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Customers of BT Being Targeted by Telephone Scammers from India

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017 (12:20 pm) - Score 7,081
telephone support rage and complaints

A new report claims that customers of BT’s broadband and phone services are being targeted by fraudsters based in India. The criminals will often call and pretend to act as official customer support agents in order to hijack your PC / steal money, although this crime is by no means unique to BT.

According to The Register and a long running thread on BT’s community forum, many of the calls will follow the now all too familiar tactic of claiming that a customer has Malware (malicious software) on their computer. After that the individual is frequently asked to install some third-party software or make a change on their computer in order to tackle the problem via remote access, which is an obvious sign of the scam (i.e. they’re hijacking your computer).

In many of these cases the scam caller will appear to be calling from a UK area code and they often demonstrate knowledge of your personal details (e.g. name, phone number and address). However this does not mean that BT itself has been hacked because such details are can easily be scraped from public sources. Not to mention the huge amount of personal info. that has been stolen via unrelated hacks over the past few years.

The fraudulent callers will be aware that BT are the biggest broadband provider and thus sometimes they’ll just guess that you might be using them for your sercice (hence people on non-BT providers also receiving calls claiming that their BT services have a problem etc.).

BT User Kim2 said:

I know that most people are aware of the scam calls but many times the number shows up as international which is always a good clue. Had one about ten minutes ago from 01378 255791. This looked like it was from the UK so I answered it. It was the usual Indian gentleman who claimed he was calling from BT.

He said that there were hackers on my computer and I needed to switch the computer on so he could fix it. Yes, I know we all have heard it before but horrible thought that there may be vulnerable people who may be taken in.

BT User Xlicit said:

I just had a suspicious call in last 20mins. They first started the conversation saying line is dodgy so will have to disconnect. Which at first I believed as recently I had to get bt to come fix it and they put me on a spare of a spare in a sense. But then they changed subject to malicious packets been sent down my line was a concern.

By this point I called them on their bluff. Said if you want to notify me to email me or send letter not by call. They were asking what devices I had connected, seeing if got pc which again I said no. They even tried to say look we’re not scammers. Let me pass you to my manager.

Never had this at my old address, already sick of scam calls this weekend. I hope nobody falls for this! Was v believable.

BT User basketcase1 said:

Does anyone recognise the number 0161 818 8583?

Just had a call from a very polite gent with an Indian accent (called Robin Richards, he said). Apparently there are people misusing my Internet service and he wanted to help me sort it out.

I told him I never answered these calls, but would ring him back and got this number. When I said “0161” that sounds familiar, he knew it was a Manchester prefix. Several closely related numbers are scams.

Doubt I’m going to ring back.

However the issue highlighted above is by no means unique to BT and it is in fact a long running problem, which continues to affect most of the major mobile and broadband providers. Everybody from KCOM to Vodafone, Sky Broadband, BT and all the way down to some smaller ISPs have also been targeted. But for obvious reasons the biggest providers are usually the most attractive.

Budget ISP TalkTalk has of course suffered more than most, although that was largely due to a number of security breaches with their customer database that enabled hackers and dodgy customer support agents to steal significant quantities of private information (here and here). Fraudsters were later able to use this data to surgically target known subscribers, which made their calls much more believable.

In other cases criminals may also scour rubbish bins in order to find invoices with identifiable information, which can then be used to fuel similar scams.

A BT spokesman said:

“BT takes the security of its customers’ accounts very seriously. We proactively warn our customers to be on their guard against scams. Fraudsters use various methods to ‘glean’ your personal or financial details with the ultimate aim of stealing from you. This can include trying to use your BT bill and account number.”

Most ISPs will never ask subscribers for personal information out of the blue and they’ll always call from a known number. Likewise they usually won’t try to make you panic about a serious problem that doesn’t actually exist. The best course of action is to put the phone down, wait a few minutes and then call your provider directly on an official number in order to report the incident.

The largest providers are also implementing some increasingly sophisticated nuisance call blocking services, which are helping to tackle such problems. But these work best when people report dodgy numbers to the provider ASAP.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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19 Responses
  1. MikeHunt

    The fall in demand for Indian call centres is encouraging them to resort to scamming.

    • Bob2002

      Scamming has been going on for quite a while, people like to make excuses for scammers but from what I’ve read, and the scammer interviews I’ve listened to, they are quite clear that they know what they are involved with when they take the job, and decided not to take a normal call centre job like their peers simply because scamming pays better.

