Feeds

back to article Watchdog hits 070 swindlers with big fine

Regulators today signalled a crackdown on scammers who use 070 numbers to con people into calling premium lines in the belief they will be charged at the normal mobile rate. PhonepayPlus said that its first adjudication on an 070 operator had resulted in a £200,000 fine for Jack Barnard Telecom Services Limited, based in Essex. …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
Bronze badge

how much did they make from this scam?

They should have been fined at least twice what they made from this practice. The money should then be returned to the victims. If they made more than £200k, the directors are just going to set up another scam and do it again. A potential prison sentence would also seem appropriate. No matter what terms are used to describe this "deception" it is theft.

0
0
Flame

OFCOM cock it up again....

Whilst I have no truck with people who exploit the 070 number range so as to amass huge quantities of currency in some bank somewhere, I would have thought it was so obvious that some people could be fooled into thinking that 070 numbers were mobiles, given that most other 07 numbers are mobiles.

So, why did OFCOM allocate this range in the first place....surely, they must have given it some thought.....?

Obviously not and now, once again, some phone numbers are going to have to change JUST because OFCOM didn't think ahead....

- They've messed up the London prefix codes THREE times. (01>071+081>0171/0181>020 7/020 8 )

- They messed up the 0500 codes, which were assigned by Mercury Telecom (which became C&W) and made firms change codes to 0800

- They've messed up the 0870 codes, by allowing people to charge mega amounts, when it should be at "National Call Rates" - they've now had to introduce the 03 code to clear up that mess

- They have messed up the 0345 / 0845 numbers, which are supposed to be at Local call rate - except, most mobile are charged a premium to dial these...

- And when was the last time you called a FREEPHONE number on a mobile and found you got charged....

OFCOM should be sacked and pulled up before the beak and made to sort out this mess......

0
0
Bronze badge
Thumb Down

Typical half assed solution

If the policy was to refund all charges incurred on these dodgy numbers the Telco's would be a lot more careful about who they handed them out to.

As is, the company will declare bankruptcy, the scam profits long since spirited away, the Telco keeps their share of the proceeds, the Watchdog gets a headline while the punter foots the bill.

0
0
Stop

070 is just a rip-off anyway.

Terminate this 'service' immediately.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Other numbers

On the whole, the scam calls I get are either from the U.S. ("you've won a vacation in Florida!") or expect me to call a "national rate" number. Neither is regulated by PayPhonesPlus. If only there were some other regulator with a wider juristiction. Oh hang on there's OFCOM. Nah, toothless.

0
0
Flame

Fines? bah..

Fines are no threat to the people doing this...

The profits will long since have been laundered out of the company and into people's personal pockets...

The company itself won't have any assets, won't be able to pay the fine and will just be declared bankrupt. Those who ran the company will have their profits and will just use it to set up more scams...

What they did is FRAUD, a crime, the people responsible for this company should be taken to a criminal court and prosecuted for their fraud, and sentenced to jail and/or personal fines. Something needs to be done about criminals hiding behind companies to protect themselves from the law.

0
0
Alert

Random Tory answer for all occasions.

"Self-regulation is the answer"

0
0
Paris Hilton

Why not

Just allow me to block all premium rate numbers from my BT line WITHOUT a monthly charge. Problem solved.

Paris, because I'm sure she's been on a premium rate number.

0
0
Joke

Damn right

"They've messed up the London prefix codes THREE times. (01>071+081>0171/0181>020 7/020 8 )"

Not to mention the introduction of the evil "01" prefix in the first place. I want to just dial "Haringay 4434" and be done with it. Never mind all these arguments about "increased capacity".

0
0
Silver badge

What deception?

Any idiot who returns a call based on "Hello, hello, can you hear me?" deserves parting from their money. It's not deception, it's social engineering. The people called were not told they were going to win anything or had already done so. They were not asked to phone back. The calls simply played on peoples uncontrollable curiosity.

