Which? has recently named telephone scams as the UK’s top con with one in every three adults receiving a fraudulent telephone call or message. Stay safe, stay aware, and make sure your telephone isn’t putting you at risk. In this article we look at some of the most common problems with telephone safety.
Avoiding Sales CallsThere’s no need to be intimidated by sales calls. If you, like many people, hate these uninvited interruptions to your home life, the first step is to buy a phone with caller display. Contact your telephone service provider for caller display, which is free with some companies.
If you are pestered by an unusual number of sales calls, you can sign up with the Telephone Preference Service. This free-to-join register is a list of people who do not wish to receive unsolicited phone calls. You could miss out on a good offer from a local gas supply company, or a promotion from your local wine merchant, which is worth bearing in mind.
Once you’ve registered, it is illegal for organisations to telephone you without your prior consent.
This does mean that, if you once gave permission for your name to be taken by a telephone company, for instance, they will still be able to contact you with their latest offers. However, you can contact these companies separately and request that your details are removed from their database.
Telephone TappingUnless carried out by policing authorities under warrant from the Home Secretary, telephone tapping is illegal. However, it can be carried out by those with ulterior motives. Two of the more common methods are radio tapping (where a transmitter device is fitted to the telephone line, 1-3km from the house, sometimes producing interference) and a direct line tap (where a box or coil is fitted to the telephone or base).
Most of these new devices no longer produce interference, so you’re unlikely to suspect tapping from the quality of sound. If you do suspect your phone may be tapped, contact your line provider and ask them to inspect the lines.
Telephone lines can also be tapped for the purpose of making free calls. The perpetrator needs access to the physical telephone line, which they would connect to – permanently or occasionally. If you suspect this, or if your telephone line is easily accessible from outside your house or flat, then buy a multi-handset telephone with a light that indicates when the line is busy.
Nuisance Telephone CallsSales calls aside, nuisance telephone calls can cause real psychological damage. Under the Telecommunications Act (1984), nuisance, obscene or threatening calls or messages are prohibited in the UK. So don’t put up with it.
If you receive more than one nuisance telephone call and (a) you know who is making them and (b) they are likely to be aware it constitutes harassment, then you have a case against the perpetrator. Report the call immediately.
Telephone ScamsFraudsters are an inventive lot, constantly inventing new scams to keep us alert. Be aware! Never give out any personal information over the telephone, never pick up saying your name or number, and don’t confirm any details the caller may already have about you. Don’t press buttons if asked to do so (unless you have made the call!) and just hang up if you become suspicious. There are dozens of telephone scams in practice but here are some common themes:
- The ‘free holiday’ scam – this could be a genuine invitation to a hotel (at which you’ll be subjected to a sales pitch on time-shares), or the common scam that asks you to press a button on your handset to claim your prize. You’ll be connected to a premium-rate line at your own expense.
- The ‘credit card’ scam – you receive a call from someone who purports to be a representative of Visa or MasterCard – be suspicious. If it sounds genuine, ask the caller to hang up, then look up the correct number on your card and ring for confirmation.
- The ‘missed call’ scam – if you receive a ‘missed call’ and you don’t recognise the number, be cautious, particularly if it begins with 0709. Don’t call it back – you might be re-routed to a premium-rate line and charged the full cost.