/ Technology

Have you been called by a ‘BT technical support’ phone scam?

Has the ‘Microsoft technical support’ phone scam evolved? Is it now the ‘BT technical support’ scam? We’ve heard from people who’ve been called… and we want to see whether there are more of you out there.

02/09/2019: BT technical department call

We continue to receive large numbers of reports of scammers impersonating BT’s ‘technical department’ in order to gain access to victims’ PCs and/or extort money from them:

It would appear that this call is similar in nature to the Visa ‘fraud department’ scam, which has also been plaguing people across the country.

Thanks to you and your frequent comments here on Which? Conversation we’re well aware of the scam and are able to warn others. We’ll also be making BT aware of the volume of comments we’ve been receiving.

As always, if you’re worried about these calls or fear that you may well have fallen for a scam, our guide to phone scams can advise on what you need to do.

These calls can also be reported to Action Fraud online or by phone on 0300 123 2040.

Have you received this scam call? If so, let us know in the comments and help others avoid falling into its trap.

Original convo 22/11/2013

Remember the Microsoft support scam? It starts with a nuisance call, but can end with your PC being compromised and a dent in your bank account.

An unsolicited caller claims to be working for Microsoft’s support team, they ask to remotely access your PC, they ‘prove’ that your computer’s infected with viruses, and they offer to fix it for a fee.

The thing is, they’re not from Microsoft and your computer may be virus free. And even if your PC was infected, you could get it in ship shape condition with free antivirus software.

Hundreds of you have told us that you’ve been subject to this scam. Microsoft’s own survey found that one in five people in the UK have been called by one of these scam callers. Of those who fell victim to the scam, the average amount lost was  £745.

The ‘BT technical support’ scam

We’ve now received reports that the scam has changed, or at least that it’s evolved to be a call from ‘BT’s support team’.

One Which? member told us he thought he was speaking to someone from BT – he was then tricked into paying the best part of £400 to remove viruses from his PC.

Our Twitter follower Brian experienced something similar. He was called by someone claiming to work for BT’s Wi-Fi team. They told him there were problems with the broadband connection in his area and that they needed remote access to his computer to fix it. This took control away from Brian, his computer shut down and now he can’t start it up.

So we want to hear from you – have you been called by someone claiming to be from BT’s support team? Did they remotely access your computer? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Advice on technical support scams

Oh, and some advice for you if you’re called by one of these scammers, whether they purport to be from BT, Microsoft or another company. A caller does not know whether your PC is infected with viruses. Do not ever let a caller remotely access your PC – this hands them the keys to your personal data. And never hand over your bank details to an unsolicited caller.

If you think you’ve been a victim, run a virus scan, alert your bank and contact Action Fraud to report the scam.

One final thing you can do to help call time on scams is sign our stop nuisance calls peitition.

Comments

At least one call a week.
My wife just puts the phone down.
OTOhand, I keep them talking , then tell the caller, our company has welcomed his call, we now have the country of origin, city town area and his IP address. Inforcement Action will be following shortly. For some reason, the caller cuts the line ?
Strange they never leave me a message on the answerphone, for such important matter, probably just a matter of time.

Rgds

John says:
3 December 2019

I get this all the time, its either BT or Open reach lol going to cut me off, or a call from my creditcard company..only they call it ‘this is a call from your credit card company’ lmao… apparently Ive had 600gbp taken from my account every week this year …. Then of course theres the call from the ‘Microsoft help desk’ apparently my IP address is sending out spam whatever… and they can fix it by accessing my computer… I keep them talking for about 30 mins… then ask them some technical questions about IP addresses, packets, tracing etc they soon hang up…Then of course there was the great one, Sky called saying that they were no longer accepting monthly direct debits for insurance on the my sky box… so I would have to pay annually or 6 monthly or I would be cut off. Oh ok I said, can you give me my membership no. and the amount I pay… of course they say .. and reel of some fictional no.s… and I thank them and then say let me get my wallet I want to pay cash.. oh no sir you cant do that… but I say Ill pay cash over the phone now… then I ask them as they are sky to put me through to the cancellations dept … oh we cant do that sir, ah ok..is that because your a scammer?

