/ 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?

Comments
Guest
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….. 🙂

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Guest

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.

Guest
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.

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Guest

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.

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Guest

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.

Guest
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.

Guest
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>>>
0178547452
0194567225
0144422838
0137557837
0167597438
All meaningless … so how do we find out where they originate from

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Guest

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

Guest
David Butler says:
31 January 2017

Hi Lauren, no but I will do now. I did report the spoof numbers to the appropriate Ofcom page though. I think that service providers should automatically bar incorrect originating codes from being passed through network. Thanks for your advice.

Guest
ChrisT says:
7 February 2017

I’d love to do that but I received 8 calls since yesterday, Monday morning. The process is so laborious I’d have to spend a couple of hours reporting them all and I don’t have the time for that…

Guest

I get “spoofed number” calls daily with a recorded message “Oil, electric, LPG and gas – don’t miss out on this offer, press 2 to contact an advisor or press 9 to be removed”. There is at least one of these calls on my answering machine every day when I get home. Of course, I DON’T press any buttons having read tales of calls being forwarded to India and other countries etc. It’s from a different number every time which is a fake number having only 10 digits, so nothing can be done about it. It’s just something I’ll have to live with I suppose.

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Guest

Not unless you buy a call blocker Len and make sure its one that blocks spoof numbers/VoIP /Block number dialing /etc. Mines does.

Guest

Thank you for the advice Duncan, I’ll look into that. Just out of interest, which model of call blocker do you have?

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Guest

Len-Its not Which,s choice but I have had it two years and it has not let me down , from 15 calls a day to–zero. Its CPR Call Blocker and yes it can be bought straight from the suppliers in this country I have the medium level one which cost me £50 but is now £60 but I advise the Premium Level one the V5000 £70 -preloaded with 5000 known nuisance numbers – blocks 1500 – you name it VoIP/Block number dialing 0- digit 10 number calls -private-withheld- unavailable -area codes etc etc . 3 inch LCD display big red block now/button and you can allow or block whoever you want its the USA,s biggest seller . There is a local English telephone number thats where I bought mine. I am of course , speaking for myself not Which , if you prefer Which,s one , no problem. Even the sales number is 0800 and did I say its guaranteed to block SPOOF numbers including 00, PPI . Accident insurance types read the info on their website nice people not a hard nosed business no problem with delivery. silence is “Golden ” now .

Guest

We have just signed up to BT Call Protect because of scam calls – latest version of the old ‘Microsoft’ scam, where they try to convince you that they work, in this case, for BT – THEY DON’T. Ask ’em about OUCs and see what the reaction is !!! Call Protect lets you block Withheld and International numbers, plus other numbers you nominate. These scam calls are from Asia, we think, but occasionally spoof a UK dialling code – Sadly Call Protect does not pick these up and so we are still getting infuriating calls. Now, the scammers won’t get a jot out of us but I do worry about the proverbial little old biddy and that annoys me. This spoofing of UK codes must be stopped.

Guest

I’ve set up telephone systems for small businesses…. Basically, the technology is there to “block” numbers. I can’t presume what Virgin or BT run, but why would they have worse, less capable tech hardware than the average small startup?

“Blocking” is perhaps the wrong term; the call needs to come in to identify it (before it reaches the destination) – that means to VM first and not YOU, they ARE handling it at that stage no matter what they say – think about it. You have a VM phone line, so it goes to them first – it just isn’t answered, but it will be logged and it CAN be scrutinised (it’s just extra work, or money, hence why they don’t bother)

I basically protected one business from these calls by blacklisting a whole range of numbers and routing them to… nothing. So it rings out forever; if they called again so what?

And of course, I could retrieve any records on the small chance a genuine number was filtered. Withhelds were the most common. Some people who shouldn’t, actually withhold their number, getting themselves lumped in with scammers, which is another argument a business like VM might use (“Oh, how would we know we aren’t blocking legitimate calls? You’d blame us then!”)

I’ve managed to track certain calls to pay as you go SIM cards from Orange. I reported them to ActionFraud, who… couldn’t take action as the callers were abroad (it wasn’t spelt out further than “unable to pursue this lead”), but did look into it.

Orange refused to own the problem when I called them, though they did confirm the numbers I captured were theirs.

——-
What also happens is.. a call centre can buy a load of SIM Cards and load it into the router to dial off those numbers, via the main telephony system. Orange didn’t care, I assume, as they made their money from topups.

This is also a valid technique for backup in outbound callcentres, but like with any tech, it can be misused. Sadly, it’s “how” you use it, don’t blame the tech!

Rubbish isn’t it? I sincerely recommend Which? contact ALL the big SIM card issuers and ask them why they allow such calls through their SIM cards. (The numbers can be disguised but sometimes a company is too lazy / stupid / forgets etc.)

Which? – if you want, email me and I am happy to give you any findings I have or further explanation. Sometimes I think I’m the only one looking deeply at it with a technical mindset!

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Guest

Not the only one T I said long ago that BT etc were capable of recognising incoming calls and blocking them . I worked for BT repairing/replacing/programming business CCS over a whole range of the original BT equipment when I worked with the CRAM group (call-connect+apparatus maintenance ) -now no longer a group , repairing Herald /Viceroy / Tudor/ Ambassador/ and a long list of small to medium business systems replacing phones /consuls /rewiring 4-wire data lines / full reprogramme on system failure , allocating managers access control and those under him , ring patterns/ blockers/ you name it . I have said the Electronic Exchange equipment allows the ISP to exercise FULL control over ALL consumers exactly in the same manner as a large business system and I have that in writing as I kept the manuals that were issued by the BT schools training colleges . GCHQ can trace anything , they might not admit it but take my word on that , while our “god ” is our ISP the whole countries real GOD is GCHQ.

Guest
David says:
13 May 2017

What they are doing is illegal, the telephone companies are hiding and protecting them, and it is massively annoying.

This is not how you develop new business by hiding your number.

Do something about it, you say you can send people into space, but you can not find a company who is hiding their original number, hmmm?.

Guest
Pam Thompson says:
24 May 2017

I believe BT has the technology but not the will to find out who is behind the false numbers. The government and GCHQ seems to be able to monitor everyone’s phone calls so why not put that skill to good use in tracing these people? If someone is taking steps to hide their identity, you can be sure they are doing something immoral or illegal and don’t want to get caught. A few more nice big fines, will stop them, and if not, will at least give *me* the satisfaction of knowing they they are hurting.

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Guest

Can you tell us what you know about BT having the technology? This is at the heart of the problem

Guest
Pam Thompson says:
24 May 2017

I can’t at this moment. I read something quite in depth about it but can’t recall where I saw it. I’m sure a Google search will help you to find the information though

Guest
Oakley says:
12 July 2017

In recent days, usually about mid-day, I’ve received calls that my handset shows as “International” but which is using a UK number, in this case a Leeds number. I felt it was suspicious, probably a scam number, and blocked it.

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Guest

Your right that type of “International ” call is a scam (there are other types ) Oakley.