Posts Tagged Ofcom

New release by Ofcom: PPI most common unwanted call type

Mid May brought a new study published by Ofcom getting down to the nitty gritty extent of these nuisance calls. This study involved 926 participants who kept a diary to record all unwanted calls received on just their land-line over a 4 week period between 13th of January and the 9th of February 2014. Critical findings were accumulated such as the number, type of number, whether the number was identifiable or not, frequency and type of organisation making the phone call.

Here is what the survey revealed..
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What makes unwanted calls go around the world?

With more than a thousand complaints registered to Which every week for ‘nuisance’ calls, fines for companies breaching TPS’s and Ofcom’s rules reaching fines up to £2m, how does this industry still remain afloat? Below we have listed a few points that is the hidden driving force, not always appreciated by a frustrated recipient understandably. Knowing what drives this industry of world-wide communications is knowing that there isn’t an over-night solution. But there are solutions! Keep up with our blog to find out what they are.

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Parliament Acts on Worsening Nuisance Calls

Due to the increasing number of complaints regarding unwanted marketing messages and abandoned, silent phone calls, the UK Committee on Culture, Media and Sports has recently published its report on nuisance calls since it started its inquiry in July 2013.

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Regulator Knocks Gumtree Tricksters Off Their Perch

This week brought fantastic news for victims of telephone fraud as regulator PhonepayPlus confronted huge offender RS Premium with a whopping great fine and a ban on operating premium rate numbers.

The scam, a relatively unoriginal ‘call-us-back-and-we’ll-keep-you-on-rather-pricy-hold’ manoeuvre, targeted househunters and jobseekers – indeed, the vulnerability of the victims was part of the reason that PhonepayPlus came down so hard upon the perpetrators. Adverts and emails containing details of non-existent vacancies or properties lured eager and unsuspecting individuals into calling these 070 numbers back and waiting patiently on premium-rate hold whilst their phone bills rocketed into hyperspace.

It’s hard to track down exactly which calls are part of a certain scam as so many different numbers are used by the ‘artists’ to carry out their schemes and help them blend into a haze of anonymity. However, there are plenty of you reporting remarkably similar-sounding scams on tellows, all with scores of 7 or above. Have a gander…

‘Amy Pearce’ has been tirelessly sending emails offering jobs at the fictitious ‘SB Millers’ and may ask you to call back on 07030808243. Hannahayleigh wasn’t going to be caught out in a hurry:

Received a message saying I’d got through some kind of recruitment screening process and offering me a job. Deleted it straight away as I haven’t been on the job market for several years! Googled the agency and surprise surprise, it seems to be a fake. These people are a waste of space.

User GiGi also had her wits about her when asked to call 07030808244 back:

I got an email from this person, recruiting me for her company. I called them against my better judgement and was kept waiting on the phone for at least 7 minutes. If nothing else, that’s simply rude and I also realised that I had to pay for every minute…In the end they didn’t have any jobs to offer. I examined the email more closely and discovered that it didn’t look really professional, like with a signature and everything.

…and ‘Scammer finder’ simply cuts to the chase with some stern words of warning:

DO NOT PHONE AND WARN YOUR MATES AND WHOEVER ELSE. YOU’LL GET RIPPED OFF!!!

07030808245 and 07030808246 (are you spotting a trend here) are also used by the infamous ‘Miss Pearce’.

Similar scams frequently pop up on tellows and seem to be an ongoing problem; see this example, 07053500874, reported by Jskr late in 2012:

Received email from Tony Render offering interview with the department manager, Edie Wilson and told to contact this number. Checked on line to find it is a cost scam resulting in large bills. Do not reply!

070 numbers have been in question for a long while, as their closeness in appearance to mobile numbers renders them prime fraud-fodder and they unfortunately seem to proliferate on Gumtree; see this warning about 07053528945 from user, er, ‘Warning’:

its a rent SCAM to get you to call premium numbers. you call a normal mobile no and he tells you to call his girlfriend, then says you got the number wrong, bla bla bla. SCAM

RS Premium were charged ₤120,000 for their misconduct and it seems that Ofcom may be reevaluating their decision re: 070 numbers.