And lastly the call from ‘this is your internet provider’ we are going to cut you off… ah ok hello my internet provider, which internet provider are you?…click…..

John, thanks for sharing. I also enjoy wasting scammers’ time when they call, but I now don’t seem to get called very often.

It is a shame that the likes of BT won’t do more to block these calls outright. (I wonder if they make money out of them.)

From other posts here, I know that some find these calls to be a great nuisance.

That said, I think anyone who is prepared to spend money on getting rid of that nuisance can easily get a call blocking phone.

How many times have I posted on Which saying- nothing to do with BT and went into technical detail to explain why Derek ?
In 2019 BT only accounts for approx 35 % of communications in the UK followed by SKY- approx 26 % –Virgin Media- approx 22 % – Talk Talk – approx- 13 % plus others .
Its like saying – how is the weather out there darling ? –oh its raining — that’s Putin,s/Russia,s fault dear.
I posted only yesterday to a poster explaining how those calls will not stop because the “great ” UK government listens to big business NOT UK citizens , the methods used by scammers are identical to UK & Global businesses to HIDE their location due to globalisation not only in telephone calls but in emails as well but the truth will always be ignored.
The UK government /EU agreed with Congress that -that is the way to go –so aim criticism rightly where it belongs– the Business world and profit.

If you are correct, Duncan, it is government we should blame for not taking action, not business.

I’m not so sure the USA has dealt with this comprehensively. 60 million calls a year may be blocked, but this is chickenfeed compared to the “billions of unwanted robocalls” – have they got the numbers right?

”Americans plagued by billions of unwanted robocalls to their phones are about to get some relief.
The Federal Communications Commission has approved rules to make it easier for carriers to stop automated calls.
Phone firms will use algorithms and network scanning to block calls in the way that emails are screened for spam.
It won’t stop all calls – and customers can opt out – but the regulator says it will help with the some 5 million robocalls a month consumers receive.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48535972

And only now after me mentioning this US AI trial that’s being ongoing since spring several times in Which it seems to have arrived at the BBC –so NOW its believable Malcolm –check out my old posts .
I did say at present its around 85 %/90 % effective but that’s a big help and I also said —NOT available here .
Well —yes Malcolm the UK government agreed to it.

The difference, though, between the total number of robocalls reported, and those they say they can block, is of the order of 100 times. Stopping one in a hundred seems pretty ineffectual to me. It suggests it is a problem that no one has been able to crack.

Perhaps we should be using this Convo as we are drifting a little off topic? https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/end-nuisance-calls-crackdown-task-force-progress/

The tests aren’t over yet Malcolm as blocking takes place many hackers beaver away at overcoming it , its down to Computer programmers to get it right .
AI is ongoing and always will be just look at Windows 10 ,every few weeks I get notified of dozens of hacks of “backdoors ” in its system having to be blocked by system updates.

Here is what action the US -FTC .gov is taking-
https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2019/06/ftc-law-enforcement-partners-announce-new-crackdown-illegal
Here is a simple wording of the new system being tested –
You get email all the time from people who are not what it says in the header field,” Peterson said. “You can kind of think of what we’ve developed as the next generation of Caller ID.”

The developers have dubbed the system STIR and SHAKEN, a geeky engineering homage to fictional British spy James Bond’s martini preference.

STIR, or Secure Telephone Identity Revisited, is a call-certifying protocol. SHAKEN, or Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs, verifies the caller’s right to use their phone numbers.

When you make a call, your phone carrier will use your identifying number to create a digital signature, or token, that will accompany the call as it is being completed.

At the other end, the system verifies that nothing was tampered with and ensures that the call came from “someone who has a legitimate right to use that number,” McEachern said.

