/ 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?


Nuisance calls WERE an absolute pain up until 10 months ago, when we purchaed a TrueCall screening unit. We were getting 7 to 9 cold calls aday, now NOT ONE CALL! Buy one with confidence and stop the cold-callers disrupting your days…and occasional nights!

My wife has a good way of upsetting the ones that say they are doing a consumer survey, She tells them she is glad they called as she is doing a survey of her own, then proceeds to ask a list of very personal questions about their job, life etc. They usually realise whats happening after a few minutes, but at least my wife has wasted their time and had a laugh from it.

The more of these calls you answer – and have fun with – then the more you will get.
The fact you answered means a live number, and they will pass the number on to more scammers etc.
I have caller id turned on and use a bt8500 to block calls. This phone will block numbers by area(std) code.
So i have blocked 0203 0207 0208 0002 0001 (I don’t know anyone from the London area) As most of the scam calls were coming from India? using the above codes. Have also blocked International/witheld and unavailable. Scam/cold calls have gone from 8 -12 a day to odd 1 or 2 a week which i block on a number by number basis. Don’t wait for the powers that be to sort this out.

What the Consumerist says in the US. And it discusses technical fixes!

“Even in an age when everyone has Caller ID on their cellphones and landlines, when more than 200 million numbers are listed on the national Do Not Call Registry, our phones are still inundated with unwanted auto-dialed and prerecorded calls. And though state and federal regulators regularly shut down illegal telemarketing operations, it can seem like a game of Whac-A-Mole, with new robocallers popping up to replace the old ones.
There are a number of ways to use technology to reduce the number of annoying robocalls you receive, but U.S. phone companies have generally left it up to consumers to defend themselves against the telemarketing onslaught, rather than implementing ways to prevent most robocalls from getting through in the first place.
Telecoms Charge For Limited Blocking
If you want to block robocalls on your landline service from AT&T or Verizon, your options are limited and expensive:
•Call Block/Anonymous Call Rejection: For $8.50/month, you can block 10 numbers and all anonymous callers. It not only costs a lot, but it means you’ll have to constantly be updating your blacklist.
• Landline Service: Blocking either 6 or 12 numbers (depending on service area) will run you $6/month. If you also want to block anonymous numbers, that costs another $6.
• FiOS VoIP Service: Verizon doesn’t charge FiOS customers for either service, but puts a 100-number limit on the blacklist.
Pre-empting unwanted calls was the intention of the Do Not Call list — shifting the burden to telemarketers to not bother consumers in the registry — but most irritating robocalls are done by scam artists or fly-by-night businesses that don’t really care whether or not you asked to not be called.
Consumer complaints about unwanted calls dominate gripes filed with the Federal Trade Commission every year, and not just because folks are being interrupted in the middle of watching Jeopardy. The FTC estimates that $350 million a year is lost to phone scams.
A new report [PDF] from our colleagues at Consumers Union looks at the various ways phone companies could be proactively trying to rein in robocalls — if they ever get around to it.
Nomorobo was the winner of the FTC’s first competition to create a viable service for blocking robocalls.
It’s a filter — no device needed — that creates a “blacklist” of phone numbers reported to the FTC as Do Not Call violators, and numbers that consumers indicate are connected to robocallers.
Right now, Nomorobo only works on VoIP telephone service; not good for those still on traditional landlines or who have gone cellphone only, but great for the millions of Americans who get their landline service through their cable or Internet provider.
When someone calls your number, Nomorobo rings simultaneously on your home phone and on the Nomorobo servers. If the service IDs the incoming number as a robocaller, it ends the call after one ring.
In an effort to gather more likely robocall numbers, Nomorobo also collects information about phone calls made to numbers that were abandoned after receiving too many unsolicited calls. Since the only people calling these numbers are probably going to be robocallers, this system is able to add to the Nomorobo blacklist.
One of the problems that comes up all the time with tracking down robocallers is “spoofed” numbers — when the info that shows up on your Caller ID has nothing to do with the person calling you.
