back to article BT installs phone 'spam filter', says it'll strain out mass cold-callers

BT has opened a free nuisance call screening service, which it estimates could junk 15 million cold calls - such as PPI and accident claims - to a voicemail box. The Call Protect service will use what it described as "huge computing power" to analyse large amounts of live data, said BT. The Register has asked for specifics on …

  1. wolfetone Silver badge

    A Typical Scam Call I Get

    *ring ring* - *ring ring*

    Me: "Hello?"

    Caller: "Hi my name is (whatever) and I'm calling from (insert claims company) and we've been handed your details by the National Database of Car Accidents. Could I confirm that this is (my name)?"

    Me: "Well yes, that's me."

    Caller: "Very good, and it's correct that you've been involved in a car accident recently?"

    Me: "Well you're going to have to be more specific, I've been in a lot of accidents"

    *blip* - Caller hangs up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

      If I have the time and inclination, I'll just sit and talk nonsense to them for ages, wasting their time, preventing them making any money...

      The challenge is to come up with more and more outlandish injuries until you get to the point where they don't believe you any more.

      We used to have a league table at work with the amount of time people had kept them strung along for before they hung up on you, that was fun :-)

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

        If I have the time and inclination, I'll just sit and talk nonsense to them for ages, wasting their time, preventing them making any money...

        Yes, my accident left me with damaged bowel function ... excuse me, urgent call to make, back in three minutes ...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

          Yes, my accident left me with damaged bowel function ... excuse me, urgent call to make, back in three minutes ...

          .. just stay on the line and enjoy our Greensleeves hold music (that's IMHO legally permitted torture :) ).

          1. kmac499

            Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

            Amongst my canned Spam call answers.

            Accident Claims "Was it my minor accident or my fatal one ?"

            Windows support "Will this make my pirate copy legal ?"

            PPI claims (Still working on this one) "Sorry I live in the barter economy I don't use money, Would you like some organic compost ?"

            Utilities (Gas Leccy Phone) on business line "We are in a serviced office no utilities."

            Can we Talk to the Business Owner "We don't have one we are a co-operative"

            I you have the time a well prepared reply script can be great fun' Tis the duty of able bodied people to waste as much of these parasites time as possible.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

              "Amongst my canned Spam call answers."

              Almost anything: "Sorry, it's company policy to not discuss that over the phone."

              1. Captain DaFt

                Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

                "Amongst my canned Spam call answers."

                "How'd you get this number? Who really gave it to you?"

                <hold phone at arms length and shout>

                "Hey Mike, put a trace on this call!"

                Connection seems to die then, for some reason.

            2. Annihilator

              Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

              Can we Talk to the Business Owner "We don't have one we are a co-operative"

              I leave you with a recent tweet from Jack Dee:

              I got "Is it possible to speak with the house-owner?" So I gave him the number for Nat West.

              1. Danny 14 Silver badge

                Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

                I used to hand the phone to my 3 yo. She thought everyone on the phone was nan, the day would get recited then the phone put in the dolls house so dolly could talk to nan.

            3. Roj Blake Silver badge

              Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

              Sales people flogging telephony products: "sorry, we don't use phones here"

              Confuses them every time.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

            I know a place in America that plays Country and Western. That really IS torture.

            After you hear the 3rd song about the dog dying and the wife running off with another guy you HAVE to drop the call or you lose the will to live

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

              "I know a place in America that plays Country and Western. That really IS torture."

              At least they got *both* kinds of music then...

            2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

              Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

              I know a place in America that plays Country and Western. That really IS torture.

              After you hear the 3rd song about the dog dying and the wife running off with another guy you HAVE to drop the call or you lose the will to live

              But if you play those C&W songs backwards, you get your trailer back, you get your wife back, and you get your dog back.

        2. Soruk

          Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

          In my case, if they call my VoIP-in number or my landline (also plumbed into my VoIP), I transfer the call to a Rick Astley recording, then add their caller ID to my blacklist so when they call back they get the rickroll directly.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

            "then add their caller ID to my blacklist"

            The problem with THAT is that whilst they're rotating through callerIDs that are mostly invalid anyway, sometimes they belong to real companies.

            I've made a point of doing verification callbacks to the CID numbers and one of them was a dental surgery in Manchester. The receptionists were wondering why they'd had a spate of abusive calls (Personally I'd call that harrassment by incitement)

            1. Peter2 Silver badge

              Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

              The problem with THAT is that whilst they're rotating through callerIDs that are mostly invalid anyway, sometimes they belong to real companies.