0
0
Stop

What a cock-up....

It's getting hard to keep a track of all the new number ranges, and it seems to me that Ofcom are going to need yet another re-organisation to sort it out.

When it was all started by Oftel it was pretty simple....

01/02 were Geographic numbers

07 was assumed to be all mobile networks

080 was freephone

084 was local rate

087 was national rate

09 was premium rate

Now I assume the plan is to use 03 for non-geographic numbers? Which should be for the likes of Skype and other IP telephone providers. And these scammers should be moved into the 09 range. Then if people want to call them, then thats their own problem.

Who decided to put this essentially premium rate numbering system in amongst the mobile range?? They (even if it was more than one person) should be hauled up before a man in a curly wig for decieving the public.

Ofcom are an utter shambles! Interested in nothing more than generating money by flogging off precious spectrum no matter what the public interest might be, and seem more concerned with constantly hounding BT and trying to destroy their business than ensuring that the public are actually getting what they want.

Bring back the IBA/ITC/RA and Oftel!

0
0
Dead Vulture

More OFCOM stupidity

So why was 070 even allowed to be charged at 50p/min in the first place?

When numbers like 07010 were first introduced back in the nineties callers were being charged between 5p and 10p per minute. The 070 facilitated a very reasonably priced and valuable "follow me" service. It meant you could frequently change your phone operator and keep your number. It was a simple and cheap solution to a big problem.

Now legitimate 070 users are likely to be forced to change to a new number range. But will OFCOM give us a pricing guarantee, or simply allow the Telcos to ramp up the charges like before?

Many 07010 users have already switched to 0871 to give their customers a better deal when calling them, only to find that a month down the line the Mobile Telcos have started ramping 0871 charges up too.

How typical of OFCOM to find an excuse, blaming scammers to divert attention from this government washing their hands over important consumer issues. OFCOM effectively masterminded the scam in the first place when they allowed the Telcos to charge 50p/min. Astonishing!

In the present economic climate OFCOM need to respect the consumer money supply and get tuff over call charges. All number prefixes should be given a price ceiling while allowing Telcos to compete to make calls cheaper. I cannot see any reason for ramping up call charges above the rate of inflation. Not ever.

1
0

Can someone explain to me

Why this sort of scam isn't treated as fraud and the perpetrators subject to criminal prosecution?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

@Timbo

"And when was the last time you called a FREEPHONE number on a mobile and found you got charged...."

Well if you ignore the message that says "This call will be charged at the standard rate. If you do not wish to continue with this call please hang up now." then you probably deserve to be charged double.

0
0
Coat

Toothless and incompetent

OFCOM is completely incompetent when it comes to anything to do with the phone industry. All I want as a consumer is clear, transparent pricing - knowing what it's going to call me to make a call. OFCOM have absolutely failed to ensure this.

None of the mobile operators make their call charges clear. Have a look at Orange's online tariffs and try to work out how much data costs - 'not more than £1.50 per day' seems to be all i can find. That's potentially £45 per month. how do i get to 1.50 - is the the first mb or the first gb?

Opening up directory services to 'competitition' was another failure - none of the companies that emerged were as cheap as the service they replaced.

0
0
Thumb Down

Who's regulating the regulators

'Cos it's clear that Ofcon couldn't regulate a brewup in a well you know...

0
0
Stop

Just stupid punters, huh?

For those who say those phoning back, have you considered that it may be a child or teenager or the like who might not have sufficient life experience to suspect a scam, since an indiscriminate pre-recorded message could readily be picked up by one if their parent is busy?

Also, on many mobiles calling back a normal 07 number wouldn't cost anything (just use up some spare inclusive minutes), so the person would not worry about just wasting a little bit of time if it's a wrong number or the like. They would have no reason to suspect any charge would be incurred. However, a solution could be implemented here to require telcos to highlight that the call will be chargeable before it's connected.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

@stupid punters remarks

What if you run a business with your mobile? Or have one for on-call reasons at normal work?

