/ Technology

We need action to cut off fake phone numbers

We know you hate nuisance calls. But there’s another twist in this modern day menace – ‘spoofed calls’. Ofcom estimates as many as two billion nuisance calls are made each year using fake numbers…

You know what it’s like; you’re sat by your phone waiting for an important call, when it suddenly rings. You look down and see it’s withheld number. You answer just in case. And then the automated voice kicks in telling you you’ve been in an accident.

In recent weeks I’ve been touring the country talking to the public about their experiences of nuisance calls and meeting politicians to discuss how we can tackle the problem. The one thing I heard time and again was, ‘so many of them don’t show a number, so I’ve just stopped answering them’.

Watch out for number spoofing

But now there’s another trick that companies are using to get you to answer you phone – they’re ‘spoofing’ numbers. Call centres are using software to fool your phone’s caller ID system to hide their real identity. This means they can make it look like they’re calling from another number, including from a local area code.

This isn’t always done for devious reasons – some companies display a freephone number so you can call them back without being charged. However, the number of nuisance calls using spoofing technology is rising, with Ofcom estimating that as many as two billion nuisance calls are made using fake numbers each and every year. And the real kicker is that this allows nuisance calling companies to bypass the call blocking device you might have bought.

Government must keep its promises

While it’s illegal for companies to spoof numbers, with fines of up to £2m, it’s so far been difficult for the regulator to prosecute anyone.

That’s why we want the Government to keep its promises on making firms give valid numbers when making outbound marketing calls. Not only will this help you decide whether to answer the phone, it will make it easier to report unwanted calls.

Have you ever had a phone call from a local area code only for it to be a nuisance caller at the end of the line?

Niall says:
19 January 2017

Just had a call come direct through my BT Call Guardian (8500) phones showing it’s number as “0700017”. Answered it, only to find it was yet another call from the scum at “Microsoft support”!!!
So, two issues here :
1) Why did VirginMedia (my line supplier) allow this clearly FAKE number to even call me?
2) Why did BT Call Guardian let it through without having to announce themselves??
Mainly to highlight this to others, but obviously if anyone has any suggested answers….. 🙂


Niall , in reply to -#2 first Virgin Media have their own electronic switching and control of their own separate from BT,s equipment so any signal or control of your BT Call Guardian is governed by them not BT , that includes Call-Display . BT,s CG phone is not made by BT I think it is a version by Panasonic but I will have to verify that. You will need to contact VM about the turning on of any facilities on the CG (apart from your own programming of the phone ) , you are not alone there are many complaints on VM,s own website don’t let VM make out – its the BT phone thats “faulty ” take it to a friend who has a BT line WITH caller -display and try it there. In answer to your -#1- this is what BT has now announced that it will combat (for free ) to BT customers by coding in a number and using exchange equipment facilities not phone facilities and BT (if asked ) will intercept all those PPI/sales calls even before it reaches your phone this applies as well to scam calls , so you have a point -if BT can do it why not VM VM are a massive $Billion company they can afford to do it but they do make money from calls, speak to VM. . Go to : http://www.virginmediabusiness.co.uk to access VM COMMUNITY website and post your complaint.

Niall says:
19 January 2017

Thanks Duncan. I’ll certainly pursue it with Virginmedia. until I lose the will to live, again . So far they’ve done little more than say “It’s probably a computer-generated call, and nothing we can do except record it’s happened (so it may be blocked next time) – please report it to the TPS!” You’re right, this functionality should be included within the phone system (as BT have done recently) but this is more basic than that – it’s not that the scammers have spoofed a valid number – they’ve used a number which could not POSSIBLY have been genuine, and yet VM were happy to connect it! Yet another example of Virginmedia missing the point entirely 🙁
Not sure I understood all you were meaning, though – The caller identity is provided by the network, and then CallGuardian kit applies it’s own logic to it (nothing VM have to do with it from that point). However even if Call Guardian is not directly manufactured by BT, it’s certainly ‘their product’, and they were happy to receive feedback on it when I spoke to their support desk. They, like me, were surprised to hear this had happened once the call got as far as their kit, and were going to pass on to their techies to try to replicate. They also were puzzled by VMs response.


Just to clarify Nial – yes the caller identity is provided by the network thats why so many VM users of BT,s phone are complaining as VM do know all the data passing through their network and can recognise easily any that are PPI/sales etc calls . Its the same principle of the Yandex Mail service I have in addition to BT,s it stops the emails from appearing as normal mail and junks them but the new BT service means they wont even reach that stage as BT will intercept them before it gets to your exchange equipment ringing current circuit so the call will not be actuated . I hope thats explains it better -if not please get back and elucidate. I wish you luck with VM if you were with a small telecoms company I might be more understanding and more sympathetic towards it but certainly not VM.


Going onto BT,s website I now find I am being offered the set up of BT Call-Protect as part of my package , as well as virus control and Internet safety. It didnt take them long to add it on.

Chris Smith says:
24 January 2017

I have had numerous calls from some insurance firm which displays the are code of my home town despite the company being based elsewhere. Interestingly i was abroad one time this happened. The called ID showed a call coming from 0151 (liverpool) number. I didnt answer but my phone gave me a txt message to say i missed a call from (01382) number which is my home town area code. something about the international nature of the call to a mobile that was abroad seemed to trip up the spoofing.

David Butler says:
31 January 2017

So far today , just like any other day I have received recorded messages about a replacement boiler for people on benefits. The number is alway one digit less than expected. These numbers today>>>
All meaningless … so how do we find out where they originate from


Hi David, have you reported the numbers at all? You can do so here: http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/nuisance-calls-and-texts/