Protecting against phone scammers

Jay M

Registered User
Jan 22, 2022
14
0
Thank you Grockle for this detailed information which is very useful to have. The way you tackled it seems a good approach to me. I didn’t know scammers worked in this systematic way.

Like you, I live in Switzerland and my PWD lives in the UK. Since I have always only had Swiss bank accounts myself (I’ve lived here all my adult life) I am not familiar with how things are done by UK banks. I am surprised that direct debits can be set up without authorisation by the account holder or a person officially authorised to manage the account (third party access or PoA). Is no signature or online authorisation required? Or is it the case that the scammers are forging signatures on paper too and these are not checked by the bank?

Off topic for this thread, but I was interested to read that you have letters sent to you as your sister’s POA to your Swiss address. I was just wondering if you ever met with difficulties or if all companies have been happy to send internationally.
 

GROCKLE

Registered User
Jul 7, 2021
131
0
75
Switzerland
Dear Lawson,

Following on from your previous post about feeling safer by replace a Credit Card with a Debit Card, I understand that in many instances in the UK that a Credit Card offers you more protection? But I am not 100% sure of this, I found this quote.
"As well as enabling you to spread the cost of big purchases, a credit card gives you more protection than a debit card. Your card provider is jointly liable with the retailer so, if the goods are faulty or the company goes bust, you're entitled to claim your money back."

But anyway my point is
1) don't even let the scammer call you if you can (they are clever and manipulative)
2) remove the danger of the PWD passing on banking information

If someone calls me from a phone I don't recognize, I never say my name, I say Hello, who are you? Do I know you? whatever, I block and report it immediately afterwards. I'm talking about myself and my own behaviour now and not that of my sister, she would always be too polite even before she became a PWD.

I also NEVER say "Yes" in answer to any question, even if it is "Can you hear me?" this can be copied and cut into another conversation.

I had full access to my sister's account in my PoA registered name, but I was finding myself checking the App, 5-6 times a day and even in the middle of the night when suddenly an unknown Direct Debit had been entered. Why because my sister had spent 8 mins on the phone to a scammer. What did he want I asked, 1 minute afterwards, oh just my address I think. That week a contract for "appliance" something arrived in the post and the DD was setup which I immediately deleted just after I received the notification. My sister wouldn't have even had time to cancel the policy!

Sorry to have made your head spin, but my strategy is really very simple, see my previous post and the points 1) and 2) above.
My sister has other accounts too, but they are not really in danger, just the active current account.
 

canary

Registered User
Feb 25, 2014
24,699
0
South coast
I am surprised that no-one has mentioned Truecall phones
These can be configured in different ways to filter out unwanted calls and can be monitored remotely over the internet
 

GROCKLE

Registered User
Jul 7, 2021
131
0
75
Switzerland
Thank you Grockle for this detailed information which is very useful to have. The way you tackled it seems a good approach to me. I didn’t know scammers worked in this systematic way.

Like you, I live in Switzerland and my PWD lives in the UK. Since I have always only had Swiss bank accounts myself (I’ve lived here all my adult life) I am not familiar with how things are done by UK banks. I am surprised that direct debits can be set up without authorisation by the account holder or a person officially authorised to manage the account (third party access or PoA). Is no signature or online authorisation required? Or is it the case that the scammers are forging signatures on paper too and these are not checked by the bank?

Off topic for this thread, but I was interested to read that you have letters sent to you as your sister’s POA to your Swiss address. I was just wondering if you ever met with difficulties or if all companies have been happy to send internationally.
Dear Jay,