I would rather risk being stung for a few instances of 50p than risk losing potentially thousands of squids in missed work opportunities.

0
0
Bronze badge

Why aren't they being investigated for fraud?

If it is obvious that any of these operators are working a deliberate scam then surely that is at least grounds for investigation as a criminal act. I'm frankly fed up of deliberate attempts made to deceive individuals into parting with money being treated as a mere breach of a code of practice and subject to a regulatory fine. If there is reasonable evidence on which to base a prosecution, then the individuals responsible should find themselves with a criminal charge, not some feeble fine.

0
0
Silver badge
Joke

Re: Toothless and incompetent

"Opening up directory services to 'competitition' was another failure - none of the companies that emerged were as cheap as the service they replaced."

Just wait until they do the same thing with emergency services .....

The old-fashioned 999 emergency number is being replaced! Soon, you will be able to choose from an exciting range of new emergency service providers, on numbers beginning with 112.

0
0

Sneaking sort of admiration

I Know, I know it’s totally wrong and criminal but come on, what a great way to make some money, the only people who lost out were the hard of thinking!

Reminds me of the VIZ money making tip:

1. Set up a premium rate phone number

2. Get a sticker printed with "Well Driven?" and the number from step 1 printed on it

3. Put the sticker on your car

4. Drive round town like a complete Twat

0
0
Bronze badge
Stop

Re: OFCOM cock it up again....

"- They've messed up the London prefix codes THREE times. (01>071+081>0171/0181>020 7/020 8 )"

Actually if I was going to be a pedant, it is:

01>071+081>0171+0181>020

The area code (which you call prefix codes) for the entire area of London is just 020. The rest of the number is a full 8-digit local number (when it was a 7-digit number before) and doesn't only just start with the number 7 or 8 (numbers with 3s have been out for ages now). The distinction between the old "7" and "8" numbers in the area code have been long buried with the introduction of 020 (in other words, even if the London 8-digit number starts with a 7 or 8, it doesn't mean anything now).

0
0
Silver badge

Why...

...do they have to keep messing up the numbers...

When mobiles first came out in the UK they had 08 numbers, and 0898 was a premium, so confusion reigned.

Then they sorted out the numbers, made 01 and 02 geographic, 07 mobiles and 08 non standard call rate (aka, beware!)

It's no shock that someone having an 07 number to call thinks it's just a mobile.

What idiot regulator allows all the chaos of tidying up the numbers into a logical range, only to let them get f*cked up again within 10 years!

Morons, the lot of them!

0
0

@AC

> On the whole, the scam calls I get are either from the U.S. ("you've won a vacation in Florida!")

Be especially careful with these... this particular scam is *not* designed to get you to ring a premium rate number, it's to get you to pay for some "extras" with a credit card... astonishingly, anyone mad enough to give the "company" (Grand Tropical Vacations, or something similar) their credit card details gets seriously fleeced by fraudulent transactions from an interesting variety of foreign countries in various parts of the known universe... YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

0
0
Unhappy

Stupid regulator

IMO the blame falls firmly on Ofcom for allowing a plethora of disguised premium rate numbers. We used to have 0898 numbers, which cost an arm and a leg and everyone knew it. Those moved to 09..., which is fine: anything starting 09 is a premium rate number.

What they should not have allowed is the creation of lower premium rate numbers in the 07, 084 and 087 ranges. 0845 is not "local rate" for anything except perhaps BT payphones: it is far more expensive to call than any genuinely local or indeed long distance, because it's a long distance call plus a surcharge paid to the recipient. Ditto 0870 and 070, only with bigger surcharges: they are merely premium rate for all intents and purposes, except misleading advertising scams like this.

