back to article Ofcom to crack down on telcos' handling of nuisance callers

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom is to introduce a series of measures to clamp down on providers' handling of nuisance calls, billing accuracy, general complaints handling and support for vulnerable customers. The changes will come into force from October 1, 2018. Any breach of a general condition can result in a financial penalty …

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Telephone numbers displayed to people receiving calls must be valid, dialable and uniquely identify the caller.

About time! Most of the random time-wasting calls that we receive have a spurious number presented which is always one digit short of what a number might typically contain - something of the format 01234 82271.

Doesn't stop them being a pain in the neck - but it means there's nothing meaningful to report.

Banning this will be a first step in the right direction.

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Now Ofcom need to get this adopted by the EU, as the real problem is with calls originating overseas.

The EU has sufficient clout to get the ITU to take this seriously and so get all it's members to agree.

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Over here they have started spoofing their number with the local area code and prefix with a random 4 digit extension. It looks legit and might even be from someone in your contact list.

Another newer version is they use the last number that answered their call for the next call.

If only there were a way to track them back to their lair...

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Unhappy

Do you think that these companies are somehow making phone calls for free?

No, they are billed like anyone else, and somehow that billing information is tracked back well enough to make the charges but it's somehow "impossible" to track them back when it comes to blocking/banning them.

Not sure that relying on the telco's, who make money from these calls, to somehow fix this is going to work, it clearly hasn't so far, the telco's just make money from both sides by charging for nuisance call blocking services and caller ID.

Seems to be a pattern emerging, anti-virus firm distributes virus ridden software then recommends installing anti-virus software to recover.

Company offering ID theft monitoring services leaks ID information, then recommends ID monitoring services to recover.

Telco's enable fake/scan calls, then recommend call blocking services to prevent them.

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No, they are billed like anyone else, and somehow that billing information is tracked back well enough to make the charges but it's somehow "impossible" to track them back when it comes to blocking/banning them.

Billing doesn't require individual call trackback to source.

Interconnect billing only requires a receiving telco to bill the telco they received the call from.

The source telco starts billing when the call is picked up.

Only by getting the ITU et al to agree that the source telco must forward a valid return address/number for a call it is forwarding to another telco, will the final telco get to know where exactly any give call originated from.

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Anonymous Coward

Speaking of billing...

... another approach is to register an 08433 number (or similar) and tell the caller they need to call back on your "private line". A surprising number of them go for it.

(NB: 08433 numbers cost extra with a percentage of the profits going to the owner of the number ... i.e. "me")

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Follow the money

(1) So what if a telco forwards a nuisance call? Why should the end user care? Bill the originating telco and let them sort it out their end.

(2) We need something like 1471 where it's 9471(say) followed by 1 for unsolicited, 2 nuisance, 3 harassment etc....

(3)... Which are collated so that say 0.10 reports are let alone, 10-100 introduce a delay blacklist, 100-1000 double the call cost to the caller 1000+ even more up to a total ban on the caller.

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Re: Follow the money

"Ofcom to crack down on telcos' handling of nuisance callers"

And earlier on today it was all about how BT/EE have officially launched their legal challenge against Ofcom's spectrum proposals.

@Ofcom: you need a good PR man (James Henderson is available I hear) to explain to you how to package good news in order to deflect the bad news that you are trying to block. Press releases several hours later don't quite do it.

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Anonymous Coward

False

You get at minimum the basic module + trunk, + lookups.. so if you have an incoming call that pretends to be part of your network, or pretends to come from an imposible origin, you can quickly determine that.

If I can do it with equipment from the 90s, for an actual network operator, so can the Telcos today.

Anon, as I might want to go back...

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Anonymous Coward

Spoofing

Agree in part, but you can still determine if a call pretends to be from one of your subscribers and you get it from an interconnect trunk. Those should be heavily penalised, plus you should not terminate a call to an operator if that cdr is clearly spoofed, and penalise the other operator in turn.

This alone would end the problem rather quickly.. as no spoofed calls could be terminated unless they have numbers from india, etc.. and that would not work.

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" a spurious number presented which is always one digit short of what a number might typically contain"

Which at least is filterable.

The insurance claim ("your car accident") scammers were spoofing real Manchester numbers a few months ago, including ones which belonged to an estate agent and a dentist - who when I called back, were both wondering why they'd had a number of abusive calls and "rather irritated" to hear that scammers had been spoofing their numbers.

There need to be criminal penalty provisions for unauthorised number presentation, ideally with $LARGE penalties allowed to be applied to telcos who let them through.

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"Now Ofcom need to get this adopted by the EU, as the real problem is with calls originating overseas."

Not overly.