Yes, scammers are extremely systematic, and a lot is automated. The Direct Debit system in the UK shocked me too, someone made it easier for people a few years ago now to manage their payments. You need the name, sort code and account number and I don't believe even the address. Usually the scammers then extract your address from the PWD and send them a letter with the "Renewal Policy" or "Support Contract" agreed with you !!! You can cancel by a certain date, or it will become active. There is something called the Direct Debit Guarantee, but I suspect it will not be easy to get back your money. I tried a few times with little success. Maybe there is a cancellation phone number, try it :cool:, good luck if you get through! You have been offered a contract and the PWD agreed apparently to pay via DD.
In Switzerland, I have always been asked to confirm with my signature, or in some cases, Postfinance for example, with an App confirmation.
The scammers are not forging anything, simply extracting all necessary information from the PWD, not necessarily at the same time, and then converting this into an agreement which is cancellable within a time limit before it becomes binding. Usually the initial sums are <10 pounds a month, but they increase - however in one case someone extracted over 600 from my sisters account for a "3 year appliance contract". Honestly, you can buy a replacement unit for that money. Often the DD names are difficult to relate to the contract you have received in the post, although it is embedded in there somewhere.

Regarding post, I did run into difficulties, Premium Bonds insist on informing me of my sister's wins!, but that is not a problem, however, one investment company associated with a bank, changed the address, one part of the company correctly the other incorrectly, and it appeared to them and the UK Tax Office that my sister was now living in Switzerland and that the ISA could no longer be used and that the property Insurance could not be valid on a Swiss Address. It required numerous letters and I received compensation, but in the end there was a flag set somewhere to this effect in the ISA and the only solution together with the UK bank manager when I was there in June, was to close this ISA account. My advice, if you can, don't organize it, it's also not particularly good if the local Swiss government office/post thinks a person is living unregistered in their village! Fortunately, the post arrives C/O me.
 
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GROCKLE

Registered User
Jul 7, 2021
131
0
75
Switzerland
I am surprised that no-one has mentioned Truecall phones
These can be configured in different ways to filter out unwanted calls and can be monitored remotely over the internet
Brilliiant, do you have to pay for them?
Can you use Do Not Disturb with White Lists?

Thanks for such input. Let's get our PWD protected.
 
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GROCKLE

Registered User
Jul 7, 2021
131
0
75
Switzerland
Many BT phones can do this using numbers stored in phone's contact list e.g.
Great news, is the service free, or the phone free?
As long as you can follow a strategy, Do Not Disturb unless you are a White List registered person, it doesn't really matter if it is free or costs something. It has to function and be easy to manage, populate and to be able to check who called. Preferably through a Web (Listable) and not Menu Interface.

Thanks for such input. Let's get our PWD protected.
 

GROCKLE

Registered User
Jul 7, 2021
131
0
75
Switzerland
This is a worry for me. ATM I dont really answer the phone, but I am sure there will become a time when I become more vulnerable. Wewill look at BT call protect although we will also look into the DND possibility as Nitram suggests
I understand that you are worried, it's not rocket science, but you need to set up a strategy to protect yourself.
If you set this up now, you will find yourself in a more protected space in the future.
Whatever you choose, It has to function and be easy to manage, populate and to be able to check who called. Preferably through a Web (Listable) and not Menu Interface. Later, maybe someone else has to manage it for you from remote, so a phone menu-driven system is not really suitable.

Let's get our PWD protected.
 

canary

Registered User
Feb 25, 2014
24,699
0
South coast
Brilliiant, do you have to pay for them?
Can you do Do Not Disturb with White Lists?
You have to buy the phone, obviously, but you do not then have to pay any more.
You can configure the types of calls that the phone will filter out and one of these is to not accept any call that is not on the contacts list.

Our phone is configured so that calls on the contacts list go straight through. Overseas numbers are blocked and all others the caller has to state who they are and press #. If they dont do this the call does not come through. If they do this then the phone rings my end and when I answer it plays me the recording of what the caller says. I then have the option of accepting, declining, or sending it to answer phone. This cuts out pre-recorded messages or calls that have been machine dialled and most scam/cold callers simply put the phone down. It does, however to allow me to accept calls from unknown numbers that I would want - including withheld numbers from doctors etc.

This works because I am here with OH. He can no longer use the phone at all, but when he could he didnt know how to accept the caller if they were an unknown number and would pass it to me, but if he were on his own I would not use this configuration and would just have the trusted numbers coming through. We dont have the remote option as I can do everything on the handset, but if I didnt live here I could monitor the account remotely and add or remove numbers from the contacts list.
 