Phone owners: 1, Scammers: 0. There is hope, boys and girls.

Unfortunately, the wonderfully useful website Gumtree does seem to attract the occasional scammer amongst the bona fide individuals and organisations that advertise there. Just keep your eyes open for 070 numbers and try not to give personal details away until you’ve established a reasonable level of trust. The website itself offers some solid advice about how to protect yourself against potential fraudsters.

Keep reporting any dodgy dealings on tellows and do your fellow users a favour!

Stay savvy,
Your tellows team

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Time To Draw The Line? UK Muses Bill Prohibiting ‘Non-Consensual’ Cold Calling

It’s a time of flux in the telemarketing world: laws are changing internationally and indeed, some countries are forging long-distance alliances to crack down on tele-tormenters. The UK government is currently considering following other countries’ lead and introducing radical consumer protection measures with regard to cold calling.

Since 2010, for example, German citizens have had to specifically opt in to receive marketing calls and telemarketing companies are now legally obliged to display their caller ID. Meanwhile in the US, October 16th saw revisions to the Federal Communication Commission’s Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) come into force, forbidding telemarketers to solicit using autodiallers or prerecorded messages without the express written consent of the phone-owner. This ‘express written consent’ is, albeit, something of a misnomer, covering anything from

permission obtained via an email, Web site form, text message, telephone keypress, or voice recording.

Nonetheless, it is a bold and effective motion in the fight against cold call harassment and the tough financial punitive measures ($500-$1500 penalties per call or text) are proving a strong deterrent.

The UK, meanwhile, is yet to see such a measure come into effect. With those who have signed up to the TPS (about 75% of UK landlines) often reporting receiving double the amount of sales calls received by those who aren’t, British phone owners are starting to lose faith in regulators’ capacity to keep ‘direct marketers’ in line.

User Jay the Kay, for example, says of 01904530013:

Called – very annoying as ring off when you answer – no idea how they got my (very private) number as only 4 people have it!!

‘Not happy’ is also somewhat irked about relentless and untimely calls from 01209219844:

Very annoying automated calls about pension, repeatedly calling at between 1am – 2am, leaving messages etc, cannot get it to stop, has broken my sleep so very grumpy

PhonePestReporter reported 01905744557 as ‘aggressive advertising’:

The PEST is: Domestic & General 🙁
They are a cold-calling pest phishing for new Loft Insulation contracts. 
I have automated calls on a daily basis for 2 months now – 3 rings and they hang up – never leaving a message. 

He (or she) goes on to voice the agonies of all those keen to see cold calling condemned to the past:

I wish the government would provide the regulators with some teeth to prosecute all these highly persistent phone pests making MULTIPLE nuisance calls. I changed my number relatively recently to avoid this, and I’m ex-directory and I’ve “opted out” so they should check before they call. I give my number out rarely to only be used by the individual companies I have to deal with. Therefore I know they have somehow acquired my number via some list processed illegally.

However, there is a ray of hope; the House of Lords are currently backing a bill which would see the UK go one step further than the USA and outlaw unsolicited calls and texts altogether. The Unsolicited Telephone Communications Bill has been provisionally passed and is to be submitted for a second reading. This strict set of regulations would mean that all telemarketers would have to gain the consent of their ‘marketees’ before calling; no mean feat when you consider the percentile of the population who’d voluntarily give the time of day to a PPI-pusher.

The regulation itself would be centralised and overseen by Ofcom, a gargantuan task necessitaing much closer surveillance than is currently, by all accounts, in effect. Moreover, such a drastic measure, as Lord Gardiner of Kimble notes, could be disastrous for the direct marketing industry. These are significant considerations which may regrettably cause the bill to stutter.

The APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) on Nuisance Calls are nonetheless bravely pushing for change; be it a wholesale ban on unsolicited calls, or a much-needed enforcement of the current regulations, the winds of change may yet be whistling through the realms of coldcalling.

In the meantime, be sure to arm yourself by looking up unknown numbers on www.tellows.co.uk, reporting rogue or pest callers to the ICO or TPS and second-guessing any implausible claims an opportunist scam caller may make. Your phone line is your own! May others respect it.

Have a wonderful week!

