Shetland could be next to suffer a phone scam that is doing the rounds in Orkney.
Technician Michael Nisbet, who works at NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway, received the warning about the scam from a friend in Orkney. Now he wants to alert Shetlanders to the convincing fraud, which is aimed at getting credit card details, including the security number, which can be used for far larger purchases.
Michael’s friend described his experience: “I received a call from a ‘representative’ of BT, informing me that he was disconnecting me because of an unpaid bill. He demanded payment immediately of £31 or it would be £118 to re-connect at a later date.
“The guy wasn’t fazed when I told him I was with Virgin Media, allegedly VM have to pay BT a percentage for line rental.
“I asked the guy’s name – he gave me the very English John Peacock with a very African accent – and a phone number – 0800 0800 152.
“Obviously the fellow realized I didn’t believe his story, so offered to demonstrate that he was from BT. I asked how and he told me to hang up and try phoning someone – he would disconnect my phone to prevent this. And he did!
“My phone was dead – no engaged tone, nothing – until he phoned me again.
“Very pleased with himself, he asked if that was enough proof that he was with BT. I asked how the payment was to be made and he said credit card, there and then.
“I said that I didn’t know how he’d done it, but I had absolutely no intention of paying him, I didn’t believe his name or that he worked for BT. He hung up.
“I dialled 1471 to find his number, but it was withheld. I phoned his fictitious 0800 number – not recognized, so I phoned the police to let them know. I wasn’t the first! It’s only just started apparently, but it is escalating.
“Their advice was to let as many people as possible know of this scam. The fact that the phone does go off would probably convince some people it’s real.”
Michael said the scam was good but not that clever. “He gave the wrong number – it should have been 0800 800 152 which takes you through to BT Business.
“The cutting off of the line is very simple, he stays on the line with the mute button on and you can’t dial out, but he can hear you trying. This is because the person who initiates a call is the one to terminate it. When you stop trying he cuts off and immediately calls back.”
The scam was very convincing, Michael said.
“The sad thing is that it is so simple that it will certainly fool the elderly and vulnerable. I feel it’s one of my duties as a technician at NAFC to pass this on to the staff here. It’s good to let everyone in Shetland know as the stories are quite believable. Everyone should remember never to give out any sensitive details to someone who calls you, if you are unsure then call the company to check.”
This phone scam is already being investigated by trading standards in Orkney. Shetland trading standards are aware of it too and if anyone has any information about it they are urged to contact (01595) 744887.
Trading standards chief David Marsh said people should never give their credit card details to anyone who phones them – if in doubt tell the caller you will ring them back and phone the organisation they claim to be from.
Trading Standards nationwide has now launched a Scamnesty campaign, which aims to help end the scourge of mass marketed scam mailings.
Nearly half of the UK adult population has been targeted by a scam. Every year, 3.2 million adults across the country (one in 15 people) fall victim to a scam involving deceptive mailings, phonecalls or emails which are designed to con victims out of their cash. UK consumers lose £3.5 billion to scams every year.
The council is asking people in Shetland to fight back against the fraudsters by telling them about any scams, or collecting any scam letters they receive in February and sending them to: SIC Trading Standards Service, Infrastructure Services Department, FREEPOST SCO4317, Lerwick, ZE1 0BR.