/ Technology

Have you paid for ‘speaking clock’ calls you didn’t make?

Man looking at mobile phone bill

Do you check your monthly phone bill? It might seem like a bit of a chore, but you might miss something – like a ‘speaking clock’ call you were charged for but never made…

For most of us, looking through the list of calls and charges on our monthly phone bill is one of those mundane tasks we don’t always get round to. But maybe we should. Why? There are heaps of eagle-eyed landline owners who’ve spotted that they’ve been mysteriously charged 30-50p for a call to Timeline 123 (the speaking clock) that they didn’t make.

Engineers checking lines in your local area could be the cause. That’s what one Which? member was told after contacting Plusnet about a charge for a speaking call on their landline – placed when no-one was at home. After some back and forth Plusnet provided a refund, attributing such calls to BT Openreach engineers checking lines, despite having asked them to use a free number.

Others report ‘phantom’ call charges

A quick Google search reveals similar reports of being charged for Timeline 123 speaking clock calls, many on forums belonging to BT, Plusnet, Sky and TalkTalk.

Many of the posters are able to rule out themselves, children or elderly relatives from having made the calls. For some it’s a one-off, while others report up to seven calls over a couple of days. Some also managed to get a refund from their phone provider after persistence.

Are engineers calling ‘123’ to test lines?

We notified Openreach about the phantom calls – a spokesperson told us:

‘This is not an issue as far as we know. Openreach engineers have a special number to call to test a line that doesn’t result in a charge.’

Openreach offered to investigate any further examples we have, so we want to hear from you. How many of you are paying for calls you didn’t make? We may only have just scratched the surface, as not all of us religiously check our phone bills, nor do those who have bother to report odd calls we can’t explain. With 25m landlines in the UK, there could be millions of pounds going to these phantom calls.

Do you check your phone bill and have you spotted a rogue 123 call that you know wasn’t made by you or someone in your household?

Comments
Guest
martin Chatwin says:
19 October 2016

I reported a fault to PlusNet in August which was not resolved until around mid-September following the visit of a 5th BT engineer who seemed to be the only one who understand how telephone lines are connected.
This fault caused high noise levels on the line. I now find that during this period I have been charged for 28 calls to 123 (some in the early hours of morning eg around 2am) at 50p a time and 1 call to 118411 for 9 secs at 2.39am costing £4.30. PlusNet have agreed to refund the sept. calls as a goodwill gesture. I have yet to claim for those in August as I have only just noticed them.
Whilst it some cases it could be the engineers in my case the early hour calls cannot implicate them therefore I am confident that some fault connection situations are resulting in these phantom calls but getting BT and PlusNet on board to investigate may well be impossible.

Guest

Martin – noise on the line that continues over many calls is 80 %/90 % due to a line fault condition I should know I cleared 1000,s of them in my time with BT. Overhead line fault/ underground cable fault / bad connection at street cabinet / lesser – corrosion at incoming junction box due to damp conditions /missing cover at DP letting in rain . This, to me, is one of the easiest faults to find you tap onto the line at various point between you and the exchange -simples .In old strowger equipment it could be an exchange fault or in the old 746/706 dial phone it was the carbon mike –5 engineers -ye gods !!

Guest
toni gutman says:
2 November 2016

have just been charged for 3 calls supposedly in quick succession
rang BT ‘Helpdesk’ and the person would not accept that I had not made the calls – he said ‘he’d checked the line’ and there was nothing wrong – implying I was lying or mistaken.
I asked to be put through to a supervisor, but after waiting over 15 min. line went dead

what do I do now?