Your tellows team

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Ofcom Rallies Troops in War on Caller ID Spoofing

21st October 2013 brought good news for all phone-owners as British regulator Ofcom joined forces with international regulators in the UK, USA and Canada to crack down on ‘spoof’ callers.

Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will be working with the US’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Canada’s Competition Bureau and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). This new task force aims to share international resources and knowledge to tackle nuisance callers’ stranglehold over phonelines the world over.

Spoof calling, for those unfamiliar with the term, involves using a nifty bit of software to mask the number you’re actually calling from, in order to prevent the recipients of your calls being able to locate you, or call you back. This is of course, infuriating for those of us badgered incessantly by anonymous callers. What’s even more infuriating is that whilst some spoofers use gobbledegook numbers instead of their own, others have really taken the biscuit and tactically use well-known organisations’ digits to execute some quite remarkable conning manoeuvres.

Whilst spoofing has been happening for years, the people behind it are becoming ever more audacious. Regular spoofing will be something along the lines of what user Steven reports about number 01164465587:

SILENT CALL and if you try and call it back it is unrecognised. Looks like a scam or a spoof. The BT 1471 read this number correctly but it is duff.

Commenting on number 01618149908, user Dawn mentions another standard spoofing tactic: hiding a phone number with a bad reputation and using an as yet ‘clean’ one so you aren’t forewarned when the phone rings.

just so people know,,,,DRD ALSO CONTACT YOU USING THIS NUMBER ,,,,07734953850,, i have found out that this is a “SPOOF” number they are used by tele marketing to make them seem legitimate number calling you 

If you’ve been called by 000-000-0000 (or another unlikely-looking number), it’s highly probable that the caller was using spoofing technology. Difficulty in tracking down spoofing culprits is increased thousandfold by the fact that the origin of the call is completely untraceable. Without an area code, there is generally no way of discerning where or who a call has come from. This means that internationally-placed spoof calls are becoming increasingly common: hence the transatlantic team-up.

The joint statement from the six organisations, published on the ICO’s website, avers that they

will work together to share information and target organizations responsible for spoofing.

The member organisations will pool resources, share information and work in collaboration with telecommunications industries in their respective countries to target and reprimand offending organisations. Guidelines on what constitutes ‘misuse’ of the spoofing technique are also being reconsidered, revised and made much clearer, with a view to introducing tougher punitive measures: monetary penalties of up to £500,000 are being considered for foul-players.

In the UK, US and Canada, all telemarketers are legally obliged to identify themselves, meaning that spoofing, and also number-concealment, are against the law. Always be on your guard with unknown callers and watch out for the warning signs: are they trying to weasel information out of you, personal or otherwise? If they claim to be calling on behalf of a service you use, ask yourself if this is how they normally contact you. Try to call back on the official company number if you’re in any doubt at all and never respond to threats or implausible claims.

Take care and have a great week!

Your tellows team

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How to stop nuisance calls – the elderly as perfect victims

Nuisance calls are on the news again. Just a few weeks ago we told you about the findings of a study, that revealed highly startling news on the business practice of nuisance callers and the real extent of scam in the UK. The findings of Ofcom did not only show how nerve-wracking unwanted calls are in the eyes of most people, the results were also combined with a claim on improved and immediate action, which in detail means: a complete ban on cold calling. This week we will give you another clean proof on the necessity of action.

The current problem concerning nuisance calls
The starting point of the ongoing silent, abandoned, harassment and any other unwanted calls is the fact, that the existing mechanisms launched for protection and defence are not working at all. The Telephone Preference Service TPS as a free service for customers to opt out from receiving marketing calls, is not at all hindering businesses to use phone calls as a working method for any kind of promotion or scam. As the restriction is not broad enough, a registration of one’s number on TPS does only help to stop unsolicited calls with a sales purpose, which means that for example any kind of recorded message as well as research or silent calls are not under the control of TPS. As already mentioned in the blog on the Ofcom study, problems especially occur if the caller is calling from abroad, as there is actually no legal basis for taking action against this.