Another view of it-
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/02/the-beginning-of-the-end-of-robocalls.html

I want to emphasise that the US government has and still is taking action against companies that never happens on any grand scale in the UK by forcing legislation to make new programming and software be installed in exchanges and mobile networks .
Read-

https://www.theverge.com/2019/5/3/18525784/robocalls-spam-calls-solutions-comcast-at-t-t-mobile-stir-shaken-scam-john-legere-telecom

Now where is UK action ?
The US FCC .gov say -quote- be aware –Caller ID showing a “local number ” no longer means its a local caller –NOW am I believed when I have said this plenty of times on Which ?-

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/02/the-beginning-of-the-end-of-robocalls.html

This is the FCC and Ajit Pai finally acting to allow call blocking. It’s not an astonishingly new tranche of technology, rather the “Toothless American consumer watchdog the Federal Trade Commission” finally conceding that US consumers need some protection.

But if we look at FCC chairman Ajit Pai and the FCC itself we can see that, far from the USA being streets ahead, the US consumer is actually served rather badly.

From the Register over the past six months alone:

“It’s been 18 months since it emerged that US mobile companies were selling the location data to their tens of millions of users with little or no oversight, and Congress wants to know what the FCC is doing about it.”

“the Federal Trade Commission today agreed to let AT&T settle a five-year battle over phony “unlimited data” promises for just $60m. That’s $40m less than expected, and less than one day of annual profit for the telco giant.”

“American internet users are, seemingly, getting a quarter of the internet speed they are paying for.”

“Yet another survey, this time in the US state of Georgia, demonstrates that American consumers are being institutionally lied to about their broadband”

“Ajit Pai turns logic on its head while doing Big Cable’s bidding”

“A bounty hunter was able to get the live location of a number of different individuals from American cellphone networks through a single phone call, it is claimed.”

By comparison I think we really do rather well – and certainly no worse.

DerekP says:
3 December 2019

Actually, it would be easy for BT to do more. It could automatically enrol all subscribers in its Call Protect scheme, with an option to opt out.

Duncan: your first link suggests sixty billion robo-calls per year at least are being inflicted on the US consumer. That’s 164,383,561 per day so according to your second link US consumers will only have protection for three days per year.

The ‘new’ system – called STIR/SHAKEN – only lets service providers identify when a call is from a real caller, not when it’s from a spammer, and that call has to be connecting two networks that have partnered to use the authentication protocol.

So not only is it a fair way off from being implemented, but it won’t be able to block anywhere near all calls (by their own admission) and certainly won’t be able to block any calls before the ‘phone rings at present.

It also seems the US consumer suffers far more from SPAM calls than we do, almost certainly a penalty of living in a society which is pretty well totally profit oriented.

Derek do you know about UN—bundling ? — most telephone/internet companies have their own equipment in BT exchanges therefore each company would have to install their own software.
As I said above BT accounts for only just over ONE third of communications in the UK therefore TWO thirds of UK citizens don’t use BT –ask SKY VM etc to “do something ” .
Call Protect is useless with VoIP block telephone number dialling you need to block each individual call –time after time after time , once I programme in using my new call-blocker all the people I want to contact me (waiting for them to call — ) then I switch over so that only they can phone me , even so as it stands I have automatically using the blocker blocked a variety of different types of calls.
Yes some services cant get through until I programme them in but give it a few weeks and all will be well – silencio at present.

If its doing its job it will stop them ringing but as I said its still being trialled and like a new computer system it will get updates to it.
I will agree on the “society pretty well totally profit orientated ” but Americans are taught that’s normal from birth and the “American Way ” its heading that way here as well just takes a bit longer to “programme” the new generation .

I might agree that cultural hegemony has always been something of an issue, but I fundamentally believe the British culture is far more resilient than you seem to believe. It’s certainly very much more tolerant and considered than our colonial cousins and it’s not some demagogue that will programme our children, but their own parents. And, in many cases, they do quite enough damage by themselves.