  2. Paul

    There is a podcast where the presenters tracked down a call centre like this:

    Episode 1: https://gimletmedia.com/episode/long-distance/
    Episode 2: https://gimletmedia.com/episode/103-long-distance-part-ii/

    Enjoy.

  3. Ray Woodward

    The phone number is irrelevant – as the telephone system has been hacked to death they could make it display any number the wish ** EVEN YOURS **.

    The number is ‘spoofed’!

    Your best bet is to use some form of call blocker option …

    • Steve Jones

      Quite, just as source email addresses can and are spoofed. Without some end-to-end accreditation system (which would be an almost impossible retrofit to the international telephone system) it’s always going to happen as there are so many gateways. I suppose it might be possible, in principle, for an operator to filter out calls with CLIs which are obviously wrong (such as one that could only have come from their own network), but I’ve no idea if the switching equipment out there is able to do this.

      In any event, it would require action at an international level. Unless the Indian government spent some efforts tracking down these fraudulent operators, it will no doubt continue.

      I should add that I am using the BT call filtering system. I’m not sure how effective it is but I get many fewer callers these days.

      nb. there is a black market in personal information connecting telephone numbers with details such as names and addresses. Pretty well any time you’ve passed this information over to any person or organisation it can leak. I would also not be surprised to find out it’s possible to find out what telephone number is “owned” by what service provider. After all, there must be some way this is known or telephone calls won’t get to the correct voice network.

    • Steve Jones

      A quick Google search reveals that the information over which network operator “owns” a particular telephone number is readily available. Whether that maps to a Service Provider is another issue, but clearly there is information out there.

      This is a free tool using Ofcom data although I suspect it’s of limited functionality, at least in this form. There are others.

      https://portal.aql.com/telecoms/network_lookup.php

  4. terry hughes

    i had such a call but when i told him that i use linux rather than windows he hung up. moral of the story – do not use windows – linux is much more secure.

    terry

  5. captain.cretin

    BT have helpfully published the numbers they use to make the real calls, so the scammer can now spoof them.

    The timing of many of these calls is suspicious, I (and many others), think BT has a serious leak in their Indian based workforce.

  6. John Miles

    I started using Sky’s ‘TalkShield’ on my phone line a few months ago and it has completely eliminated these scam calls. You have to do a one time authorisation of a new calling number the first time they call – so it’s a bit of a faff the first time a friend calls but once that is done the only ‘unrecognised’ numbers will be scam calls and the odd friend who hasn’t called for ages. In practice the auto-dialing systems used by scam call centres give up on the initial talkshield challenge so you never even get the call.

    At long last I just get calls from people I want to speak to!

  7. joe

    I get pretty regular scams like this: They seem to alternate between ‘microsoft’ support (like MS support ever calls you!) about my PC and ‘BT’ about a problem with my router that some is trying to exploit. Uusually want me to go to the command line and enter commands!

    In between that its the usual silent calls (sigh)

  8. Stuart Hendry

    Just Had a call from 0161 818 8583 total scam.
    I can guarantee this as they picked up straight away and answered hello BT.
    It’s taken me nearly 2 weeks to get in touch with the right person from BT

  9. Vararuci

    Just received a call from ‘BT’ offering me a 35%discount on my bill. I hung up when they began reading out my card number asking me to confirm it. The call cam from 001 8000786786. I think that’s USA. Just putting this warming out there.

  10. Colin

    I think it is my duty as someone who has a reasonable knowledge of computers to play these people by acting as if I’m not. I string them along by saying my computer is not switched on and put the phone down while I turn it on and then instead I get a cup of coffee.
    I then pretend I am doing as they suggest but string them along for ages by asking them questions and small talk. Then pretend there is a call at the door, when asked to type stuff in my browser I pretend I can’t hear them and make them repeat it(they can’t say WWWW).At this point I ask if I can read it back to them and then spell my own message after WWW. and they usually hang up. I have kept them on the line for 30mins preventing them from scamming old people. See Tiny Tim on youtube.

  11. Susan Stevens

    I have had 3 calls so far today claiming to be from BT Open Reach, when I asked how I could be sure they were who they said they rang off. The tele no was witheld.

  12. davi lud

    I have just received a call from BT broadband which i don’t have on my land line.
    The number who me is 01539037530

  13. david

    Another British telecom phone scam site bt-home.webnode.com !
    You have a virus, load our remote terminal so we can take control of your PC
    I contacted British Telecom and they are useless as was the on-line police fraud protection

    I keep contacting webnode.com who take the sites down after a few days only for them to pop back up again using another sub-domain

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