desperate man on the phone

Photo by Alon, flickr.com

Elderly people attracting the attention of scammers
Although it is well-known, that especially elderly people are likely to be taken in by fraudsters, there are still not a lot of options on how to deal with it, as a recent example in the Guardian shows. What bothers the most is, that there are no actual attempts that would help to improve this situation, except for claims of consumer organizations and so far unredeemed promises of officials. The only help might be to fall back on private companies offering services and products to deal with the unsolicited calls yourself. When it comes to elderly people, this means that younger relatives need to help out. As the example of the guardian writer shows very clearly, this is as necessary as frustrating. She shows us through her own experience with an elderly relative, that most of the techniques that would work for us – like just not answering calls from unknown numbers or not giving away personal information – are not as useful for elderly people. Particularly politeness, forgetfulness or just loneliness are the biggest problems here. Elderlies tend to answer all calls as they want to be friendly; they talk to the researchers as they need conversation; and they give away their bank account data as they trust the friendly voice at the other side of the phone. So what is best to do?

How to deal with scam and spam calls
Of course, a complaint is one of the first steps to do when receiving unsolicited calls. But this is not an immediate solution, it helps on the long run, not for the present. First of all, checking the possibilities that are offered by your provider makes sense. Some opportunities of blacklisting numbers or blocking calls are integrated in most of the systems.

But as the author of the guardian article points out as well, this is still not enough for the protection of elderly people. What she found might be the best solution for this problem in years, the trueCall device, blocking calls from unknown numbers completely, redirecting them to the answer phone straight away. Although this of course is not a free device, this product might be the perfect solution for a lot of different problems, as it can be used to block numbers, record important messages or even ask who is calling to decide right away if one should answer the phone. Although we could not test it, the mere existence of such a blocker means, that there are people actually thinking about how to solve the problem of unsolicited calls, as officials regularly fail to do so.

As many other applications, devices or web pages, also tellows works for the purpose of informing people on the dangers of unsolicited calls and hindering companies to scam. As long as the regulators are not able to take efficient enforcement action for the protection of consumers, it is up to tellows, trueCall et al. to support the fight on unwanted calls.

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Ofcom Study – Ban on Cold Calling is claimed

A research initiated by the Office of Communications (Ofcom) reveals the truth about unsolicited nuisance calls in the UK and thus calls for action to solve to problem of far too many cold calls.

The Ofcom Study
Within a period of four weeks 850 consumers were asked to keep a diary of all cold calls they receive. The Ofcom research revealed that 80 percent of the participants received unwanted calls regularly, on an average even more than twice a week. Especially calls on PPI reclaim (Payment Protection Insurance) were the most annoying and yet also the most often ones. While at least one out of four people got called more than 10 times, most calls came from PPI claim companies as well as from market research firms.

What is next?
In terms of the survey findings the Citizens Advice called for a complete ban on cold calling. Not only because more than one third of all complaints from companies are related to cold calls. Mostly firms dealing with financial services use cold and silent calls and thereby demanding upfront fees or trying to sell unprofitable offers, cheating people out of their pension. Furthermore the companies get personal data through the nuisance calls, mostly unbeknown and unauthorised by the individuals. A ban would help to make cold calls clearly identifiable as illegal. Citizens Advice recommends the banning of credit brokers and claims management companies as well as of pension unlocking services.

Ofcom follows a different strategy though. Not the banning but a wide investigation into claims management companies making the cold calls is needed. Thereby not only the big companies will be in the focus of enforcement actions, also smaller companies are responsible for the nuisance calls to a large extent and should be overseen. Ofcom is now promoting wider investigation and action regarding cold calls, especially dealing with claims. Thereby they focus on silent calls as well, which are done by the company’s telephone systems automatically without even having a staff member conducting the calls.

Taking Action
The government as well as other regulators and institutions are called upon to take action more effectively. Ofcom already imposed penalties for silent and abandoned calls done by major firms as TalkTalk. Furthermore the ICO supports the attempts of Ofcom by pointing out the regulations and industry rules to over 170 marketing companies. Nevertheless householders can get active themselves. By signing up for the free Telephone Preference Service (TPS) individuals can stop nuisance calls on the purpose of marketing and sales. However, as we already mentioned in our last article, it is extremely hard to block most of the calls, as they often come from overseas call centres. Not more than one third of all abandoned calls can be cut out. For further improvement Ofcom is currently collaborating with the ICO and the Ministry of Justice for more effective actions.

