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Shift from UK Analogue to Digital Phone Lines Breeds New SCAMs

Tuesday, Sep 19th, 2023 (2:07 pm) - Score 4,048
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The Local Government Association, which represents councils across England and Wales, has warned that criminals are increasingly finding ways of exploiting the ongoing switchover from older analogue to digital based phone services in order to scam vulnerable people out of their personal data and bank details.

At present Openreach (BT) and supporting Communication Providers (ISPs and phone providers) are slowly moving consumers off their old analogue phone services and on to broadband (IP) powered digital equivalents, which is an industry-led process that they expect to finish by the end of December 2025 (here). KCOM are also expecting to complete a similar project in Hull by the end of 2024 (here).

NOTE: Roughly 1.8 million people use health care telephony devices nationally.

The change itself is quite straightforward when providers communicate it properly and support their customers correctly during the transition. But not everybody is as comfortable with the change, and it can be confusing for those who have spent a lifetime plugging their phones into the same old wall socket; particularly if they haven’t previously had a broadband service (your old handsets will now need to be plugged into a router or ATA device).

On top of that, there are still some long-standing problem areas, such as compatibility woes with third-party products and services (e.g. alarms and telecare services), many of which haven’t yet fully adapted to this change.

Predictably, criminals are also starting to cotton on to this and often try to scam vulnerable residents who use health care telephony devices into giving out personal information such as bank details (e.g. phishing emails, fake websites or phone calls to trick them). Such fraudsters may attempt to pose as your phone provider or the NHS etc.

For example, fraudsters may email or call residents with health care devices and claim they need to hand over bank details as part of the switchover, or they will be disconnected. Except, the digital switchover is usually a free process, while councils and home care alarm providers will never ask for personal or financial details over the phone.

Cllr Heather Kidd, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

“We are very concerned by a rise in criminals taking advantage of the digital switchover to trick vulnerable residents into giving out personal information such as their bank details. As the digital switchover date approaches, sadly we fear that further cases will arise.

Councils will always act swiftly with the police where any incidents are reported, but we also urge people to be vigilant and help to raise awareness of this crime.

The digital switchover is free of charge and residents should be aware that councils and their home care alarm providers or contractors will never ask for personal or financial information over the phone.”

Some councils are already taking steps to help tackle switchover scams, such as by installing anti-fraud call blockers in vulnerable people’s homes (Staffordshire) and sending our newsletters / alerts to residents (Halton Borough Council). But the concern is that scams like this could increase as the 2025 switchover date approaches.

Victims of such scams or fraudulent activity should report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via their website, and/or contact your local trading standards team.

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
6 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Michael Bradbrook says:

    I agree, when I had BT broadband and phone line I was given one of those Digital Phones. One day some scammer tried to say they were Openreach and if I put the phone down he would block my phone and broadband. He managed to block the digital phone for up to 3 hours before BT managed to get it working again. Also, I found that when there is an update for the digital phone, and it says that it can’t download it, when you go into the settings to manual force the update it says that the phone is up-to-date and no update needed.

    To be honest I am glad to have got rid of the digital phone and phone line one less thing for scammers to try

    1. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      “He managed to block the digital phone for up to 3 hours before BT managed to get it working again”

      Can you explain this one a bit more? There’s no real way to do this, barring a cybersecurity incident at BT.

      It isn’t like the old PSTN where there was a way to hold the line for several minutes (I believe it was originally intended for the pre cordless phone days where you might put the phone down and go to another extension), and even that was taken down to a couple of seconds following its use in scams

  2. Avatar photo Ben says:

    > Some councils are already taking steps to help tackle switchover scams, such as by installing anti-fraud call blockers in vulnerable people’s homes

    These seem to block all calls from withheld numbers, e.g. doctors or the hospital. Perhaps not a good idea for councils to install them in homes en-masse?

    1. Avatar photo michael bradbrook says:

      I don’t know how the scammer did it, but it was blocked for 3 hours when I couldn’t make a phone call until BT managed to get it up and running again. The phone was like a dead line i.e. no dialling tone, but I could receive calls, which I found to be weird. Even BT didn’t know how they did it either and I think to this day still don’t know how it was done.

  3. Avatar photo Anthony says:

    “Victims of such scams or fraudulent activity should report it to Action Fraud”….Who do absolutely nothing by the way. You might as well report it to God. It will receive the same response.

    1. Avatar photo Yomi says:

      Hahahahahaha

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