Spoofing is not, by itself, illegal. In fact, there are justifiable, good reasons — like preventing a stalker or an abusive spouse from knowing your location — for wanting to hide your information. It’s only when spoofing is used to commit fraud or otherwise perpetrate a crime that it becomes illegal.
Nomorobo owner Aaron Foss says his algorithm can help ID spoofers by identifying reporting trends from the service’s users.
“A robocaller might spoof a random number but when that fake number starts calling 5,000 people in an hour, well, humans don’t call like that,” he explains.
If a legitimate caller is flagged as a potential robocaller, that caller will have to enter a number to prove they are human before the call can be connected.
This feature may be a minor impediment to major telephone companies implementing Nomorobo or something similar. One of the telecom industry’s most common arguments against proactive, widespread robocall blacklists is that they might inadvertently block allowed robocalls, which include school closing notifications and emergency alerts.
Moffat says Nomorobo addresses this concern by whitelisting these numbers so that they are not blocked by the “prove you’re a human” numerical code requirement.
Primus — not the band behind Pork Soda (though that would be awesome) — is an independent Internet and phone provider for hundreds of thousands of folks in Canada. It’s also the company behind something called Telemarketing Guard, which Primus Canada has made available to its customers for free since 2007.
The Guard is a filter that aims to head off blacklisted numbers so that they never ring on your end. If a number has been identified by some users as a robocaller, but the verdict is still out, the number is greylisted, which has two facets. First, the caller is asked to press a number and say their name before the call is put through. If that happens, then the recording of the caller’s name is played for the recipient, who then can decide to answer the call, block the number, or have it go to voicemail.
Primus says the Guard has not just cut down on annoying calls to consumers who use it, but that offering the service has made good business sense for the company because nearly 9-in-10 Primus Canada customers have cited the Guard as the main reason to retain their service.
In 2013, in response to a Senate committee question about why American phone companies had not adopted the Primus Canada Guard or Nomorobo, trade group USTelecom mentioned [PDF] that Nomorobo can block calls because it’s not a phone service provider, and Primus — owned by a Virginia-based company — is only using the Guard north of the border, possibly because FCC rules would have forbidden the company from using it stateside.
But as noted in the Consumers Union report, the FCC said earlier this year that it’s okay for U.S. phone service providers to offer services like these.
“The phone companies could be doing so much more to stop robocalls from harassing their customers,” said Maureen Mahoney, Policy Analyst with Consumers Union and author of the report. “But so far they’ve just been passing the buck and making excuses.”
According to the report, the major roadblock to putting robocall filters in place is the phone companies’ inaction.
Nomorobo’s Foss says his VoIP call-filtering system could be used on landlines and wireless phones; it would just require the phone companies to switch on simultaneous ringing for these types of lines. However, he acknowledges that old copper-line networks — some of which have reportedly fallen into disrepair — may not be up to the task.
Henning Schulzrinne, former Chief Technology Officer of the FCC, echoes this sentiment in the report, noting that, “Older landline systems may not support simultaneous ringing or carriers may choose not to enable the feature.”
USTelecom contends that even if you got it Nomorobo to work, “it is not clear whether it could be accomplished while still being able to offer a… solution on a cost effective basis to end users.”
It’s understandable that telecoms would want to remain neutral with regard to call-blocking. By doing nothing, they can avoid the potential problems that could occur when an important, legitimate emergency call gets blocked.
But a look at the numbers shows that something has to be done to curb these calls. In addition to the huge volume of complaints filed with the government every year, more than 550,000 people have signed on to Consumers Union’s End Robocalls petition asking AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink to give customers the ability to block these calls.
“Robocalls are more than just a nuisance,” explains Mahoney. “They can cost consumers real money when they are used to commit fraud. It’s clear that the technology exists to dramatically reduce these unwanted calls. Now it’s up to the phone companies to show they are serious about solving this problem by offering free call-blocking tools to their customers.”