Guest

Put in a complaint to BT via MY BT Toni> login >help>go to complaints at bottom >then>something else > bottom two boxes click>I still want to complain > then EMAIL us > Then fill in boxes and then SUBMIT at bottom –if it asks you if you really want to go ahead click yes . You will be given a reference number >then a confirmation email will be sent to you and they will contact you in 4 days -make sure you have put in the details webpage -CONTACT BY PHONE , not email . BT you are making it very difficult for customers to complain to you DIRECT ! it borders on deviousness please make it easier . Hope this helps , if it doesnt go to the BT Forum and post your complaint guaranteed to get a UK response and (eventually ) an Exec. from BT dealing with your problem . Will those reading this please take a screenshot of it for the future /or archive it – save page as –. Hope this helps Toni ?

Guest

hi
posted on the bt forum, and what sounds like an executive rang – but I was out, so he said he would re-contact me on his return on the 10th – noticed ‘openreach’van on estate – dk if relevant – will keep you informed

his email below

Subject
BT Community Forum

Discussion Thread
Response Via Email (Daniel) 03/11/2016 12:58 PM
Good Afternoon Antonia,

Thanks for taking the time to contact us over the BT.com Forums.

I called you today to speak with you about the calls that have appeared on your bill. They are rather odd especially as you have never made them before. Did you notice any issues with your telephone line around the 3rd of October? If you had a crossed line telephone fault it’s possible that another person made those calls or else an engineer testing the line tested to see if it was working by calling 123.

I am personally out of the office until the 10/11/2016 but I can gladly help you further with this and hopefully be able to give you the outcome you want.

Thanks
Daniel Sheerin
BT.com Forum Moderation Team

Guest

Tonigutman if your post is correct you do realise that BT has at last admitted –engineers use 123 to test a line –now thats opened the doors for blame. A crossed line externally would be accompanied by noise and overhearing so we must be talking of an exchange fault.

Guest
toni gutman says:
16 November 2016

SUCCESS! tho ‘ I’ll wait to see my revised bill – I did mention I was keeping you posted
Good Afternoon Antonia,

‘Thanks for getting back to me. As I mentioned in my first email, I am just back in the office today. I called you at home but missed you. I left a voicemail to say that I would reply to you by email.

I wanted to speak with you about everything. As I can’t reach you, I would like to tell you that I am happy to remove the charges for you. In my own personal experience, I will always listen to my Customer to work out what happened and do my best to help you. I believe everyone should be reasonable and listen to our Customer needs. Are you happy for me to apply the credit back onto your account? Is there anything else that I can help you with at all?

– If you need more information on our Complaints Process then please go to http://www.bt.com/complaints where you can also see our Customer Complaints Code of Practice
– If we don’t hear from you by 8th Dec 2016 we’ll assume that you don’t need us to take any further action and that it’s okay to close your complaint

Thank you

Best wishes

DanielS
BT.com Forum Moderation Team’

Guest

Well thats a breath of fresh air from BT Antonia , admitting they are in the wrong this will do no harm to BT,s reputation and will ,in the end, be a “payback ” for BT . I hope this is now a change of policy as most big telecommunications companies go all out to deny responsibility–well done BT –this time , try to keep it like that.

Guest
darran says:
29 May 2017

Hi i am going through the same now 78 calls last month and not one of them made by me yet after contacting BT help chat i have been told i have made the calls even though not one single call was made from our landline last month. also majority of the calls were made when we were either asleep or in work. also i have an itemised call list on my phone which shows every single number dialled and received, Bt are adamant i made these calls andv wil not refund me.

Guest

I recently contacted sky about a charge on my bill at the end of September- 118 018 direct enquiries call for 5 minutes cost £10. Nobody in the house that afternoon, & why would I ring that number when I use the Internet to look up any numbers. Advised me that someone in the house has made the call and I will have to pay. Going to write in official complaint and contact ofcom in the meantime. Is there any way of finding out if an engineer was working in the area that day? Joined sky for calls at end of August, and upgraded to fibre in September.

Guest

Only if you can ask neighbours who come off the same street cabinet as you Anne as that is the most likely place they would test it OR if it was one of your near neighbours coming off the same pole DP (black box on pole ) as you who had a problem . If they were working on the main cables you would see large vans parked and engineers working in street ducting . iF it happens again ask Sky to block premium rate outgoing calls to see if that cures it. BT has blocked them for me. But if you upgraded to fibre at the time the call was made I think you have a good case for a removal of charges.