              Mmm.

              The issue there is that the Telco's are breaking the rules and being allowed to. Basically on a PABX you can arbitrarily set any Caller ID, but that caller ID has to belong to you, and be from that Telco's network. The Telco knows who you are because they have the accounting information.

              The ultimate solution to this is to say to the telephone companies that are allowing companies to fraudulently provide caller ID that their access to the telephone network is being cut off in 30 days if they don't present their plan to comply with the rules.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

                " The Telco knows who you are because they have the accounting information."

                Unlike the 90s when telcos had an entire department dedicated to maintaining interconnect agreements with every other telco, most calls are funnelled like Internet connections (the routing tables are similiar to BGP too, with zero security precautions against bad actors, which has meant number range hijacking has been a problem long before it IP block hijacking started being detected on the Internet)

                That means the calls coming into BT from XYZ interconnect are a bundle coming from dozens of downstream telcos. The question then is whether BT is willing to cut off ABC DEF and GHI entire countries to try and filter the spam.

      2. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

        Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

        I did this a few years ago - I told them I had been decapitated.

        https://youtu.be/UakaSdXk8ZI

        1. lorisarvendu

          Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

          I found that I could shorten the call by just saying one word - "No" - to every question they ask:

          Scammer: "Hello, am I speaking to Mr XXXXX?"

          Me: "No".

          Scammer: "Oh. Is Mr XXXX available?"

          Me: "No"

          Scammer: "Who am I speaking to then?"

          Me: "No"

          Generally they hang up after my 2nd reply, but if not, the grammatical absurdity of my 3rd No is enough for even the hardest-nosed scammer to give up. Annoyingly I can't seem to get it down to a single No (although I did have a lucky one the other day when he just hung up after I said I wasn't who he was expecting.

          Please do resist the urge to be rude though, because these people do have your phone number, and they can make your life difficult if they really want to. A female friend of mine swore at one of the "Windows Support" crowd, only to have him ring back twice and subject her to verbal abuse of a sexual nature.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

            My response does depend on my mood, but the "Window Support" Spam/Scam usually gets either, "Sorry, I don't have a computer." (which does seem to throw them) or "F-Off you lying peice of *beep* *beep* *beep*".

            Only once did they call right back. I just picked up the phone and then hung up on them. They got the message after two or three tries.

          2. PNGuinn
            Go

            Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

            Off topic, but ...

            I was in Curry's one day with the family. Forgive us, I think we must have been bored ...

            Sales dweep: "Are you allright, Sir?"

            Me: "Meeep".

            << Repeat several times>>

            Confused sales dweep "Something else equally crass"

            Me "Meeep".

            .... etc.....

            Took him far too long to not work out if I was eversoslightlystrange, bored or taking the piss ...

            Begun to think I should have brought a cattle prod ... Eventually he wondered off looking confused.

            A few minutes later came across him in the car park attempting to "help" some poor mark load his purchase into his car ... and caught his eye.

            Me (sweetly): "Meeep". His face - nearly pissed myself.

            On topic ...

            << Voice from somewhere on the sub continent >>

            "Hello, is that Mr Zondek?

            "Oh - no, I'm sorry, he went mad, you know, we had to shoot him."

            >> slight stunned pause - obviously not had that one before - get in quick before he comes to <<

            "Yes, it was VERY sad. Made a TERRIBLE mess on the bathroom walls, <slight pause> But we've washed it all down now so that's ok. Sorry I can't help you. Bye. <Click>

            OR ....

            << Female voice from somewhere on the sub continent >>

            After several seconds ....

            Me: "Excuse me, before we go any further, can you do something for me?"

            Scammer: "Er ..."

            Me: " Will you run upstairs for me and stick your bum out of an upstairs window? .... And then run downstairs and throw rocks at it?

            Pause while she works that one out ... and strange sounds of disquiet start to come down the line ...

            >Click>

          3. Colin Millar

            Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

            My son likes to see how long he can keep them on the line using just "Yurp" or "Nurp" *

            * Hot Fuzz I think

          4. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

            "A female friend of mine swore at one of the "Windows Support" crowd, only to have him ring back twice and subject her to verbal abuse of a sexual nature."

            The thing about them doing that that is that it crosses the line from illegal to flatout criminal and if she'd bothered making a police complaint the phone company would have had to pull call accounting records (not just callerID records)

            If that happens enough times then the telcos might start taking some action.

          5. jelabarre59 Silver badge

            Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

            Scammer: "Hello, am I speaking to Mr XXXXX?"