GROCKLE

Registered User
Jul 7, 2021
131
0
75
Switzerland
You have to buy the phone, obviously, but you do not then have to pay any more.
You can configure the types of calls that the phone will filter out and one of these is to not accept any call that is not on the contacts list.

Our phone is configured so that calls on the contacts list go straight through. Overseas numbers are blocked and all others the caller has to state who they are and press #. If they dont do this the call does not come through. If they do this then the phone rings my end and when I answer it plays me the recording of what the caller says. I then have the option of accepting, declining, or sending it to answer phone. This cuts out pre-recorded messages or calls that have been machine dialled and most scam/cold callers simply put the phone down. It does, however to allow me to accept calls from unknown numbers that I would want - including withheld numbers from doctors etc.

This works because I am here with OH. He can no longer use the phone at all, but when he could he didnt know how to accept the caller if they were an unknown number and would pass it to me, but if he were on his own I would not use this configuration and would just have the trusted numbers coming through. We dont have the remote option as I can do everything on the handset, but if I didnt live here I could monitor the account remotely and add or remove numbers from the contacts list.
Good to hear you have OH your PWD protected, well done?
 

GROCKLE

Registered User
Jul 7, 2021
131
0
75
Switzerland

What's options to protect you against Scam Callers: Some other partial solutions ?​

Telephone Preference Service amongst other information

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/c...-or-tv/stop-getting-nuisance-calls-and-texts/

Yes, I registered the phone with the TPS, but honestly I couldn't say that I noticed any reduction in the incoming scam calls. I put this page in because it does contain some other links which might be useful to you. You will need to dig deeper on these links.
 

nitram

Registered User
Apr 6, 2011
29,914
0
Bury
Another point that has not been mentioned is that if a caller gets through and starts talking banking, telling you to look at what your caller ID says and compare it with the number on the back of your card it's a fake call even if the numbers are the same.

Banks don't use that number for outgoing calls.
Spoofing the CLI is trivial and costs less than £1/minute.
Most UK software will not allow spoofing bank etc numbers so the cost increases to over £1/minute by using a foreign site.

The upcoming move to VoIP inherently makes spoofing easier although their is hope that recommendations will be made by Ofcom
https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.p...-number-spoofing-to-tackle-uk-spam-calls.html .

Also whilst on the call don't take the offer of ringing the bank without making another call first.
The simple con is they don't hang up and you just dial, hear a ringing tone which stops leaving you connected to the fraudster who ask what you want and proceeds to verify the request they just made.
This can be overcome by checking there is a dial tone before ringing.
The advanced con is to give you a dial tone, hence check by ringing another number.
A good choice of test number would be one with IVR (interactive voice response) - press 1 for ****etc
 
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GROCKLE

Registered User
Jul 7, 2021
131
0
75
Switzerland
Another point that has not been mentioned is that if a caller gets through and starts talking banking, telling you to look at what your caller ID says and compare it with the number on the back of your card it's a fake call even if the numbers are the same.

Banks don't use that number for outgoing calls.
Spoofing the CLI is trivial and costs less than £1/minute.
Most UK software will not allow spoofing bank etc numbers so the cost increases to over £1/minute by using a foreign site.

The upcoming move to VoIP inherently makes spoofing easier although their is hope that recommendations will be made by Ofcom
https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.p...-number-spoofing-to-tackle-uk-spam-calls.html .

Also whilst on the call don't take the offer of ringing the bank without making another call first.
The simple con is they don't hang up and you just dial, hear a ringing tone which stops leaving you connected to the fraudster who ask what you want and proceeds to verify the request they just made.
This can be overcome by checking there is a dial tone before ringing.
The advanced con is to give you a dial tone, hence check by ringing another number.

Not so useful if the person already has dementia.

With all respect Nitram, the information that you are providing is good for you and me, and good to mention it again, but not for an 84 year old lady with progressive dementia. She would be probably quite happy to talk with someone and would forget everything she should do and not do.
She for sure won't remember which security protocol she should adhere to when something like this happens. Hence, for me, the only solution for a PWD is Do Not Disturb and a White List of allowed callers. The bank not being one of them! ?
 

nitram

Registered User
Apr 6, 2011
29,914
0
Bury
There are others than 84 year old PWDs reading this thread.
Many intelligent normal people are taken in by scammers.
Not everybody wants to lock their phone down.
 