Guest

BT are the absolute worst, I do NOT have a home phone, therefore I DO NOT have one plugged in, and now it is showing on my BT statement that I made a call to 123 (which I didn’t even know existed before today!) last Wednesday, when I wasn’t even at home! I asked how I would dispute this and was told that they will uphold it! This is legalised theft!

Guest

as I did, get onto BT forum
https://community.bt.com/t5/Phones/Phantom-calls-to-123/td-p/1504896

which is how I got a response

Guest
Pauline Beer says:
26 November 2016

I feel your pain… I have 161 calls to 123 in three months and still growing but no responsibility taken thus far!

Guest

161 calls in three months Pauline -that requires investigation . Who is your telephone company ? , what do they say ?

Guest
James Cavanagh says:
4 January 2017

I have an issue open with BT Openreach for over a year now that they keep closing without resolution after confirming they need to upgrade the local exchange to resolve the issue and provide me with a stable connection of a minimum 500MB. After coming back from 3 weeks holiday, I have a 123 number in the middle of that period when the house was empty and on monitored alarm, so guess its time to contact BT Openreach for a refund.

Guest

500Mbps James ?- what part of London do you live in ? Dont you mean 50Mbps , I do agree about the 123 call I am presently in dispiute with BT about this , as the last time it happened I paid BT to block all Premium numbers and got an assurance that this would be done–I am PAYING for it by extra charge.

Guest

Just found a charge for 45p to 123 on my latest EE bill. The call was made at 09:23 on the morning of Christmas Day. As it happens, I was probably still in bed at the time – never mind calling Timeline to find out what time it was!!!!! Anyhoo, I phoned EE and was promised that the charge would be removed from my bill, so my only complaint is in respect of the 15mins or so of my life wasted resolving a problem created by idiot BT engineers. Rant ends.

Guest

I checked my December Sky bill as I had 35 calls made listed and I have never used my home telephone since installation and am suspicious, in fact I do not even have a phone even connected, I use the service and line for one reason and thats for my internet never to use the home phone.

I had 35 calls, all just connecting calls lasting seconds, none were more than 5 seconds but every single one accounted for a minimum 0.29p charge. My bill had in total 35 calls and over £10 worth of calls, all to one number and never made. In fact on some dates I wasn’t even here but with family over xmas.

Has anyone else had this problem with Sky because I am taking this further and would like some more evidence because if they were doing this to other customers what easy money to make thinking it is unnoticed? Please can someone help or advise

Guest

Jay SKY use their own equipment in BT,s exchange , this sounds like somebodies hacked into your line so it wouldn’t be BT itself you could blame . If they tried to blame Openreach I dont see one of their engineers using 35 calls lasting only 5 seconds each an engineer would listen to the condition of the line for longer than that and usually stick to one number. This also sounds like the US problem of “Call Cramming ” which , several (I wont name them ) US telephone companies added calls onto customers bills to increase their revenue , it seems to be migrating ( like everything else from the US ) to this country . Its illegal in the States I have downloaded all the data on this you would be surprised at how big the companies are that have been doing this. I should have added those major companies were heavily fined by US Federal Authorities and lawyers acting for the State forced them to compensate those who lost money- IE- as well as their money back they got large amounts of extra cash. As I always say the US protects its citizens –and the UK –tough !

Guest
Tasha says:
2 May 2017

I’m having the same problem and they are fobbing me off. I’m never in when the calls are made and the phone is unplugged. I have lodged a complaint.

Guest

Let me know how you get on Tasha.

