Support line hit by phone scam
ANXIOUS parents of children with ADHD have been left without access to the county's only volunteer support network for the condition.The suspension of ADHD in Suffolk's telephone helpline because of a row with BT has left the charity reeling amid warnings parents of children with ADHD may have no where else to turn.
ANXIOUS parents of children with ADHD have been left without access to the county's only volunteer support network for the condition.
The suspension of ADHD in Suffolk's telephone helpline because of a row with BT has left the charity reeling amid warnings parents of children with ADHD may have no where else to turn.
The self-funded volunteer organisation was forced to shut down the support line after it was stung by a premium rate internet scam.
Linda Sheppard, executive director for the support group said: "That left the line constantly engaged because we were connected to the internet.
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"People were leaving messages and we were having to phone them back which was sending our bills sky high. I found I was doing all the calls in the evening.
"(But) it would be absolutely impossible to return every call we got on that helpline."
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Before it was suspended the line received on average 20 calls per day from worried parents of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Now those parents have been left without support from the charity's volunteers.
Mrs Sheppard said: "I know people have been complaining about it.
"And we've had several letters from professionals saying 'I've been trying to get you on the phone'."
The line had been in operation for five years and had helped hundreds of parents by providing them with advice and support.
Mrs Sheppard added: "(When they call) they're very exasperated people. The last thing they need is to ring a helpline and find it's engaged."
This week BT offered to waive part of the bill to help the charity reinstate its line.
A spokesman said: "BT has been discussing this billing dispute with the customer since last year.
"We have carried out an exhaustive investigation into this case. However, it is clear that Mrs Sheppard is still not satisfied and we will be in contact with her shortly to discuss any further action that might be possible.
"We sympathise with customers who have fallen victim to these dialers and will do all we can to support them by advising them on call barring arrangements and ways of protecting themselves from this sort of abuse."
However ADHD in Suffolk insists it cannot afford to even pay part of the bill.
"We will reinstate the helpline if they are willing to forego that £400," Mrs Sheppard said.
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STORY SO FAR
At the end of last year ADHD in Suffolk found themselves hit with a bill for £389 - 20 times higher than normal.
An investigation revealed the charity had fallen victim to a premium-rate dial-up racket, which automatically connects to high-cost services when the computer is connected to the internet.
With insufficient funds to pay the charges the scam racked up, the charity's office line which it used to connect to the internet, was disconnected by BT.
BT is not to blame for the problem, and in fact has warned its customers about the dangers. It foregoes its share of the call revenue over the disputed premium rate bills.