GROCKLE

Registered User
Jul 7, 2021
131
0
75
Switzerland
There are others than 84 year old PWDs reading this thread.
Many intelligent normal people are taken in by scammers.
Not everybody wants to lock their phone down.
Yes, I fully agree that the information is useful for others too, no offence was meant. I have known about this particular reconnection problem in the UK for years, but never understood why the telephone companies haven't fixed it. I used something similar whilst a student on an analogue phone system to tap through exchanges to make a long distance call home to my parents for the price of a local call, but don't tell anyone.
I don't believe our digital phone system in Switzerland behaves like this, but will check out of interest.
 

GROCKLE

Registered User
Jul 7, 2021
131
0
75
Switzerland

Protecting against phone scammers. BT Call Protect used effectively and successfully.

I have the full PoA for both health and wealth for my elderly sister who has advanced Alzheimer's and over the past two & half years have taken over the complete management of her life. Not easy, because I live permanently in Switzerland and she in South Devon. On top of that came Covid, so until this past June, I have not been able to visit her in person since December 2019.

She was forever being attacked by scammers, and after I obtained full PoA access to her accounts I set about putting a stop to it, including fighting with the banks to get help, virtually impossible on international call lines. I even created a new account and shifted all Bona Fide Direct Debits and income payments. However, new attempts kept being entered on the new account, which I promptly deleted. The problem was the phone scammers, phishing for bits and pieces of the house appliance information, bank account partial numbers building up enough information for their Database to send the inevitable letter "we will start to debit next week unless you cancel... ". Which my sister never did, she didn't understand what the letter was. She had lost several 1000s I estimate over time before I was able to stop all these debits. I also stopped all banking post to my sister's address, online access only, so she wouldn't have the number information anywhere. The biggest danger were still those "friendly" or "aggressively scary" phone call scammers.

What I did was the following. I have access to my sister's BT Account via the internet. She also has BT's Call Protect. I set it up first a list of VIP names of people I know who need to call her, then I set Call Protect to block all calls at any time of each day of the week. However, anyone in the VIP list can still get through. I tested this by waiting until she was once out of the house and then remove my VIP permission and tried to call her. Of course, it failed, I tried several numbers mobile and fixed phone numbers and suppressed number. Once I was sure, I reinstated myself. Fortunately, I am myself a pensioner, so I checked her BT callers every day and used the various scam caller check sites to see if the numbers were scammers. I also looked out for local area numbers, sometimes friends calling, maybe. These I rang and asked. Over time, I built up a VIP list of today 49 numbers, many of which I knew, Friends, Family, Doctor, Carer Management company etc. They all know they must use their registered phone number and NOT suppress their number. When I was over there this June, I was 11 days in the house, although daily scammers tried to call (I saw from the BT Website), not once did the phone ring unless it was a VIP person.
Mobile phones which were used to call, I entered in my WhatsApp Account and surprise, surprise, the pictures of these scammers sometimes appeared and their links to Facebook too. In one case I traced a potential scammer to his actual address in Bournemouth, know all scammer companies he has had in the past and also the court offences he has had. But he had only wanted to scam my sister, so no proof of anything.
For a while I reported every attempted scam call using the BT call, you can only Blacklist 100 numbers in your account you don't want to call you, useless, but you can report them to BT individually. Hope it has helped other persons.
Now the scam danger level seems to have dropped considerably. No longer are attempts being made to setup direct debits for "appliance and insurance" companies. I can sleep again at night, I still check the account daily, but now only once a day. The scammers can repeat their calls all they want, most of them are automated anyway.

So the bottom line is use BT Call Protect, set up a VIP list of callers and forbid any other callers including those who don't display their number. Only once did this happen that someone was trying to get through, then after a few attempts they used the number and I could call them back, it was someone from the Alzheimer's department from a hospital.
So I would say it is a pretty safe way to get peace of mind. It worked for me, but I am often using the computer, it was my profession. Ask for more information if it is not clear.