Guest
Mike says:
7 March 2017

This happened to me last month. I don’t use BT’s landline since we don’t own a phone and only got the landline for BT’s internet.
BT’s UK call centre staff was absolutely adamant that I placed the 1 second call to 123 speaking clock. She wouldn’t listen that we don’t even own a phone in the house and all she had to do was check my bills that NO call was EVER made through the landline since we don’t have a phone in the house. She talked over me and went on for 10 min insisting that that 1 second call was made and thus it was charged.
It was a nightmare listening to her try to force us to accept that 45p charge. It wasn’t until I insisted on disputing the charge until she relented and took that 45p charge off after seeing from our bills that I have never used the landline before.
I cannot imagine how many others were unknowingly charged the 45p charge or have been forced to accept the charge even if they caught it.

Guest

I was also charged 45p for a TIM call , I pointed out to them the last time that happened I insisted on having ALL premium rate calls blocked by BT and I am paying for it —that worked I have it credited to me now.

Guest
Martin says:
20 April 2017

Just had my bill showing in excess of 50 calls, mixed local (which I have tried since from another location and its no longer active) and for 123, a bill for calls of £13.50 when the house was vacant and the phones unplugged. Just spoke with BT customer service, they don’t believe me but why would I ring the speaking clock within 10 mins again unless I have suddenly got Alzheimer’s? BT now monitoring the line for a month to see if a repeat or a fault is identified. I have no confidence and they will not refund me.

Guest
Roger Adams says:
3 May 2017

My April 2017 BT bill included a call to 123 which we never made. We didn’t even know the number of the speaking clock, as we don’t need it, nor were we at home at the time of the call. I phoned BT and after a 12 minute conversation they agreed to refund the charge, but warned me that if it happened again I would not be able to get a refund! I thanked them politely but stated that if it happened again I would certainly dispute the charge most vigorously.

Guest
Mel says:
21 July 2017

Just by chance I came across my April bill which show ed a strange charge to a 9 digit number for 45p.
Having contacted my EE provider,they had no idea what the number was, and got a refund. As it turns out , I had omitted 3 numbers on a call because I didn’t check before ringing it. Having missed out a 0 followed by the other numbers 123 etc the system thought I had called the phone time line direct and I got billed for it.
So people , check your bills . I normally do, but as it’s a fixed contract I didn’t that time. I will now! How many other customers are inadvertently being fleeced ?

Guest
Philip says:
29 July 2017

Is this the new 123 scam by BT? In June and July I was charged for 20 calls to 08456014538, a Service No., all lasted 15 secs and charge was the connection charge of £0.135 so no premium scam involved. The total amount is only £2.60 but it is very irritating and I am complaining.
When I called the number the response was 15 secs of electronic bleeping, perhaps just the thing a BT engineer would need! Has anybody else had a similar experience?

Guest

Its a non-registered UK service number spam type phone call Phillip , you were lucky BT only charged you £2.60 have a look at what other companies charge , what sometimes happens is that you are re-connected to a premium rate service where the caller-through intermediaries has an arrangement with a telecoms company to have a large percentage of the profit transferred to their bank account , which again is done through third parties to stop it being traced back to them . In the USA it requires the help of US government bodies but they are caught . The bleeping is data transmission which can effect many changes to digital equipment connected to it , including multi-calling , if you have a call-blocker you might need to reset it .

Guest
Tony says:
21 August 2017

I signed up with Vodafone for fiber broadband and home phone, I’ve recently checked my bill and found a call to 123 for 1 minute on the same day the line was switched over, this happened when the house was empty, after contacting Vodafone they refunded the charge without question, although they seem to think someone at home made the call, i asked for premium calls to be blocked on my line, but sadly this is not an option for landlines, if this is engineers testing the line they should get their asses kicked for the hassle it causes, and the time wasted querying the bill, seriously who calls 123 to find out the time any more?

Guest

Tony once again Vodaphone the proxy ” UK” company has lied to you by stating Premium calls cant be blocked for landlines -THEY CAN !!! I am with BT and insisted they were blocked in the exchange programming due to the same problem . I am paying for it. Vodaphone have their OWN equipment so they cant blame BT due to unbundling in this country ( but not in the USA ) . This sharp practice is a way of ISP,s to gain more profit . It took me two weeks of arguing with BT and I am an ex-employee to get them to accept they were at fault as I am the lone uses of the landline due to my wifes severe incapacity ..