We will keep you informed about upcoming achievements in the struggle against nuisance calls in our blog on tellows UK.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2013/may/17/ofcom-urged-ban-cold-calling

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Data Protection and Nuisance Calls – Rights and Regulations

The usage of nuisance calls is one of the most annoying marketing strategies nowadays, its benefits are highly controversial and justifiably so. Nevertheless dozens of companies call and message their customers as well as total strangers every day. While the tellows community offers fruitful hints about the source of certain telephone numbers, we now would like to provide you with useful information regarding your right to data privacy as well. Especially the regulations on personal data and its use are rigorous and actually promote benefits for all of us. But for a successful fight against scam and spam calls you need to know and defend your rights.

The following information will give you a broad knowledge on data security, mainly based on laws and regulations valid in UK. Some institutions were specially built for the protection of our data.

The Data Protection Act
The DPA is one of the most important pieces of legislation when it comes to data protection in the UK. The DPA was enacted to be in line with the data protection directive in the EU, which should guarantee protection of people’s right to privacy, especially concerning the processing of personal data. As it aims to safeguard consumer rights regarding personal data, the 1998 DPA also guarantees self-control over personal information and the right to privacy. It determines that any collection or use of personal date requires consent of the individuals concerned. Furthermore, all organisations processing this kind of data need to comply with the regulations of the Act and need to be registered at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) as well. It also vests all individuals with the authority to get access to their stored data by any organisation.

Privacy Electronic Communication Regulations
The EC Directive, known as the E-Privacy Directive is a continuation of the DPA on data protection. It enables criminal proceedings through fines up to £500,000 for the unauthorised use of recorded messages for marketing purposes. The impact of the EC Directive also includes phone calls, emails and SMS messages. Thereby it provides the legal basis for consumer protection especially in the case of direct marketing and has been amended several times.

Information Commissioner’s Office
As mentioned before, the ICO is the authority for upholding consumer rights as well as data protection in the UK. The enforcement of both presented regulations is controlled by the ICO, who has multiple tools for opposing misuse of personal data. There are not only possibilities of monetary penalty, the ICO is also entitled to audit and prosecute anyone disregarding the DPA or the EC Directive.

Every call or message as marketing measure needs to be consented by the individual to be permitted. In any case marketers need to provide a possibility to opt out any following messages or calls to meet the legal regulations. If this is disregarded, those responsible also disregard the regulations and thereby are liable to prosecution. Thus, consulting the ICO is everyone’s right. When there is violation of rights, the ICO takes action to ensure a proper handling of personal information and also enables individuals to detect the information held about them.

Telephone Preference Service
Next to these legal institutions and laws consumers have the possibility to use the TPS. This central register enables people to opt out from receiving unsolicited nuisance calls. As described before, organisations have to respect the request of individuals not to be approached if listed in the TPS. The free registration can be done by any individual for a certain number (mobile phone numbers as well) and takes full effect after approx. 28 days. The TPS offers a complaint system as well. Although the TPS is not allowed to take any action of enforcement, they regularly send updates about the incoming complaints to the ICO as the body responsible. This strongly supports their investigations.

While reliable companies accept the TPS entries as it is a legal requirement, it is quite easy for organisations working outside of the UK to circumvent the regulations. Through Caller ID spoofing, which allows deceptive organisations to display a number that is not the original one. Although this is obviously illegal, the ICO’s and TPS’s authority is not effective outside the UK. Unfortunately a TPS registration does also not prevent calls on the purpose of legit market research. Also the receipt of marketing text messages is not under the control of TPS. To stop receiving SMS messages you have to send a request to the company yourself, a simple „STOP“ message is enough though.

The Office of Communications
The Ofcom has an even broader scope. As it is a regulatory and competition authority approved by the government, it represents the interest of UK citizens regarding competition and protection for broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries. Thereby the Ofcom also deals with problems of nuisance calls and offers particular guidelines for several situations.

All of the presented regulations and authorities can help you taking care of annoying, even malicious phone calls and messages. In some cases however it might be advisable to consult a lawyer to advice you for further legal steps if necessary.

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