            Me: "No".

            Scammer: "Oh. Is Mr XXXX available?"

            Me: "No"

            When our phone still had my grandmother's name on it, it was fun to torment the callers who would use that name.

            Salesdroid: "Mr Oliver?"

            Me: "He died in 1965"

            Salesdroid: "B.A. Oliver?"

            Me: "yes, my grandmother"

            Salesdroid: "Is she there?"

            Me: "she died in 1982"

            Salesdroid: "um.... <mumbles> sorry" (and then they'd give up)

        2. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

          > I told them I had been decapitated.

          Quality entertainment!

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

        I had enough time to string them along a few months back and ended the call fairly sure that the insurance scammers have some form of access into the DVLA.

        Specifically, I gave them the registration of a car I used to own (scrapped) but with wrong colour and engine. They immediately asked whether I'd gotten the colour wrong and coached about the right colour, then did the same about engine size.

        The part that gobsmacks me is that both the DVLA and the ICO seem completely uninterested in this aspect.

        1. Annihilator

          Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

          "Specifically, I gave them the registration of a car I used to own (scrapped) but with wrong colour and engine. They immediately asked whether I'd gotten the colour wrong and coached about the right colour, then did the same about engine size."

          Not hard to find either of those things. If you know the make and registration, the gov lets you know this. https://vehicleenquiry.service.gov.uk/ (you don't need V5C)

          If all you've got is the registration number, any car parts website (Halfords etc) will tell you make and model which you then stick into the checker above.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

            "Not hard to find either of those things. If you know the make and registration, the gov lets you know this. https://vehicleenquiry.service.gov.uk/ "

            I know that, but

            1: The results took far longer than these guys took.

            2: If all queries are being logged (and they should be), you just located the IP address of the spammers.

            Anyway, being a _scrapped_ vehicle, it doesn't show on the public query system and website lookups like Halfrauds (and others) don't bring back colours.

            1. Annihilator

              Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

              "Anyway, being a _scrapped_ vehicle, it doesn't show on the public query system and website lookups like Halfrauds (and others) don't bring back colours."

              We Buy Any Car brings back everything, even for scrapped cars (or knows about a car I've had scrapped anyway). Takes less than a second from you giving me your registration number to me knowing everything I need to know about the car. In the time it take you to tell them your engine size, they've already looked it up.

              If they wanted to put some effort into it, it wouldn't be hard to build a front-end for the call-agent and screen scrape a bunch of these sites.

      4. Richard Cranium

        Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

        Better approach: broken "english" accent, call centre background noise - put the phone down. That's saved me hours of my time. My professional hourly rate is £lots, their's is statutory minimum if UK based, a couple of pence in an indian call centre. So who's the mug for wasting time with them?

        1. Chris King Silver badge

          Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

          I prefer to wind them up, especially the ones pretending to be "tech support" or pretending to be from my bank.

          Hey, they're trying to commit fraud by deception, so why should I care if my unique style of "professional unpleasantness" leaves them upset and annoyed ? They're criminals and they deserve an ulcer or two.

      5. This Side Up

        Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

        Call from withheld, unavailable or international number comes in.

        10s.

        Answering machine pickes it up.

        "Hello, thank you for calling. So that we can deal with your call efficiently please select from the following menu:

        If you're a claims management company press 1;

        If you're a boiler room press 2;

        If you're a bogus Microsoft engineer press 3;

        etc."

        For some reason they don't seem to want to play ball. Can't think why.

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

      I go for this approach:

      Spamer - "Spam spam spammity spam"

      Me - "Just a moment, I just need to grab a pen and paper so I can write down this amazing offer!"

      * leave phone by TV or radio, and come back in a few minutes to see if they're there, if they are

      Me - "sorry mate, still looking for that pen, just hold on a sec ok?"

      and repeat.

      Most of them give up after five minutes, lightweights!

      (Mind you, I don't have a landline, and almost never get spam on my mobile)

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

        "Most of them give up after five minutes, lightweights!"

        I just leave the phone for a good while & then hang up; usually they've done that themselves. But I did have a very persistent/dumb company (double glazing, of course) where the sales manager rung back to say the line went dead.

    3. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get Me: "Well yes, that's me."

      I never identify myself because your data is more valuable to them just by confirming your number is still associated with that name. If I get one like that I say "Never heard of him" and put the phone down. If they address me by name I ask "Who are you? Have you got a wrong number?"

      Don't give the bastards anything, at least until there's a button that sends a remote electric shock down the phone.