If Ofcom had the brains and guts to say "all premium numbers must be in the 09 range", this scam would have flopped - particularly if they barred the presentation of premium rate numbers in Caller ID and 1471. Instead, they go and create these stupid loopholes for disguising ripoff numbers, then blame those who fall for it!

1
0
Flame

@ Test Man

>>Actually if I was going to be a pedant, it is:

>>01>071+081>0171+0181>020

Err...yup, I do know this....I was just trying to show up the farce that is "outer and inner" London numbers, when what preceded it, was the overall "01" scheme....

And yes, I realise that during the 80's and 90's demand of London number rose, due to everyone having a dial up modem (remember them) and a fax machine.....and they needed more numbers to meet demand....

Like all these things, it's not rocket science to know that if demand skyrockets, just increasing by a factor of 2 isn't enough....(as in going from "01 abc defg" to "071 abc defg" and "081 abc defg" ).

And they still had th same number of numbers when they went to 0171/0181 and then changed again after that...!

Even with introducing 020 7 and 020 8, (as 0171 and 0181) they still have the roughly the same number of numbers....although demand may now be less, as dial up modem and fax are becoming less "required"... the only real improvement they got was being able to use the 0 and 1 as well.

(And yes, I know about 020 3 as well !!!! - no doubt they'll have the other numbers in use soon enough, given that most of the rest of the country now has a "1" after the leading zero )

Talk about nightmare....THANK YOU OFCOM.......(and your predecessors!)

0
0
Bronze badge
Stop

@Timbo

Ah OK cool. It's just that if you're going to present evidence to back up your argument, it's best that your evidence is accurate, or you simply look silly.

But otherwise I completely agree with you, apart from your last 3 paragraphs. They didn't move it to 020 7 or 020 8, they moved London numbers to the 020 area code, which meant everyone now has 8 digits instead of 7 before (the numbers after the area code - for proof if you're in the London area 020 code, try dialling the old 7 digits, it doesn't work, when it did before, however, dialling the full 8 digits without the area code DOES work). This allows them to eventually bring in 3xxx xxxx, 4xxx xxxx, 5xxx xxxx, etc. so moving to 020 actually DIDN'T leave London with the same amount of numbers that they can use.

For example, a typical London number back in the old days would be (01) 555 2345, then it was (081) 555 2345, then (0181) 555 2345 and now it's (020) 8555 2345 (note the actual number is now 8 digits, not 7), hence more combinations of numbers available.

Was still a mess though.

0
0
Silver badge

Phone number costs...

Ok, it's not quite relevant to this story, but this is a good place to put in a plug for "Say No to 0870" which can save you having to pay stupid amounts (which companies get a cut of) when you can call a standard phone number instead!

http://www.saynoto0870.com/

0
0
Bronze badge

Numbers in Oz

Seems to be simpler down here in Oz:

02-xxxx-xxxx is (for example) a NSW number. 07-xxxx-xxxx is a Queensland number while 07-3xxx-xxxx is South-East QLD. 04-xxxx-xxxx is a mobile. That's it. Nothing else is on that prefix. Anything starting with a 1 is a potential high-rate number, as far as I am concerned - some may be national numbers (charged locally) some may be info-lines (charged per minute) - call at your peril.

As for calls from mobile, there's no such thing as a free number - *all* calls from mobiles are charged. At least we don't get charged for receiving calls or SMS (looks at USA).

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Just stupid punters, etc...

1) Think of the sodding children. If you give a mobile to a child who you think is too incompetent to know how to use it then you should either not give it to them or make sure they do know how to use it and how to handle strange calls.

2) What if you run a business with your mobile? You get clients calling you from premium rate numbers? If you run a business and return calls to these numbers then I doubt your business is going to succeed with you at the helm.