Duncan, I hear what you’re saying but I still think BT (and the other telecoms companies) are failing to act with initiative and enterprise here.

In America Derek a small number of companies own a massive amount of the world media empire , AT & T for example own many related companies and have a revenue of $171 billion as well as that they successfully appealed against a BT type government control .
BT is hamstrung by OFCOM and still is even though other companies comprise the vast majority of communications in the UK look at SKY -massive company worldwide makes BT look like a pauper .
What am I saying– other companies can well afford to install blocking equipment be it software orientated or not , why not ask the US big media who have lobbied HMG for ages and via Donald to pay for uprating the UK communications network ?
They want to sell more apps to the public and while he is here in the UK telling the public to vote for Boris and forcing him to accept US big medical and US big big pharma and take over the NHS ,ask him if US companies will contribute to UK infrastructure ?
You wont get far Donald to Macron- make our “dear ” Amazon / Google etc good American companies pay taxes to you ? – no chance only to me – $100 million wanted ? you try that and —–.
So what chance has Boris telling Donald —zip !

I think we should stop “scare stories” about the NHS and the USA., and how they feel about our elections – at least if you listen to today’s news. Nor do I see why we should expect US companies to contribute to our communications infrastructure. We could simply place an extra tax on subscription entertainment to support broadband expansion, for example.

Scare stories Malcolm ? not according to the medical staff who are out protesting about it in London –
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/nhs-staff-protest-donald-trumps-21019057
How many lies have been told and when found out they make up excuses , I wouldn’t believe one word of what Boris says .
I certainly see why US media companies should contribute they are the ones lobbying HMG for 5G so that they can sell expensive media apps to UK citizens .

US lobbying firm (the ) Internet Association has opened an office in London it represents massive companies like- Facebook-Google-Twitter and that other well known “” UK “” company –Amazon and the pure bull coming out of them is awesome .
They have already been in touch with the Digital-Cultural- Media and Sports Committee – the spokesman says -quote –we hope to influence any decisions made .

I think if we all stopped arguing about how things might be done differently in America we might approach these UK problems in a more constructive way. Unless we live there we don’t have actual real-time experience.

While nuisance phone calls tricking people into thinking that their computer, or whatever, has been intercepted are bad, and there are statistics indicating the scale of frauds, in fact most of the comments received in Which? Conversation seem to be from people confirming that they did not Press One and succumb to a malware download or a raid on their bank balance.

For most correspondents it seems to be the nuisance effect that is most irritating and annoyance that the telecom companies or the government do not seem to want to do something about it. It seems clear to me that there is very little that can be done about it technically. There is no technology on this earth, including any using artificial intelligence algorithms, that can tell in advance that a call will be a nuisance before the recipient answers it.

So long as scammers are free to use any numbers they like, including by spoofing, such calls cannot be trapped at their point of origination or at the point of entry into the UK telecom system, or even at a local exchange. Manual switchboards and exchanges could do it but it would be unaffordable and still not 100% reliable.

So we are where we are and the priority should be to make sure that the scammers are defeated by a total refusal of people to answer phone calls they do not recognise, to block any nuisance calls [notwithstanding the limitations of such action], and never to pursue a nuisance call or allow a stranger to have access to their device. I believe the number of such calls is declining anyway now because people have become wise to the scams.

In the overall scheme of things, and having regard to the long list of problems that need to be fixed in the UK, I would not even put nuisance calls in the top ten public concerns justifying serious expenditure right now. Without an enforcement system changing the law would be pointless as well.

When Which? raises such an issue and invites readers to report their experiences it is not surprising that large amounts of corroborative experience and comments come in, and there are several similar Conversations currently open collecting such reports and points of view, but statistically I don’t think they add up to much overall and are not related to any statistical basis from which conclusions can be drawn. After all these years of debating this topic we still do not know the total number of nuisance calls, the number received per subscriber on average each year, how many were terminated by the recipient at the outset, how many led to contact with a scammer, and how many led to an actual fraud.