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Like many we are subjected to cold calls, nuisance calls, scam and phasing calls, false “surveys” etc. etc on our landline. Sometimes we just hang up and sometimes we have some fun wasting their time. We have also had some fun giving false names and details of who lives here (generally it takes no more than three weeks before we get calls for the “fake” person). The greatest nuisance if I have to stop what I am doing (say in the garden) and rush in to answer the phone. Those callers usually get sworn at !!!
I have just bought the latest BT phone that asks unknown callers to announce who they are and then tells me so I can decide whether or not to take their call and/or block or accept that number. I suspect that this will be effective in stopping most illegitimate calls as the callers will know that I am using a blocking device and the majority will themselves hang up before the call gets to bother me.
What gets me is that we have to have Caller Number Display to make this system work (on a landline). That can cost an outrageous £3.95 per month with BT and seems to cost at least 99p/month with other suppliers. I would like Which to campaign for Caller Number Display to be made available for free from all suppliers so that, over time, we can kill off the nuisance call industry.

Terry says:
22 February 2016

We have a lot of trouble when companies such as service providers call with no number available, but the call has gone if you havnt answered within 2 or 3 calls. Running a small business we always try to answer within 3 calls but sometimes because of other duties unable to reach the phone in time. This often happens when we are working away from the desk.

I believe the time has to come when all numbers should be recognisable for the receiver.

2i says:
1 April 2016

Maybe the guys who ultimately keep selling your number and letting the scammers fake theirs should be given a taste of their own medicine? Give Martyn King Managing Director 03456 800 815 of NexBridge a call or send him an email. He boasts about who well local numbers work in industry press.

Had a call on my mobile showing a local 01277 Brentwood number. Took the call even though I did not recognise the number.
Turns out to to be a call centre asking about had I had any delays to any flights in the last 6 years.
I said goodby and hung up.
My question is how do they know my local area code from my mobile?

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There is a company call Be Protected who use numbers with a code local to you. Assume so you might answer. I challenged them only to be told its how they do it with internet based calling, voip. Is this legal? Company is based in Leeds.

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Kate hudson says:
6 June 2016

Had exactly this today 4 calls from a local dialling code but no numbers in the area actually start with 63 so instantly thought something was up. First time they told me I was on emergency electric tariff the second time I got teasy and told them they were full of sh** and the other times I just picked up the phone and left it on the side. It felt like they were playing with me

Ordered a SIM online from O2, the next day I got a call from them, I think to try convinced me to get a better tariff probably. BUT the number they called me was a spoof number, it had my small market town area code! When I called the number back the record message (I called out of office hours) was there Manchester call centre. I sent O2 a tweet complaining and they said they would pass my complaint on and investigate. I thought this spoof number stuff was only done my scam/cold caller companies, I never expected a big company like O2 to be doing it! I was really annoyed as I’m only really allowed to answer my mobile at work if its an emergency, as it was a local number I thought it was something related my kids, like the school calling.

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ColdCallVictim says:
16 June 2016

I am currently writing this incensed.

I’m a web developer, so very aware of opt ins/outs, and incredibly conscientious about ticking the right boxes. My mobile and landline are also on the TPS.

I had a car accident last year, third party fault. Over the last 6 months I am being plagued by phone calls over accident compensation claiming. Either my own insurer, the car hire company, or the third party insurer has sold my details on without my consent.

I now get regular silent calls from local numbers, presumably testing if my number is valid. And an equal number of calls trying to get me to claim compensation. The process seems to be:

– Insurer/car hire sells your details to a middleman
– Some middleman database company sells batches of phone numbers to multiple cold calling companies
– You get plagued by silent calls who test your number, using a random landline number or local number
– You then get plagued by cold callers, again using a random landline number or local number
– You ask their company name, they give you some generic fake company name like ‘Speed Claims’
– You explain/tell/shout that you’re on the TPS, they say they’ll remove you, and that they got your number from some accident claim database on behalf of your insurer or some such nonsense. Or they hang up.
– You report to the TPS, they email you back that they can’t follow up on said made up name and random number
– Repeat ad infinitum

As the numbers they call from are made up or temporary, you can’t block them (never the same number), and the TPS can’t track them. How do we as victims track the numbers back to see who sold our details? Even if we did, how do we stop further calls?

As others have mentioned, when the call might be your kids school, or a business call, you can’t just ignore them. The only recourse seems to be to change my mobile number that I’ve had for 15 years.