3) Or have one for on-call reasons at normal work? OK, you've got me on this one but only if your job is supporting premium rate numbers in which case you also deserve to be socially engineeered by those numbers you're not supporting.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Who really makes the money

As the calls are made to mobiles and have the number displayed to allow the caller to return the call, the vast majority of calls are made via the mobile networks,

So, the mobile operator charges £1.50 per call. they pass on about 37.5p per call to the operator running the service and the 'promoter; gets a share of the 37.5p, say 30p.

So, per call - Mobile Operator makes £1.12, the promoter makes 30p and the terminating operator makes 7.5p. Now multiple by 1,000,000 calls in a month.

Should payphoneplus make the mobile operator pay back all the customers? Yes.

Should the Mobile Operators bar calls to these numbers unless requested by the user - Yes. This would stop 'Missed Call marketing' at a stroke.

Will they? No, because they make too much money out of it.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

@ Chris W

Re: "Any idiot who returns a call based on "Hello, hello, can you hear me?" deserves parting from their money"

Er, live in the real world, mate! At the moment I have a relative in Spain on holiday. His mother might have thought he was in that plane crash! He's travelling around only leaving a few clues to where he is.

I remember a few years ago, my Mum recieved a bad connection line from someone. She was going to phone the Mountain rescue coz she believed I was in trouble (I was camping and climbing in the middle of the lake District at the time).

Think about the old, the worried parents, the stress. The Bast**ds who run these services are guilty of genuine grief and a crime.

0
0
Bronze badge

@Chris W

I despair at those people who seem to be willing to support, or at least tolerate, the exploitation of vulnerable and weak people in society. It might only affect the less aware people, children, pensioners, the naive and so on. However, this particular scam had no point whatsoever than to con people out of money - it offered no service, as described it is a simple con or fraud.

It's a mark of a civilised society that we do not tolerate the exploitation of vulnerable people through overtly fraudulent activities. Yes, everbody who uses services in an incredibly complicated society needs to be made aware of the dangers for their own interests. However, saying that is a long way from tolerating the behaviour of people like this and the exploitation of the vulnerable in this way is despicable and nothing to be supported in any shape or form.

0
0

07 is the problem that Ofcom won't address

Ofcom has failed to create reanges beginning 07 where the cost of a call is obvious up front. Take 0764 for example - numbers in that range have been allocated to non EU operators and hence many netwroks charge international call rates. When challenged to provide a list of codes they had alocated to non EU operators Ofcom said they couldn't but my mobile operator, 3, said it was up to me to know that the mobile I called was in fact an Isle of man one, non UK, non EU.

There needs a real go at the 07 range splitting UK mobile, non UK mobile, personal numbering, VoIP into specific identifiable ranges.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Prison?

£200,000 for misusing the number...

What about a prison scentence for FRAUD!

0
0

just to clarify

the numbers are still broken up into nice logical ranges with 09 being the premium rate range.

The problem with 070 numbers is that they are redirects, you dial one number, that appears to be a mobile and so covered by inclusive minutes, and it automatically redirects you to a premium rate 09 number without you knowing. If you change the redirect number to anything else you will still have the same problem. they need to be regulated to redirect to geographic and mobile numebrs only.

its a scam plain and simple, if you were called from an 09 number and returned the call, as you know what number you are actually dialling, you are pretty much responsible. with 070 numbers you have no way to distinguish them from genuine mobile numbers, as it is ingrained in people that an 07 number is a mobile.

I'm surprised they only got one fine though, as i though automatcally phoning someone and playing a recorded message was also worthy of a fine under slightly different regulations

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Anonymous Coward

Can't you get it through your thick heads. The number that called you is displayed, you can see it is a premium rate number. How many relatives, friends, friends of relatives or relatives of friends do you know that would make a personal call to you from a premium rate number for any reason? If the number is hidden do you assume someone is in danger then start dialling all the premium rate numbers you can think of to see if it was them?

>less aware people, children, pensioners,

Here we go again. Let's also protect people from spilling coffee on themselves, especially if it's hot. No, I've a better idea, let's bring up our children to use a bit of common sense.