Which? has abandoned this and other Conversations with no follow up on what it is going to do or how it would propose to end the misery of nuisance calls and – obviously – the risk to people’s on-line security. I do not wish to underestimate the seriousness of this crime and the harmful consequences if the scammers are successful, but if everyone is vigilant, and thinks before handing over access to their on-line presence, the threat will diminish long before a technical fix emerges.

I agree with Derek [above] that BT could automatically enrol all subscribers in its Call Protect scheme, with an option to opt out. Other telecom service providers would then be incentivised to take similar action.

Duncan – There is not a shred of evidence in the Daily Mirror article to which you provided a link to substantiate any form of threat to the NHS from American policy. Street protests in themselves are not evidence.

As Malcolm says, these are scare stories, and the article confirms that because it is just a series of anecdotes that are obviously intended to support the conspiracy theory of a sell-out to American commercial interests but they actually fail to do so.

There might be a lot wrong with the NHS but nothing that would benefit much from foreign intervention. Until someone speaks honestly about restraining demand instead of just piling in more money in a vain attempt to meet it, nothing said by any politician should be taken seriously.

The same Blair that was asked to walk across the the Lobby of the House and join the Conservatives Gradders his policies were so compatible with them ?
The same Blair that said –weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Looking forward to what you have to say on what action BT & other big telecommunication companies like SKY have to say on the scam subject , BT only has 35 % of UK communications .
UNbundling =forcing BT to accept every other companies equipment in their exchanges –ergo —BT has zero control on the software programming of other ISP,s equipment , have you asked the other companies to install new equipment/software to stop scams ?

I have never voted for Labour –check it out .
BUT I have worked in the NHS and I worked there before creeping privatisation and know how doctors/Professors/ surgeons , nurses think .

I wonder if debates about the USA, Tony Blair, Politicians in general and Weapons of Mass Destruction have a place in here at all, never mind during a general election campaign?

Precisely. I think we should do our best to debate the topic and leave distracting gossip to the tabloids and politicians.

If a visitor to this site asks a question about a UK consumer issue, it’s very unhelpful to start discussing how consumer protection differs in other countries.

On the other hand, where we are discussing the need for changes in our laws or enforcement action being taken then it can be worth looking at how other countries deal with similar problems. For example, Duncan drew our attention to class action against a printer manufacturer in the US. In the UK, the major printer manufacturers just get away with the anticompetitive behaviour of blocking the use of third party ink cartridges.

I suggest that we don’t bring other countries into the discussion unless it is useful to the debate.

This post is of course not relevant to our subject.

Morning all!

Thank you @wavechange for pointing this out – I was just about to make the same comments myself.

If John comes back to his comment he will be wondering what on earth he started! Global politics are important to everyone’s lives but on Convo can we try to stay to UK consumer issues? Thank you. 🙂

Trevor Haldenby says:
6 December 2019

Another BT fault, threatening arrest for fraud if we do not “press 1” . This number is 008003324345. Don’t be drawn in to this scam.

Naomi Griffiths says:
12 December 2019

About 8am this morning received a call from 01328972399, a lady with a very strong Indian accent insisting she was calling from BT and that they heard I was having problems with my internet connection. The line was very very crackly so communications were not very clear but I heard her ask me to check the lights on my router. My ISP is not BT so I thought this was odd but I had been in contact with my ISP ‘plusnet’ and they had sorted out a bandwidth problem I had so it could, I suppose, have been possible they contacted BT who are responsible for the telephone line leading to my house, although unlikely? It was odd that BT whom I do not use would call me at 8am! I told the caller that the line was so bad I could hardly hear her and this went on for a few moments – she telling me to check my internet lights and me telling her the line was bad and she’d have to repeat herself and finally she hung up. (Obviously realising she’d get nowhere!) Just want to give this example of a scam call so people out there will recognise it if it happens to them.