Where is the action from government???? or pressure groups???? I honestly despair. Action has got to come from government and telecoms. It’s a real quality of life issue when your blood boils twice or three times a day.

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Do not forget TISA which BUEC are warning about. Not that Which? seem to bother with what the European Consumer body thinks is of importance. It is a shame subscribers are cut off from this important information that affects all consumers.


” Regarding the secrecy of the draft, Professor Kelsey commented: “The secrecy of negotiating documents exceeds even the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and runs counter to moves in the WTO towards greater openness.”[19] Johnston adds, “It is impossible to obey a law or know how it affects you when the law is secret.”[21]”

note that only Switzerland appears to have a democratic process of transparency.

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Jack says:
1 August 2016

Coldcallvictim, I agree with everything you say and cannot believe that we have to accept this as normal-it’s wrong and no one is actually doing anything about other than talk the talk

Jack says:
1 August 2016

So many calls from fake or spoof numbers that you cannot ring back and get around call blockers. There is no one to report as they don’t say who is calling. Why cannot they just make cold calling an illegal practice full stop and ban telephone suppliers from issuing fake numbers. Having a home phone is hust turning into a nightmare. As I work from home, I have to answer the phone so ignoring it is not an answer

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Justin says:
3 August 2016

Just had a local call that was silent for a second, then it hung up. As I only caught the local prefix, I called back thinking it may be the plumber about his appointment. But it was an “ambulance chaser” about a “road accident”. Annoying, as now they have a confirmed mobile number to sell on again. Seems to be part of life these days. Can Which organise a Government petition?

Hello Justin, thanks for your comment. You may want to report this nuisance call using our reporting tool here: http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/nuisance-calls-and-texts/

You may also want to sign our petition to help us in our call time on nuisance calls and texts – we want to see the Government take tougher action to make senior executives accountable by law for their company’s nuisance calls.

Surely the true ID of a spoofer is know to the provider of the app?
Out of curiosity, I just downloaded SpoofCard and tried a free period but they know who I am and
my number – otherwise I couldn’t have registered.
So is there anyway the provider of the app be discovered to remonstrate with them and make them them reveal the culprit

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I’m getting a lot of calls with my area code which i can’t find on any blacklists, they seem suspicious, they don’t leave a message if i don’t pick up and they don’t answer when i pick up, it’s the same area code as mine but a slightly different number each time.

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dan prince says:
4 October 2016

I get hourly calls from 02031988079 – usually they just end the call . But google has thousands of reports against this line, mostly for scamming attempts, pretending to be from BT or microsoft etc. If anyone has any information with regards to the actual company and location that is the source of these calls, I would be most grateful and Lucille is hungry.

That number called me at 8:05 this morning and also woke me up a few days ago as Windows Support.

I called them scammers told them they should be ashamed at themselves for stealing money from people, asked them how they sleep at night…. They don’t seem to know how to respond except put the phone down on you !!!

I would guess their location is India judging by the accents.

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Harry Adams says:
10 November 2016

I get 6-10 calls a day from various numbers with one thing in common:

They look like UK numbers, including genuine area codes – but instead of having 6 numbers after the code they only have 5.

Each call is the same – an auto-recording of a lady saying I can get a new boiler for free – as if!

I have now bought a call blocker and so block each number for each call – but the scammers seem to have a limitless supply if numbers, so the calls continue…

Sue D says:
7 December 2016

Same here. I report each and every one to the ICO, but I’m not sure what they can do about these false numbers. Makes me so angry.

Me too -I block every number with 5 digits after the supposed area code but they keep ringing back under different numbers Message is always the same “We urgently have been trying to get in touch with you blah blah……” Their system obviously generates a random number every time. Total waste of everyone’s (including theirs) – Not in a million years would I buy anything from a cold call let alone give my banking details. I wish there was some way of getting their address…….

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This comment was removed at the request of the user

Cypian says:
8 January 2017

When I get calls from anyone trying to sell me anything if they quote my name I say I dead and if not I am an estate agent selling the house for the family of the late owner,