Warning over telephone scams

HOMEOWNERS have been warned to be on their guard against conmen following a recent spate of scam phone calls from callers claiming to be from BT.

Craig Robinson

HOMEOWNERS have been warned to be on their guard against conmen following a recent spate of scam phone calls from callers claiming to be from BT.

Suffolk police is urging people never to give out personal information, particularly bank details, after a number of reports from concerned residents.

Among them was a woman in her 70s, from Stowupland, near Stowmarket, who received a call at 8am from a man who said she had an outstanding phone bill and that she would be cut off if she did not pay immediately.

She gave credit card details but then became suspicious and asked him to call a relative.

The other calls followed a similar pattern and in one case several withdrawals were made on a card before it was cancelled.

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Last night, Ben Cook, inspector for community safety at Suffolk police, urged people to remain vigilant.

“I don't think there has been a huge spike in these types of incident in recent years but what has changed is the ingenuity,” he said. “It's amazing what people will try to get away with.

“It's all about people being caught off guard. They might not even be elderly or especially vulnerable - they could have just come home from a busy day at work and all of a sudden they are being threatened with having their phone, water or electricity cut off and they fall for the scam.

“The advice we have is very simple - just don't even entertain these people. Be it a cold call on the phone or someone knocking at your door, it's the same. Be polite but don't get involved.

“If you want to find out more then contact the company yourself using your own legitimate paperwork such as a bill or a receipt. I guarantee that most of them won't know what you are talking about.”

Mark Skillin, from Suffolk Trading Standards, echoed the advice.

“No one should ever be giving bank details out over the phone,” he said. “No genuine company would ever do that.”

A spokesman for BT said: “Whilst BT does have debt handling procedures which may involve calling customers, BT never carries out disconnections during the call by way of proof.

“If there is any doubt at all, a BT employee will be able to give the customer their employee ID number and an 0800 number to call, where the customer can check that they are who they say they are.”

Anyone who thinks they may have been targeted by a scam can contact Consumer Direct on 08454 040506 or Suffolk police on 01473 613500.

THE East Anglian Daily Times was contacted by one concerned reader who was targeted by one of the conmen.

The man, who did not want to be named but is from the Saxmundham area, said: “I was phoned by a man claiming to be from BT saying they had sent me a bill and unless I made an instant payment they would cut me off and charge an extra �120 for reconnection.

“Well the bill was only for �41.25 so you immediately think that's a better option. He asked me for my bank details and said he could take a debit card now.”

The man said the bogus caller also gave him a telephone number and an address while also demonstrating how he could disconnect the phone line.

“He was very insistent and it could seem fairly plausible,” he said.

“Fortunately I knew that BT would never do this and so didn't give out any details. I wanted to warn people - especially the elderly - in case they panicked and gave out information.”

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