Information is now starting to flow - thanks to other contributors​

Eventually I hope to be able to produce an easily understandable table/list of protective options, covering not just my solution but also other options too.
 

nitram

Registered User
Apr 6, 2011
29,914
0
Bury
but never understood why the telephone companies haven't fixed it.
Came with original POTS and too embedded to change as system was gradually updated from electromechanical to electronic.
Didn't matter to start with as even with local calls there was an operator involved.

I used something similar whilst a student on an analogue phone system to tap through exchanges to make a long distance call home to my parents for the price of a local call, but don't tell anyone.
Must have been after December 1958 when the Queen dialled Edinburgh from Bristol using STD for first time.
You did not learn to progress to the freebie Cap’n Crunch Bo’sun Whistle with it's 2.6kHz tone to force an international connection then.

I don't believe our digital phone system in Switzerland behaves like this, but will check out of interest.
Evolving experience with VoIP for the masses indicates the current answer is 'it all depends...'

 

nitram

Registered User
Apr 6, 2011
29,914
0
Bury
Eventually I hope to be able to produce an easily understandable table/list of protective options, covering not just my solution but also other options too.
Be careful to distinguish between options provided by the telephone and those provided by the system.

BT Call Protect is only available with a BT service, I've already mentioned Plusnet (no frills member of BT group) Call Protect which has the same options as BT Call Protect but does not have an online control panel and relies on menu options on the phone.

Out of interest I chose a provider at random and googled Sky Call Protect and found
I did not investigate details.
 
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Lawson58

Registered User
Aug 1, 2014
4,238
0
Victoria, Australia
Dear Lawson,

With all respect, replacing the credit cards with debit cards doesn't help at all protecting against with phone scamming. My sister only had a debit card. And if you end up with illegal Direct Debits entered on that account and they are not fulfilled because of lack of funds, there will be nasty debt collection letters for unpaid DD bills! I'm not sure if you are in control of that, and you need to be daily checking the account. Easy with the Apps, I know but?
The situation with the PWD you are protecting will sadly get worse.
In a nutshell, do at least the basics:
I don’t live in Europe but I don’t believe here you can be forced to pay ILLEGAL or falsely acquired debts, or re pay money that others have obtained illegally.

I have never ever had a credit card but have always found that my bank has been more than helpful in sorting out various minor issues over many years. They have simple and easy checks that confirm that it is actually me paying monies via online transfer or to a new Bpayee. Banks also have a vested interest in getting you to use a credit card rather than debit cards because of the charges and interest they make so will offer protections that they may or may not fulfill.

I know you are being very helpful offering solutions to people but to be honest, I read all of it and my mind boggles. I apologise if you think I am being neglectful or stupid and I am sure there are others who would also find it difficult to do.

You may find all of this straightforward but personally, I would end up in the biggest muddle and so frustrated that I would be screaming. Fortunately my PWD lives with me and I handle all the financial stuff. I get alerts from my phone when a scam call has been blocked and don’t answer calls from people I don’t know. It is very hard to restrict calls on landline as my husband plays bridge online and frequently gets calls from various people that we might not recognise.

I am grateful for your concern and I know that people will derive great benefit from all the information you have provided.
 

GROCKLE

Registered User
Jul 7, 2021
131
0
75
Switzerland
Dear Lawson,

"I don’t live in Europe but I don’t believe here you can be forced to pay ILLEGAL or falsely acquired debts, or re pay money that others have obtained illegally."
I think you slightly miss the point here, the scammers are not doing anything illegal BUT they are getting agreements out of our PWD to enter into a contract without them realizing it and then sending them the contract/agreement by post with the possibility to cancel by specific dates which in reality become very difficult for a PWD to do.

