This week’s scam

Yesterday I had a phone call at home from somebody purporting to be from BT, promising that he could arrange to stop any unsolicited marketing calls.  Now I am registered with the telephone preference service, which stops most calls.  However I do still get calls from genuine market researchers (always very willing to give their credentials and to hang up if I don’t want to talk to them), from organisations with which I already have a relationship, and from sundry scammers whose numbers always show up on the caller display as international/unavailable.  This call came across as international and unavailable – which didn’t seem quite right since I’ve received calls from BT in the past which originated with call centres in India but came through with a UK 0800 number.

The caller proudly told me that he was working with the TPS, that my original registration expired after a short while, a statement that is transparently rubbish, and, rather bizarrely, that I could expect a handwritten letter from the TPS confirming my registration.  Fortunately I didn’t stay on the phone long enough to reach the next stage, where by all accounts the caller would have asked for a credit card number.

I’m puzzled by the economics behind this sort of scam.  I can believe that a few people might be gullible enough to believe that this was a paid service.  But email spam, phishing attacks, even autodiallers which phone up with a recorded voice, work because the costs entailed are minimal.  This scam depended on somebody spending time in a call centre (albeit presumably on a very low wage in the developing world) trying to persuade people to pay up, and presumably the perpetrators got enough responses to make it worthwhile.

It also occurs to me that this sort of thing would be much more difficult to perpetrate if caller display worked properly internationally: it does, in some circumstances, for mobile phones but on my BT landline at least any incoming calls from outside the UK come through with the caller’s number marked as unavailable


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