As well as the call presentation number, there is always accounting data routed in the call showing the true origin. Telcos _could_ use this to filter bogon caller-IDs and ban traffic from persistent fraudulent telcos, however they have substantial financial incentive not to do so, as they receive termination revenue for each completed(*) call.

The entire world telephone call routing infrastructure is built on the basis that those with access to the engineering layers of the network are inherently trustworthy and that's been provably false since at least the late 1980s when call routing scams were used to hijack Chilean and Nuiean number ranges for sex lines.

(*) Completed or terminated in this context means "something or someone picked up the phone"

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"Another newer version is they use the last number that answered their call for the next call."

If "over here" is the USA, then notifying the FCC should have "interesting" results. Spoofing numbers is explicitly illegal and american LEOs have kicked down doors in a number of countries over this kind of thing. (So have German ones for that matter. It seems to only be the UK who refuse to follow the money if the trail leads out of the country)

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"the telco's just make money from both sides by charging for nuisance call blocking services and caller ID."

A large part of the reason why Telcos started to take action against the fraudulent calls was that they fraudsters started injecting fraudulent routing information into the network - meaning that the telcos didn't get termination revenue anymore.

Or in other words, they only care when they're not being paid.

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Re: Speaking of billing...

> and tell the caller they need to call back on your "private line".

I do the same thing with an 070 number - which is less obvious than 084/087 and is charged at £1.50/min

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Re: Follow the money

(4) Credit the recipient with a fee for answering the phone.

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Just need to correctly apply carrots and sticks. Any telco not stopping spoofed caller IDs and cold calling are fined £500 per call (paid to the offended party) after they have been notified of the problem. Also, allow a telco to accuse any company engaged in spoofing/cold calling with violating the T&Cs of their service contract, and charge them a £25000 penalty, PLUS any fines the telco was hit with.

In other words, let the telcos be rewarded for stopping the practice, and fined if they don't. No taxpayer dollars involved.

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Doesn't go far enough on nuisance calls

Clamping down on CLID is a very modest start. But I believe that OFCOM could and should force telcos to do far better to identify and then block nuisance callers. All those crappy "I am phoning from Microsoft Windows..." call centres should be permanently blocked. That won't stop the UK based scum, so OFCOM should grasp the nettle of nuisance calls by taking over control of the TPS, and then QUICKLY notifying complaints from that to the telcos to block anybody breaking the rules very quickly. If you can take a call centre off-line, then that really concentrates people's minds.

The current arrangements are that nuisance callers ignore TPS, conduct their telephone spamming, and work on the basis that it will be a couple of years before the ICO have cottoned on and acted, by which time they've closed down the company to evade the penalty. And that works.

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Re: Doesn't go far enough on nuisance calls

All those crappy "I am phoning from Microsoft Windows..." call centres should be wiped from the face of the planet

FTFY

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Re: Doesn't go far enough on nuisance calls

And there should be an easy way to report the last caller as a nuisance call, eg dial #7726 to report it.

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Re: Doesn't go far enough on nuisance calls

And there should be an easy way to report the last caller as a nuisance call, eg dial #7726

This will only be effective if it is forwarded to the nuclear deterrent targeting system.

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Re: Doesn't go far enough on nuisance calls

"This will only be effective if it is forwarded to the nuclear deterrent targeting system."

No, just credit the recipient's account with an answering fee and charge it back to the originating caller/telco. The delivering telco (and any other in the chain) can add a fee of their own for handling it. It does away with the folding call centre company; their telcos just apply the necessary credit control or take the hit and learn by experience.

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FAIL

Calls from BT OverReach

Openwretch engineers dont provide a displaying number when they call, Genius

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Re: Calls from BT OverReach

Nor do the NHS.

My Mum was getting plagued by fake TalkTalk scum last year, as her details were part of their ongoing gift to the world's hackers. At the same time her sister was dying, so she got the phone company to block the nuisance calls.

But what Tesco Mobile actually did was to block all calls with no caller display data. Genius! That meant her sister's GP, the hospital and district nurse service all got blocked with the spammers.

If only we could have some joined-up policies. Like with foreign premium rate numbers - where they go abroad to avoid regulation. Or in fact the UK ones, who go bust before they have to pay their fines. All the Telcos have to do is consult the regulators before paying out their fees - and non-legit ones can wait for their money until we know they're not total scumbags. OK this may limit "innovation" in the premium rate sector, as businesses will need start-up capital to cover the hiatus in their initial income, but since all the innovation in this sector is basically bad - that's not much of a loss.

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Re: Calls from BT OverReach

Nor do the NHS.

That, at least, is supposedly to protect privacy. The idea is that one member of your household might not want the others to know that they are receiving calls from their GP. That's a reasonably assumption since GPs usually only call with test results which people often prefer to keep secret even from other family members.

