Category: Cold Calls

Dealing with telephone cold callers

U.S. Breaks Indian Scam Call Centre

U.S. authorities have sentenced 21 people in connection with an India-based call centre scam that cost Americans hundreds of millions of dollars.

Defendants were given sentences of up to 20 years in prison, in what U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called “the first-ever large-scale, multi-jurisdiction prosecution targeting the India call centre scam industry.”

According to the U.S. Justice Department, the sophisticated operation revolved around call centres in Ahmedabad, India, from where individuals called American citizens while posing as officials with Internal Revenue Services or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Victims were told that they owed the government money, and were threatened with arrest, imprisonment, fines and deportation if they didn’t pay up. Those who gave in to the scam were made to pay using wire transfers, direct bank deposits or iTunes and other gift cards.

Once payment was received, the scammers contacted a network of runners in the U.S. who would launder the payments.

The scammers set out to defraud older Americans, legal immigrants and many others out of their life savings through lies and threats. Because of this, all resources at the Department’s disposal will be deployed to shut down these telefraud schemes, put those responsible in jail and bring a measure of justice to the victims, according to Attorney General Sessions.

The indictment also charged 32 Indian-based conspirators, who have yet to be arraigned.

The US authorities seem to be the only International player willing and able to take on the organised international fraudsters, root out these criminals and prosecute them.

Well done the U.S. Authorities and the Indian Police.

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.

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Automated Scam Calls

PPI callers and many others have been using automated systems for years that call and ask you questions then get you to press a button to be connected to an agent.

Automated systems are a lot cheaper than staff so for the criminals engaged in large scale scamming, this can be the most efficient way.

Action Fraud Technical Support Scam Calls

Action Fraud say people are receiving cold-calls from fraudsters claiming to represent Action Fraud. When the calls are answered, an automated voice asks the responder to “press 1 if you have made a report to Action Fraud.” When the responder presses 1, they are transferred to a fraudster.

Victims are informed that their computers have been hacked, which has led to their online bank account being compromised and funds being withdrawn. One particular victim was told that £40,000 had fraudulently left their account.

The scammer may ask for remote access to the victim’s computer, via a remote access tool. Once the scammer has that, they may be able to access confidential information, login and passwords, credit card details etc.

HMRC

The scam sees people called randomly with an automated message warning that they are under investigation by HMRC and need to call the number given or “face serious legal consequences.”

If you call back the crooks will likely ask for your bank details and make off with your money.

HMRC does not make threatening phone calls. HMRC will call people about outstanding tax bills, and sometimes use automated messages, however it would include your taxpayer reference number.

Talk Talk Example

“I have had an automated phone call from this number 081233472243. It was informing me that my internet connection would be cut at 1pm today, press button 1 to speak to an agent or button 2 to stay connected. I chose to hang up.

This is the first time I have had an automated call, I have had a lot of calls lately concerning my internet connection, I always hang up or sometimes they hang up when I tell them I don’t believe they’re from TalkTalk. They always ask me to turn my computer on, I always refuse.”

Good job she didn’t fall for the scam.

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Cold Call Surveys

Many companies use surveys of the public – stopping people in shopping centres etc. phoning two weeks after you bought a product from them and asking you to help them fill it in or by email request or cold call and so on.

Often, these are genuine surveys and the person standing in front of you or the caller is paid to get you to reply to their questions and sometimes there is a small reward such as a product tester.

But many cold call surveys are to get information that can be sold on – e.g. if you say you have pets then your name, address, contact details etc. can be sold to any number of pet insurance companies.

So, after the survey you may find yourself bombarded with calls from businesses you don’t want to deal with.

But there are other reasons they call e.g.

  1. They use the information you provide to trick you e.g. with a list of which magazines you subscribe to you may a call claiming one of the magazines subscriptions will end unless you pay immediately.
  2. Giving someone your name, phone number and birthdate can be enough for the scammer to make charges against your phone number
  3. The scammer starts asking survey questions then switches to a hard sell thereby bypassing the laws on cold calling for sales purposes
  4. A reward of some kind e.g. a discount cruise but where you need to pay a small delivery charge and once the scammer has your credit card details they can make any charges against your card they want.

Cold caller surveys may not be what they seem so be careful or just refuse to answer any questions.

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Keurboom Communications Stopped

Keurboom Communications Ltd has been handed the highest ever fine of £400,000 for nuisance calling after more than 1,000 people complained about automated calls.

The calls, made during an 18 month period, including road traffic accident claims and PPI compensation. Some people received repeat calls, even on the same day and during unsociable hours. The company also hid its identity, making it harder for people to complain.

The law says that companies can only make automated marketing calls to people if they have given consent. Keurboom ignored this and called without consideration.

The government is working on a new law to allow prosecution of Directors and fine them up to £500,000. This is because some companies deliberately closed down to avoid the fines imposed on them.

Following the ICO’s investigation, Keurboom Communications Ltd has been placed in voluntary liquidation. The ICO says it is committed to recovering the fine by working with the liquidator and insolvency practitioners.

How to Block Nuisance Callers

  1. Register with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) then reputable companies will no longer make sales and Marketing calls to your number.
  2. Use your phone to block repeated unwanted callers and caller ID withheld numbers. Some phones allow you to do this and some services such as BT Call Protect enable this.
  3. Use the magic phone number when a website demands your number. (More information at https://fightback.ninja/a-magic-phone-number-and-call-blocking/)

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.

