There was a story yesterday about a man in Flintshire who was scammed out of £15,000 by a caller claiming to be helping him to deal with an internet problem. This is a growing nuisance. As someone who has worked largely from home for some years, I get a lot of these scam calls, and on this one in particular, people claiming to be from ‘BT Technical Department’ seem to phone on a more or less weekly basis.
If I have nothing better to do, I’m afraid that I’m rather naughty with them, and play them along for a while with the objective of keeping them on the phone as long as possible (the record to date is 28 minutes) by asking them to provide ever more detailed explanations of what they’re saying, or even to repeat themselves because I can’t understand their (usually Asian) accents. Calling them out for what they are just when they get to the point that they think I’m going to download their software and let them look at or control my computer isn’t generally popular with them, although it doesn’t seem to stop them trying again a few days later. Perhaps they’re using me as a training resource, but the more time they spend talking to me the less time they have to spend scamming someone else.
Anyway, I had an almost ‘honest’ one on the phone a week or two ago. When he got to the relevant point in his script, I said to him something along the lines of “You must think I’m stupid”. His response was that yes, he did think I was stupid, but not just me – all the people in the UK. In not quite so many words he told me “I phone people in the UK every day and take their money” before launching into an expletive-ridden dialogue about me having wasted his time and calling me a rude name before hanging up.
Obviously, not everyone is as tech-savvy as me when it comes to their ‘explanations’ of how they know my computer has been compromised; and this isn’t the only type of scam around. Others are more vulnerable and other types of scam can hook them in. There are things people can do to protect themselves, but not all of them help a great deal. Some of these scams come from legitimate-looking telephone numbers, but they’re actually spoofed. And the problem with that is that it’s impossible to block a caller who spoofs a different number every time they call. But, given the prevalence of these scams, given the significant amounts of money which they are taking from people – why are they getting away with spoofing telephone numbers? I can honestly think of no valid reason why anyone should be allowed to make a call and provide an incorrect identity as to the source of the call. Removing that facility won’t stop the scammers, but it would provide just a little more protection for vulnerable consumers – or even those, like me, who are just fed up of the repetitive nature of these calls.