    4. Chris King Silver badge

      Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

      I used to wind up the "Had an accident at work ?" mob by pretending to have amnesia as a result of my slip, trip or whatever caused me to bang my head. "Coo ! The brain damage alone must be worth MILLIONS !"

    5. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

      Typical spam call I DO NOT GET.

      Hint: I retired BT service in favour of first sipgate, later teleappliant in 2007. My "fixed" lines are actually terminated on an asterisk PBX.

      I never had a cold call ever since 2007. I used to have some anti-spam rules on the Asterisk, but dropped them as they were not getting hit at all for years.

      The reason you get scam calls is because BT directly sold them your data.

      So all this means that now the cold callers will be paying an extra premium in order to get to you direct to BT. Sweet revenue, here it comes.

      1. cd

        Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

        True in the US as well. Not sure why you were downvoted.

        Signed up for Verizon landline/DSL at a different location for temporary project. Telemarketers start calling as soon as I plug it in. Verizon rep says the number is being gotten from the directory, that they don't sell numbers. I point out that the calls came before the account was even billed, much less published. I had looked myself up on Verizon's own online white pages and I wasn't there yet.

        Filed a complaint with that state and FCC, Verizon suddenly calling me to apologise. Telemarketing calls stop.

        First step: remove fox from henhouse.

      2. Corp-Rat

        Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

        Most of the spam callers just seem to be using autodiallers just stepping through the number ranges as they even try to call test lines that aren't published.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

      "That was no accident, I crashed my car deliberately - does that still count?"

    7. inmypjs Silver badge

      Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

      "I've been in a lot of accidents"

      How a pro does it:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkdoogjic4I

      Has quite a few in his channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOmvMNbx8mTjcy_xRn3oiZw

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And BT wonder why WhatsApp became so popular.

    I suppose its one way to use this "huge computing power" when GCHQ isn't using it.

    Odd, how its taken them so long, something to do with call revenue from UK based spammers?

    1. Smooth Newt
      WTF?

      Free nuisance calls

      Is there anyone who actually wants to receive telemarketing calls? Why do you have to contact the Telephone Preference Service to out-out of, instead of opt-in to, nuisance calls? The default should be that you don't get them, not that you do.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "huge computing power"

      BT won't reveal how they're blocking the calls, but chances are they sold the scumbags their phone system to begin with so it's not exactly hard to filter out all their calls and send the lot to a voicemail.

      1. Boothy

        Re: "huge computing power"

        Quote: "...so it's not exactly hard to filter out all their calls and send the lot to a voicemail."

        And presumably if it's redirecting to voicemail, BT are still getting their coin for connecting the call through, so they still get some revenue anyway.

        1. theblackhand

          Re: "huge computing power"

          "And presumably if it's redirecting to voicemail, BT are still getting their coin for connecting the call through, so they still get some revenue anyway."

          The "huge computing power" is actually just enough storage to ensure BT can record the calls and claim the spammer revenue.

          While it doesn't require "huge computing power" at present, once they start selling the automated spamming services to allow both the call and receiver to be connected to the same system and cut out the inefficient third-party systems, the requirement to automatically provide spammers with numbers that then divert to the spam mailboxes will drive requirements through the roof...

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: "huge computing power"

            TPS is good but a lot of calls are number withheld crap or foreign autodialers. These days i simply let the phone run out of charge and ignore it. It is only there beacuse the broadband was cheaper with hte phone than without it (virgin)

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: "huge computing power"

              "a lot of calls are number withheld crap"

              If you get a number-withheld and it's a marketing call from an identifiable company then the ICO _really_ want to hear from you.

      2. Chris King Silver badge

        Re: "huge computing power"

        "Of course we know who these people are - we kept the receipts !"

    3. tr1ck5t3r
      Trollface

      Re: And BT wonder why WhatsApp became so popular.

      Actually BT & GCHQ have had this facility since the turn of the millennium, you just needed to know who to ask!

      As its becoming more of an issue now affecting many people, its now being made available, but its got limited application when calls come from abroad and the number is withheld especially when considering how easy it is to get a VOIP number hooked up with VPN to some remote server in the back of beyond.

      TalkTalk have something similar introduced some months after it was announced they were hacked in Nov 2015 but if a rogue calls does get through you have a number to call which bans the last incoming number, thing is I can never remember what that number is not that it works when its a withheld number from abroad anyway.

