years ago. Had I not stopped her, she would have been a statistic - and as it was we had to get all her cards re-issued. Even then the bank was belligerent. When we reported it, they insisted she install security software on her laptop to help prevent fraud. My poor wife got frustrated with talking to them and I had to get on the phone to explain to them that no matter how much they insited we do this, her laptop was a Mac, and the Windows software they were trying to force us to install wouldnt work. They were confused, as they had no option for non-windows users.

      So - how does data protection work then? I really wish they would sort it out

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Hand my credit card to a courier, really ?

    If ever I get a suggestion like that, I think I'll actually accept it. I'll get rendez-vous details, where and when, and agree to be there.

    Then I'll call the cops and tell them what I've just arranged and would they be interested in catching a scammer ?

    I can't believe people fall for something as outlandish as that.

    1. VBF

      Re: Hand my credit card to a courier, really ?

      As soon as I started reading this article, I thought the title should be "More stupid people give their money away to con-men - stuff them!"

  10. PeterM42
    Trollface

    Brits conned out of nearly £24m in phone scams IN ONE YEAR

    Bear in mind that, statistically speaking, 50% of the population are BELOW average intelligence, which is why so many of these fraudsters get away with it.

    I have got fed up "stringing along" the calls from "Windows here, you have a problem with your computer" (max 20 mins of their time wasted) and leaving them hanging on the line while I go get the person they asked for. Warning to all scammers, I have acquired a REALLY LOUD whistle!!!!

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