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The Worst UK Nuisance Callers

The figures are for one week in 2017 and show the huge volumes of nuisance calls happening.

BT has analysed the data from its call protect service, that lets people block nuisance callers, to generate these statistics.

Number Categories Volume Proportion
1 Accident claims 12,211,599 41%
2 Personal details (Scam) 5,439,781 18.50%
3 PPI 1,892,479 6.40%
4 Computer scam 3,593,103 12.60%
5 Debt collection 2,212,713 7.50%
Other 4,131,102 14%
Total 29,480,477

PPI Claims Company Fined £570,000

A company which used high pressure tactics to get hundreds of customers to make PPI claims in the UK has been fined more than half a million pounds by the Claims Management Regulator.

Rock Law Ltd, based in Swansea, has been fined almost £570,000 for coercing clients into signing contracts, without giving them enough time to understand the terms and conditions before taking unauthorised payments.

The Government changed the law in December 2014 to introduce financial penalties for firms found breaching the regulator’s rules of conduct. The fines can be up to 20% of their annual turnover, as well as having their trading licence suspended or removed.

Head of Claims Management Regulation Kevin Rousell said: “Our investigation showed that Rock Law Ltd were taking unauthorised payments which meant vulnerable people were at risk of being exploited. The size of this record fine demonstrates how seriously we take protecting the public from this exploitation.”

An investigation by the regulator found that Rock Law Ltd had consistently infringed rules. Under those rules, companies are not allowed to take any payments from customers unless they have signed a written contract to work with them – so that people cannot be pressured into making agreements.

Since 2010 the regulator has removed the licences from over a thousand Claims Management Companies, including 300 last year.

To complain to the regulator: go to  https://www.gov.uk/complain-about-claims-company

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Who Makes the Cold Calls

Claims management companies (CMCs) are the ones that make most of the cold calls – PPI, accident claims etc.

The insurance company AXA surveyed people to ask about the cold calls they receive.

The biggest subjects for cold calls are PPI, accidents in public places, accidents in the workplace and motor insurance claims. Between them, these account for most of the cold calls.

An estimated 12 million Britons are cold called per day – despite stricter rules and the recent Government crackdown.

These companies are ‘bombarding people with cold calls, emails, letters and text messages’ and ‘clearly contributing to be the bane of many people’s lives,’ according to the new report from AXA.

Around half of the 2,131 consumers asked by AXA said they think the regulations around CMCs need to be significantly tightened up.

Possible changes with significant support include:-

  • Cold calls from CMCs to be made illegal
  • A cap of between six and 10 per cent on the fees that CMCs can make, compared with about 30% that they currently charge.
  • Make it mandatory for calling companies to show the numbers they are calling from
  • A time limit on when consumers can claim back compensation after an event (most people think this should be 12 months).
  • A ban on automated calling

A quarter of people surveyed said they felt stressed by these calls from CMCs and 44 per cent were concerned about how the companies had got their details.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport, is looking into how these regulations can be tightened.

Between April 2014 and December 2015, the Claims Management Regulator issued 459 warnings, carried out 685 audits, started more than 150 investigations into specific firms and suspended 159 company licences.

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Lifestyle Survey Phone Calls

It seems to be stupid survey call season again.

I don’t know why, but these calls seem to happen for a period of weeks then stop for up to several months then start again. And this is the start – three calls yesterday and two today so far.

These callers are trained to be friendly starting with “How are you today Sir?”

Then a starter such as “I just have a few questions to ask you today please”

or “Please can you help me by answering just a  few simple questions about lifestyle?”

They ask questions to profile you – gender, age range, location etc. then the key questions are usually about things such as insurance, pets, children, safety, who supplies your electricity and gas, which supermarkets you shop at etc.

The questions themselves are mostly harmless, but these people sell the answers so if you answer “No you don’t have household insurance” then that makes you a good lead to sell to every home contents insurance company they can find.

The result is then lots more calls from insurance companies that you didn’t ask for.

Most of these survey companies operate from outside of the UK and claim they can ignore the fact that many of us are registered on the Telephone Preference Service and should not be called.  They are wrong in this belief and should not call TPS registered numbers.

Best not to answer such surveys unless you are happy to put up with the subsequent unwanted sales phone calls.

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The New BT Halo Phone

BT has launched BT Halo, a new home phone that allows customers to make and receive mobile calls from their home phone using Bluetooth technology.

This is one of the new generation wireless home phones that can integrate with your mobile phone and give you cheaper mobile calls from home.  It can even access your mobile phone contact list.

It has all of the usual features you’d expect with a home phone – an answer machine, hands free option etc and it is wireless.

It’s increasingly common now for new home phones to include call screening and the BT Halo includes BT’s Premium Nuisance Call Blocking service.

 

Whether its nuisance calls, marketing and sales calls or just callers you don’t want to talk to – it’s useful to be able to block them.

You can choose to block specific numbers or only let calls through from people you know. You do have to pay for the BT caller display service to get full functionality from the phone.

If you have problems with cold callers then do register with the Telephone Preference Service at www.tpsonline.org.uk and try one of the new generation home phones that come with call blocking features.

The BT Halo is available now from the BT Shop and a single unit is £99.99 and the BT Halo Twin is £139.99.

It’s not the cheapest of wireless home phones but worth a look, especially for the call blocking features.

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