I'll give you an example. I wanted to call my sister, she was engaged, I looked up on my account BT.COM who was calling her. I saw that the number had been associated with "appliance scams", so I tried to call my sister again.
She was on for at least 8 mins before I finally got through to her, and told her. I asked her what he had wanted? On nothing, my address I think, nothing else I asked? No? A few days later, such an agreement arrived at my sisters, pre-warned, I had asked the trusted friends to keep their eyes open. They copied it to me. There was a number to cancel, I actually after a while managed to get through. I told them that as PoA I did not agree with setting up this agreement. The response was, "we recorded the conversation and our analysts gave the green light that my sister appeared of sound mind". My sister often used to sound quite lucid yet repetitive on the phone. I said, as PoA with responsibility for her I don't agree. Finally, I sent them a copy of a few pages of the PoA and only then did they back off. But in the meantime the Direct Debit had been set up but nothing yet taken, so I deleted it.
After that I just deleted the Direct Debit which popped up from another company, but since then things are very quiet.

So you see, they are doing nothing illegal, just ripping off the PWD in their vulnerable state. Yes, there is something in the UK called the Direct Debit Guarantee, but they are more skilled in fighting this than we are in fighting for our rights and trying to get money back, in the meantime another month passes, and another DD is paid out.

Re: Credit Cards, I have credit cards in the UK (since 55 years), Switzerland and Germany and never paid for any of them nor paid interest on outstanding amounts, since I always pay off my debts and never use them for "effectively borrowing money I don't have".

I'm sorry if what I have written makes your mind boggle as you put it, I have tried to simplify it to taking precautions about protecting against scam callers. Back in 2016, my sister had no sign of dementia, but in June this year when I was there I came across old records where someone had in fact sold her a 99 Pound yearly contract for a software to stop wait for it, scam callers! But she had read a warning in the Saga magazine about this and had tried to cancel it, she had scribbled on the back of the envelope all the calls she had made - not reachable etc... Finally, she could cancel it, since it would have worked for her anyway.

Over the past years I estimate my sister is about 3000 pounds light because of scammers, initially all small amounts, which increased as months went on. I fought a few, had minimal success, I spent 30 hrs one month in 2020 on International Phone Calls, Switzerland to the UK, fortunately I have a cheaper phone system I use. It was wearing me out. I wasn't sleeping well. I needed protection I could rely on. That is what I did.

Your hubby is lucky to have you near at hand to deal with the financial matters. Maybe in Australia, things are different, but the UK has one of the worst reputations worldwide, I believe in the case of scamming PWDs.
We have it here in Switzerland, I have, of course, full access to my phones and block and report any attempted scam, maybe I get 1 / month now not even that, it used to be much more. If I have time and am bored, I keep them busy for a while until they get fed up and move on, thus having protected someone else during this time, but usually I am brutal, block and report them.

The bottom line is what you take from the information I am putting out there. I have found myself in a way in a personal war zone against the scammers, and I have vowed to do all I can to make their lives more difficult. But now things are much easier for me with the strategy I have followed. I now for example have time to pass this information on.

In the meantime, the care of my sister has moved to a different phase, 24x7 1hr in the morning, 30 mins in the evening to make sure she gets up and eats 2x a day. I have an online Log of each visit. This I need to check sometimes in case there are worrying items. But at least all the finances are under control.
 

GROCKLE

Registered User
Jul 7, 2021
131
0
75
Switzerland
Came with original POTS and too embedded to change as system was gradually updated from electromechanical to electronic.
Didn't matter to start with as even with local calls there was an operator involved.

Must have been after December 1958 when the Queen dialled Edinburgh from Bristol using STD for first time.
You did not learn to progress to the freebie Cap’n Crunch Bo’sun Whistle with it's 2.6kHz tone to force an international connection then.

Evolving experience with VoIP for the masses indicates the current answer is 'it all depends...'
When I used the trick to get long distance calls it was in 1966/1967 and actually from inside an office in a highly secure government research building where we sometimes had our bags checked to make sure we didn't have any official secret documents on us. Hmm, I only did it 2x then got cold feet and didn't want to lose my well paid student apprenticeship. No, I never knew about the Whistle, but earlier as a schoolboy, I had used discarded Lollipop Sticks to make local calls from beachside phone boxes. :oops: