Are you one of thousands of people to have received a call from a random, international number in recent months? You may have been the target of an international scam. Our guest, John Mitchison from the DMA, explains more…
Wangiri (which means ‘one ring and cut’ in Japan, from where the scam first originated) involves fraudsters dialling from an overseas number then immediately disconnecting the call after one or two rings. The target will often then ring back, typically after observing their phone has multiple missed calls from the same or similar numbers.
Victims that do return the call are redirected through an International Premium Rate service, which can cost a fortune for every minute that the call is connected. In the past, Ofcom have warned about the scam after a spate of cases but more can be done to help.
Fraudsters are utilising technology to assist with Wangiri scams by using automated systems to continuously dial multiple mobile numbers at a rate of up to 3,000 numbers a minute.
However, there are apps and services out there that can help. As long as people remain vigilant and know what to look out for, they can then take proactive steps to identify and report suspected scammers to these services.
What should you look out for?
The first thing is to look for patterns in the numbers calling you. Sometimes these numbers will be similar but slightly different; this could indicate a bank of automated machines making random calls.
Second, avoid numbers with +269 (Comoros), +231 (Liberia), +216 (Tunisia), +674 (Nauru), +222 (Mauritania), +235 (Chad) and +682 (Cook Islands), and prefixes that you don’t recognise.
Third, avoid calls from international numbers at unusual times – this could be scammers not accounting for time differences or trying to catch people off guard, perhaps when they have been asleep.
Fourth, a number that you don’t have saved or a number from a country that you don’t recognise as a location that a friend or relative is visiting – expatriates can often be targeted due to their international connections.
And lastly, multiple calls without a voicemail, message or email. Companies or relatives with genuine intent will leave a message for you if you miss their call.
How to protect yourself from scammers
It may sound obvious to many, but the best protection for when you receive an unknown phone call, and you’re not expecting it, is just don’t call back.
Many UK phone operators offer their consumers free calls to the EU and certain non-EU locations as part of your bundle, but this doesn’t mean to say this isn’t a premium number that will charge exorbitant fees once connected.
If you receive a call and you are unsure, perhaps look up the number on the Internet to check for reports of scams from that number. This scam is a telecoms industry-wide problem and is not specific to the UK and so the internet can be a useful ally.
Individually blocking offending numbers and services on landlines and mobile phones is a useful method, but not everyone has the time or patience to keep doing this – especially when consumers change phone-service providers or the offenders’ just change their numbers.
These days, nuisance calls and scams are becoming more of an issue on mobile phones, but there are apps out there that can help.
TPS Protect is an app available on Android/iOS designed to help block, identify and report incoming untrustworthy calls.
The free version allows users to register with the TPS and file complaints, join a growing community of those that complain about nuisance callers and scammers to enable regulators to take action, but most importantly, TPS Protect provides protection to users by identifying incoming scam and nuisance calls.
It is essential to the empowerment of services like the TPS that people not only register but complain about every nuisance call and potential scam they receive. The more people who do, the greater number of organisations that will be held accountable to the laws in place to protect consumers.
Complaints to the TPS are passed onto the relevant body, like Action Fraud or the Information Commissioner’s Office. It’s only with complaint information that these bodies can investigate and potentially fine companies or even prosecute those that are breaking the rules.
Do you have any advice for victims receiving calls from scammers? Or have you experienced the Wangiri scam first hand?
This is a guest post by Jon Mitchison. All views expressed here are Jon’s own and not necessarily those also shared by Which?.