      Managed to wind one of them up today though, had an Indian/Pakistani sounding chappy on the phone, couldn't remember what ISP he was calling from, so dragged call out, managed to get his supervisor on the line, who couldn't pronounce the word "voice" properly, but sounded deliberately Russian like Anton Yelchin when he appeared in Star Trek, thing is there was also a South African accent as well sneaking out as well.

      Anyway how do I get rival companies on the ban list or get my mates number banned so he cant phone his gf?

    4. Kernel

      Re: And BT wonder why WhatsApp became so popular.

      "Odd, how its taken them so long, something to do with call revenue from UK based spammers?"

      Actually, this feature of dialing a four digit code to block a specific number from calling your landline was available in NEC's NEAX61 series digital exchanges when I started working on them over 30 years ago - we even tested it to make sure it worked as described - but for some reason it was never sold where I live. I really doubt that NEC were the only vendor to include this feature.

      There's little that's new or innovative about this type of service.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: And BT wonder why WhatsApp became so popular.

        "There's little that's new or innovative about this type of service."

        Yes, there is. If a number is blocked or banned, no one gets any revenue. If the call is diverted to a blackhole voicemail system BT get the revenue. If the caller is on the BT network, BT get it all. If not, then BT get the termination fee. There's a cash incentive to complete the calls. There's no cash incentive to block them.

    5. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: And BT wonder why WhatsApp became so popular.

      They get most of their money from line rental these days rather than from call minutes.

  3. Doc Ock

    Hmmm, I applaud the effort but what could possibly go wrong with broad filtering ?

    We've all had those really important emails that seem to somehow end up in the spam folder, I was expecting a phone call three days ago............

    I suppose it does have it's upside, now if I can manage to get my boss on the spam filter and blame it on BT :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I've had some sub-continent based calls that appear on caller display to be from my area code. So, scenario : local number comes up on caller display, you answer it, it's an unwanted call. 1571, add it to the block list. However, the number was your doctor, dentist, work etc. You've blocked someone who might be important without realizing it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "You've blocked someone who might be important without realizing it."

        The vast majority of my cold calls are landline "international", "withheld", or an apparently random set of digits.

        I once tried the "United dogs' home" response on an international caller - which confused an old friend who had decided to ring me direct rather than use Skype.

        Unfortunately my doctor's practice uses "withheld" - as do local council departments.

        If the landline cold call doesn't terminate itself with a dialling tone - then I usually put the phone to one side for half an hour or so. It is presumed that ties up one line to stop other people being called.

        1. Kernel

          RE:

          "The vast majority of my cold calls are landline "international", "withheld", or an apparently random set of digits."

          Don't confuse the calling number information you get to see and the calling number information that the terminating exchange has - your local exchange can (and probably will) request the entire calling number, even from overseas - calling line identification is blocked by the terminating exchange if it is told to for a specific call, not the one the call is originated from, which is why emergency services (and maybe your local pizza place) still get your phone number. Even though you think you have it blocked, and may even be paying for that feature, any terminating line can have a bit set to ignore the calling line number blocking request.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "Unfortunately my doctor's practice uses "withheld" - as do local council departments."

          They are not supposed to do that. Their systems are supposed to present their main contact number. You should complain to them.

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "Unfortunately my doctor's practice uses "withheld" - as do local council departments."

          My doctor does too - and when they get the canned message that withheld numbers are not accepted they dial back with proper ID.

          The ICO need to make a determination that businesses are NOT allowed to withhold caller ID (not just call centres) - and it needs to be the ICO, not OFCOM.

  4. Andy Non
    Black Helicopters

    Interesting development

    I normally screen callers through my answering machine prior to picking up, but will give this a go instead. It will be interesting to see if those spoofed call numbers will still be blocked.

    The latest scam call almost got me. Someone phoned claiming to be a BT engineer and there was a problem with my broadband speed. He wanted me to plug my router directly into the master socket. The call seemed legit in as much as he spoke English without a foreign accent and he wasn't asking for any financial details etc. However, something didn't feel right about the call so I hung up and did a 1471 and the number came back as a legitimate BT customer service number (after looking the number up on Google). Anyway, I phoned BT and after being passed around their Indian call centre was told that they had not contacted me and that the call had been made by someone pretending to be from BT! I don't know how the scam call would have unfolded, I can only speculate that he may have eventually tried to get me to download something (malicious) to my computer so he could analyse the "problem". Anyone else had this type of dodgy call and know what they are up to?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Interesting development

      Given BT's success at keeping records, it's entirely possible the left hand don't know what the right hand is doing.