Guest
dave dee says:
3 September 2017

Just received my EE home phone/broadband bill and found 2 calls to 123 one for 1 sec and other for 3 secs which I have definitely not made–until I did a bit of research didn’t even know it was the speaking clock!!—cost to me 45p each call. Contacted customer services to query it and have to say they were very good about it and credited me and were as puzzled as me as to how it had occurred.
The moral of the story is check your bills folks something sinister about.

Guest

Its a deliberate ploy by the telecoms companies so you can be overcharged (by accident!!), and will be re-embursed, only if you notice it!!
If you don’t then you pay the charges.
And here’s the rub.
I’ve seen online that EE’s voicemail is 222. Any voicemail message i get instructs me to call 123, which does in fact connect with my voice mail. But what if I am being charged for the speaking clock when I phone 123 for my voice mail. My phone is a company phone and is paid for by my employer, I never see the bill.

Guest
George says:
16 October 2017

This really has been going on for far too long. It’s the second time it’s happened to me, nothing by comparison to some I admit but it irritates the hell out of me. I know that it is extremely common, engineers testing the line I believe! 123 should be done away with altogether. Is there anybody still crazy enough to use it? It’s just a nice little income trickle and there is no interest in preventing the ‘theft’.

Guest

George – if you have a relative with you that is severely mentally handicapped /dementia etc , its possible BT will look on you in a “good light ” and block -123/118 from the exchange . You need to ask first (politely ) .There is no charge for doing it but dont think they will do it for others , you have to prove you have a relative in those circumstances. . Only BT are as sympathetic about it other ISP,s wont listen. If it is abused then nobody will get it.

Guest
T. Jacobs says:
17 October 2017

BT tried to charge me for a two second call to 123, costing £0.45. I never call the Speaking Clock. This was at the time when an Openreach engineer was testing my line having fixed a fault. Openreach are correct in stating that they have a special number that engineers can use to test the line, but the response time is not always instantaneous, and I suspect that some engineers use alternatives when they lose patience or are under pressure to meet deadlines for jobs to which they are assigned.

Guest

Sorry to say T.Jacobs I thought this came to an end but I was reliably informed ” in house ” that it occurs .

Guest

Hi – apologies if this I isnt the correct thread but any help would be appreciated. I have EE broadband which comes to around £40 a month, I only use it for internet access and don’t have a phone plugged in. My most recent EE broadband bill was £226.95, which includes £188.50 of calls made from the number (despite not having a phone plugged in). The calls were made pretty much every couple of minutes (the itemised phone bill is 27 pages long) and as I say I havent made a single call – I’ve not used a landline in years, so I have no idea whatsoever what the calls are. They were made pretty much to the same few numbers, all a couple of digits different, largely when I was at work or during the night, and there’s no one else could have made the calls. I phoned EE, who contacted BT who have identified that there is a fault on the line, which is being looked at. EE advised that they can’t refund any of the money (it’s already come out of my account), and I will be charged for the calls up to the point that I reported it (ie last night), but as a ‘goodwill’ gesture they won’t charge any calls from last night until it’s been fixed. Does this sound right? Should I be contacting BT to seek a refund on the bill – I’ve not heard yet what the cause was -, or is this something I should be taking up with EE? Or is it something I’m going to have to grin and take? I’m not tech savvy but I have no idea whats happened but if I hadn’t checked the itemised bill I wouldn’t have noticed this… any help at all would really be appreciated.

