Watch out for telephone ‘disconnection scam’ warns Highland Council Trading Standards

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Highland Council Trading Standards have issued a warning of a new twist on previous cold call telephone scams, which has been termed as the ‘disconnection scam’. This recent type of scam can affect both businesses and consumers.

So how does the ‘disconnection scam’ work?

A cold call telephone scam caller contacts an unsuspecting householder and claims to represent their telecoms provider (or telephone company). The caller states that the householder or bill payers account is in arrears and that an immediate payment has to be made in order to prevent the telephone line from being disconnected. The scammer may even offer to demonstrate that they have the ability to disconnect the telephone line using a ‘disconnection scam’. This simple trick involves the scammer pressing the mute button which stops the dial tone and prevents the recipient of the call from dialing out. However, the phone is still in fact connected to the scammer, even though it appears that the line is ‘dead’. The fraudster then calls back after this demonstration in the hope that they have convinced the bill payer that the call is from a genuine telecoms representative with the ability to disconnect the householders’ access to a landline telephone service. At this point the scammer then makes a further demand for payment either by credit or debit card.

A previous quote from BT Group about this particular telephone scam has advised that they may have to contact a customer about an outstanding debt, but they will never disconnect a phone line during the call. Website advice and guidance from OFCOM (the Telecoms Industry Regulator) on disconnection issue states that if a bill is unpaid; a telephone company will issue reminders in the form of email, phone calls (with voicemail messages left), SMS and letter. If no payment is received, a telephone company may restrict customers' outgoing calls to emergency calls and calls to the service provider only, leaving incoming calls unaffected. Usually such restrictions are in place for a limited time and will be followed by disconnection if payment remains outstanding.

Telecoms providers have specific protocols relating to certain groups of consumers, for example those who are chronically sick or disabled. Additional effort is made to contact these customers before their service is restricted or disconnected.

If you are in dispute with your Telecom company you can also contact OFCOM (Office for Communications) for general advice and guidance either through the OFCOM website at: http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/ or by telephone on 0300 123 3333 or 020 7981 3040 (Line are open from Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm). You can also contact OFCOM by writing to:

Ofcom Riverside House
2a Southwark Bridge Road
London SE1 9HA

The ‘disconnection scam’ has also been used by fraudsters claiming to represent other organisations such as banks, utility providers as a way of persuading the recipient to give out bank details, pin numbers and sometimes getting consumers to hand over cash and payment cards. Advice from Highland Council Trading Standards to householders is to ‘hang up the telephone’ on these telephone scammers and check with their own telephone/bank and utility provider.

Where a bill payer has been tricked into giving out bank, building society credit or credit card account details or their payment card pin numbers then they should contact their financial provider immediately and seek their advice and assistance.

If you believe you have become the victim of fraud contact Police Scotland on 101.

Concerned consumers can also contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service for further advice on 0345 04 05 06 or by going to http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/scotland/consumers.htm or visit or write to: Highland Council Trading Standards Service, 38 Harbour Road, Inverness or on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/HCTradingStandards
For further Highland Trading Standards news please go to www.highland.gov.uk/tradingstandardsnews or follow us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/HCTradingStandards

23 Jul 2015
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