Whether or not that's effective is another matter. Most receptionists will probably say who they are if asked or even announce it straight out. Still - at least it would mean that 'Our GP' doesn't appear on the list of callers when you check the phone for received calls :-/

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Re: Calls from BT OverReach

Just ban premium rate numbers. If you want money off someone then cash or card.

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Re: Calls from BT OverReach

"Openwretch engineers dont provide a displaying number when they call "

They do if your telco tells them you filter wthheld numbers.

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Boffin

Telephone numbers displayed to people receiving calls must be valid, dialable and uniquely identify the caller.

How will that apply to international calls? A lot of countries can't/don't/won't supply CLI last I heard. Of course banning those will cut out a fair bit of 'spam' but enforcing it will also block legitimate calls from large swathes of the world.

According to Wikipedia very few countries do (which I find a little unlikely) and don't follow the same standards (which sadly doesn't surprise me).

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"A lot of countries can't/don't/won't supply CLI last I heard."

About 35-45 years ago, the same was true of barcodes on groceries. When the large supermarket chains in various countries announced they wouldn't handle products without barcodes, "too difficult to implement" was invariably solved within weeks.

If the larger telcos announce en-masse that CLI data must be presented or they won't terminate, the recalcatrant telcos will step into line pretty quickly.

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Anonymous Coward

CLI is not signalling info

A lot of countries can't/don't/won't supply CLI last I heard

CLI is a presentation service, it's the number you want to have displayed to the recipient. It's completely unrelated to the actual calling number, which has to be provided in the signalling messages so that that the call can be billed.

Whether someone provides valid CLI or not isn't important, the telcos can use the real data which will always be there, and they can/should discard calls where that is demonstrably false, such as a call coming from India claiming to be from the UK.

The standards you point to are for the very last leg, from your exchange to your phone. They explain why a US phone won't display CLID when connected to a UK exchange line, but they have no relation to the actual data transmission across the network, which is handled by SS7 ISUP packets.

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"A lot of countries can't/don't/won't supply CLI last I heard. "

If their calls don't get through without it they'll find they can/do/will.

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Happy

Get a call blocker unit, best £40 I've ever spent and the quietest my phone has ever been!

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Yah,I have a TrueCall unit. I'm still paying for CLI though :-/

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Devil

HELP

Help, OFCON!

I've got a seriously injured pig here which urgently needs veterinary attention and I can't get a mobile signal in this frosty bit of hell.

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Hmmmm

Under the plans, Ofcom will ban providers from charging for caller display facilities

Ah well, that'll be another £1.75 on my monthly line rental in one of BT's 4 price increases next year ......

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Re: Hmmmm

Maybe the time is coming when Ofcom need to allow the PSTN USO be delivered over a digital service bearer rather than analogue. Suspect the GSM protocol suite would with minor tailoring fit the bill.

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Re: Hmmmm

Ah well, that'll be another £1.75 on my monthly line rental in one of BT's 4 price increases next year ......"

Well...considering that BT and others all seem to think that it is a cost to provide CLID, then by definition, if they provide it to everyone and bump up the line rental to cover it, they ought to offer a discount to those customers who ring up and ask for CLID to be blocked.

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Meh

Re: Hmmmm

Ah well, that'll be another £1.75 on my monthly line rental in one of BT's 4 price increases next year ......

And therein lies a tangled web :-/

The BT that you pay your line rental to has indeed been increasing the price it charges you. As have most other CPs (Communications Providers). However what few people know is that the BT which actually owns and maintains your telephone line has been reducing the rental cost.

This is a TBB article from two and a half years ago. And the current price of OR line rental is £86.72 per annum or £7.23 per month (£8.50 including VAT). If you open the historic tab you'll see that the overall trend since 2006 is downward.

Now of course the BT you pay is more than making up the difference so on a BT Group basis they are getting more money. But then you have to consider that line rental is pretty much the same across all CPs. For Example Sky are currently charging £23 a month for their cheapest phone service. £8.5 goes to Openreach so Sky are charging £14.5 to transport an audio stream between two end points. Gotta get me some of that business!

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Anonymous Coward

The telco's have been making tons of cash out of this since day 1 collecting the termination fees from these "shit" calls, hence why they do nothing about it and don't care what shit traffic they let on their networks as long as it pays.

When you start forcing CLI, you get fake and spoofed CLI's, only way to stop this is to reject the traffic if it contains shit calls, the interconnect partner will soon clean up its network when they can't terminate calls on another network and are greeted with a recorded message explaining why.

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A year ?

A year, why the hell is it going to take over a year to implement ?

Bloody incompetents.

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I've filled my reject list up on an Android phone.

Now what. New contact: Spam 1 (20 numbers), Spam 2 ( 20 numbers ....)

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