0
0
Paris Hilton

@ Sooty - sorry mate, you're way off beam

"The problem with 070 numbers is that they are redirects, you dial one number, that appears to be a mobile and so covered by inclusive minutes, and it automatically redirects you to a premium rate 09 number without you knowing"

The implication is that you pay on 09 cost, when you think you've dialled an 07. In this scenario, you're plain flat wrong. It is a redirection, but the initiating party isn't responsible for the cost of the redirection.

When you set up these numbers, you provide a "real" number for that call to terminate on. Most providers will only accept a regular landline 01/02/03 number or charge a premium to terminate the call to a mobile or another number. If the sponsor wants to terminate on an 09 number, it would cost HIM the fortune, not the caller.

The real problem with 070 numbers is that - in order to provide a margin to the sponsor, they are charged at such a high price. 070's were orignally planned to allow redirection to a mobile without any additional cost to the recipient. That's when calls to mobiles cost 25p/38p per minute. Calls to mobiles have become cheaper, 070 providers haven't brought their prices down - just pocketing the extra margin.

Paris... because I'm sure there's been lots pocketing of her margins...

1
0
Bronze badge
Unhappy

@Chris W

As was fairly well explained in the post immediatly above you, the number is NOT displayed in this case: it is not the 070 number that is the problem, it is the way that that service operates, by _transparently_ forwarding you on to any number - normally just a landline or a mobile, but in this case a premium-rate number. It is the latter forwarding that is the real problem, not the association with Mobiles!

For an IT literate audience, it is surprising how few of the commenter's seem to be able to grasp this. I do agree that these guys should have been jailed for fraud, but that is probably outside of the scope of OFCOM?

0
0
Flame

07 and mobiles

07 was never badged as a moobile number range, it was for 'find me anywhere' services

070 range for personal multiple phone 'hunt' numbers.

076 Radiopaging and other text services and 077-079 for mobile numbers

075 has been added for more capacity for mobile numbering (all those jobs lovin' Apple buyin' dipsticks with their iCons)

if you are going to use a phone, educate yourself and dont return calls that leave silly messages.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

@Chris W

> If you run a business and return calls to these numbers then I doubt your business is going to succeed with you at the helm.

If I'm a plumber, I just want to get on with being a plumber. I don't want to have to memorise every premium rate number prefix and then have to check the Ofcom website every month just to see if they've changed them this month. Get real.

@Steven Jones - I fully agree.

0
0
Silver badge

@Dave

Yes I understand all that as I did look to see what all this 070 was about. This is about misuse of a service, it is not a scam nor fraud. A scam is going into PCCity (PCWorld in the UK) cash in hand to buy a laptop after a week of pondering and research to find they have upped the price of the one I wanted and only the one I wanted to an unbeatable never to be repeated 729 euros. Previously it was 699. And they wouldn't sell it at 699 not even for cash so they lost a sale.

Could you explain how you can dial back a number that isn't displayed? And if it isn't displayed how do you now it's from 070?

0
0
Paris Hilton

@Dave

The cost of an 070 number is not set by the number it is diverted to, the particular number range has a cost assigned to it, e.g. Flextel's 07010 range is 35p/min. The forwarded call is paid for out of this charge, which is why calling it would be the same if it was diverted to a landline or mobile. It's also why their 0871 numbers will divert to mobiles apart from 3UK due to their higher termination charge.

Paris, because she's been forwarded all over the place.

0
0
Alert

@ Anyone saying Fraud = Prison

Fraud is not a very well legally defined term and so it is not a criminal charge. Anyone that can confirm otherwise would be welcome to post as I know laws do change...

As far as I know there is only the Tort of Fraud that allows deception to be labelled as fraud and used in civil cases only.

So unless the Telecoms Act is changed again we will not be able to put any of these arseholes in Prison, but will just be able to use the regulator to fine them.

0
0
This topic is closed for new posts.