Guest

Hello Chris- I take it when BT say “its a line fault ” it is in the external network -IE- from the exchange to the cabinet and cabinet to your house . That being the case then if you have FTTC its possibly an electronic fault at the cabinet . If that is not the case then your local line from the cabinet to your home will be copper , You could then have whjats called a “battery fault ” -your line is in contact with with another subscriber OR somebody has locally tapped onto your line and is using it. You mention when you are out or at night that might be a clue . To remedy it an engineer would have slit the line at the cabinet and check the line conditions going to your house. Dont take that as unusual I have found this in many cases of illegal activities , As regards the phone situation it does not matter to BT/EE whether you have a phone plugged in or not –the socket is there , they wont accept that argument no matter how honest you are. Do you live in flats ? please get back so I can talk to you.If it is found that there is a contact with another subscriber or illegal connection of an neighbour you would be entitled to a refund.

Guest

Hi Duncan – thank you so much for the response, what you’ve been written makes sense. Basically at the moment I’m waiting to find out what the cause of the fault on the phone line is – basically after i found the issue I contacted EE who contacted BT who ran an initial line test and apparently found a fault on the line and that EE would contact me when it’s fixed, so I guess I need to find out what the issue is beforehand knowing what the next step is. Personally it feels like fraudulent activity as the telephone calls are made in batches, every minute or so for about 30 seconds, incurring the same charge before ending then ringing again, and the numbers are all the same or almost identical. As I say there’s been hundreds, lasting a relatively short period of time to the sameness numbers so it doesn’t really feel like a crossed line. I live in a quite small village, in a semi so I’d be surprised if it was a neighbour (they’re generally quite elderly) though I have been quite naive I guess. Also, after discovering the issue with my latest bill I’ve gone through itemised bills from the last half year and found a total of about £420 in calls that I haven’t made. If nothing else it’s taught me a lesson to check my bills closer. As I say I’m waiting to find out when the fault has been resolved and hopefully the cause of it and I’ll let you know, but again any help is massively appreciated. Cheers, Chris

Guest

Hi Chris, have you searched your number or any of the dialled numbers on the internet?
Put a number in double quotes to move spaces around for different results.
e.g. “01234 567 890” “0123 456 7890” “123 456 7890”

Duncan used to work for BT so hopefully he can help you get to the bottom of this.

Guest

Thanks for replying Chris many dont and it gets a bit depressing . I too live in a small village in a semi-cottage but it sounds deliberate and somebody could be financially benefiting from those calls on your line . What EE and BT will know is WHO the numbers belong to, you should have insisted on being told . Could you post one of the numbers so I can check on it ? As it sounds illegal I dont think anybody would mind a crook being exposed.

Guest

Being curious, i’d try ringing the number(s) to find out who answers.

Guest

Malcolm I have already ,in another post , warned precisely against doing that. It can easily divert ( no noticeable change of tone )to a Premium Rate number . How do I know ? I once made that mistake , luckily I was only on it for some seconds but it cost 50p for those few seconds . He has already said its a costly number .

Guest

For 50p at least you’d know who the call was to. Chris has already lost £420.

Guest
Emily P says:
11 November 2017

I got charged 45p in July 2017 on my first BT bill for a 123 call I didn’t make.
I phoned BT and they refunded it.
I’ve just spotted another on October’s bill. Phoned BT again and they’ve said they will refund it.
They can’t give me any reassurance that this won’t happen again, and they don’t know why it’s happening. Most odd and annoying.
It has never happened with any other service provider I have used.

Guest
Janet says:
11 November 2017

On my bill today, I found a single call made from my BT line on 7 August. It lasted 0.01 mins. and cost 45p. No number was specified. I rang BT and said it was impossible for this call to have been made from my line since I was away for three weeks at that time and the house was empty. Also, I never (ever!)make calls from that line, since I have a separate line with free calls (also BT). The BT person I spoke to ‘investigated’, said the call was made to a 123 number and that he did not understand why it had happened. Without my having to ask, he offered to credit the 45p to my account and suggested I monitor my next bill closely (not difficult, since it should show no calls at all – only the broadband costs). He asked me to phone again if the problem recurred. When I went online and found all the above posts, it started to make sense… It does seem, by now, that BT recognises there is a problem.