      1. Andy Non

        Re: Interesting development

        @ Dan 55, that is quite possible. At one address we moved to I contacted BT and asked them to transfer our number to the new address, but they said our new address wasn't on their system so didn't have a phone line. I pointed out the fact it had a modern-style BT master socket on the wall and I could see the wires going out of the wall and connecting to the telegraph pole on the street. No, the property didn't exist, was it a new build? No, it's around 100 years old. Sigh.

        1. Phil W

          Re: Interesting development

          The solution there would be to find out the number currently on the line before calling them, one would hope with that information they might be able to find something.

        2. TeeCee Gold badge
          Alert

          Re: Interesting development

          A friend of mine went one better than that. He moved into a property that the local water authority insisted did not exist.

          He got free water for five years. The fun ended when the water board replaced the main outside and the lads doing the job spotted that there was one more connection to it than their plans admitted to. They did attempt to bill him for the arrears, but he countered with a copy of the letter they'd sent to him, at his address[1], saying that the address didn't exist so they couldn't and wouldn't bill him.

          [1] Warning: Upcoming paradox. Engage head explosion dampers before reading further.

          1. lorisarvendu

            Re: Interesting development

            "A friend of mine went one better than that. He moved into a property that the local water authority insisted did not exist."

            I've got a similar one. Back in the 80s a friend of mine moved into a house where the gas had been disconnected long ago, but the meter was still there - unplugged and sitting on the floor of the garage.

            After a few months she suddenly got a letter from British Gas asking to read the meter. She first ignored it. Then she got a more serious red-bordered one saying she would be disconnected if they didn't read the meter. After phoning them up to point out she wasn't connected to gas anyway, she got a third letter.

            So she physically took the meter down to the Gas Board shop (remember them, kids?), plonked it down on the counter and said something along the lines of "There. You read it." causing no end of panic as they thought she'd physically disconnected the meter herself.

            1. Boothy

              Re: Interesting development

              Reminds me of the time I moved into a rented house about 12 years ago (no longer there), and I needed a phone line (on call, needed dial-up from home and this was before the company had VPN over broadband available).

              The house had an existing line installed, with a master socket (an old one, no removable faceplate, but still a BT431A socket).

              The line was dead, and the landlord wasn't interested in getting it hooked up for me, but said that I could do what I wanted with it myself.

              So I called BT on my mobile, to get the line reconnected, to be told the house doesn't have an existing line! (The house also wasn't a new build, about 100 years old).

              Me "But it does, I can see it!", BT: "nope, doesn't have one now, and its never had one in the past.", Me: "But I can see the socket". BT "Nope".

              So I gave in and went through the process of getting a new line.

              Turned out, they had a special offer on at the time, which meant no installation cost for new installations. A re-connection at the time was normally something like half the price of a new install.

              The BT engineer turned up, started putting in a newline from the cabinet end, before coming to the house, only turned up once the new line was outside the house. At which point he noticed the old line going through the wall by the front door, and once let in the house, could see the existing master socket on the other side of the hole (no cabling inside the house)!

              "Hmm, that's odd, oh well", and duly ripped out the old copper wire and socket, few in the new wire through the pre-existing hole, and fitted a new master socket.

              So their poor records basically saved me some money, cost them some, and got me a nice shinny new line and socket!

            2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Interesting development

              "the gas had been disconnected long ago, but the meter was still there"

              Did I ever post the one about the time my Dad helped a friend with some renovations? In the course of that they moved the meter but reconnected it the wrong way round. Gas meters will run backwards. After they discovered it there was a slight panic. The friend's family used as much gas as possible to try to get the meter at least back to the previous reading and a little beyond. They succeeded but the meter reader commented on how little gas they'd used.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Interesting development

                "Gas meters will run backwards. After they discovered it there was a slight panic."

                Perhaps this was intentional. You know those schemes where people supply electricity from their own generators back to the electrical grid?

                Maybe they figured out that people might like to do this with gas as well and have the meter run backwards for every cubic foot they donated.

                Finally there'd be an upside to chronic flatulence.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Interesting development

            I know of someone who has the same problem with the electricity supply, not sure whether they ever got it fixed, same thing I'm sorry sir you don't have a supply.

          3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Interesting development

            "the water board replaced the main outside and the lads doing the job spotted that there was one more connection to it than their plans admitted to."

            We had problems on our electricity a few years ago. When the crew turned up to investigate the dodgy connection they found it wasn't connected to the supply at the bottom of a different pole than was shown on the plans. Both problems solved by replacing the corroded joint with a new one where it was shown on the plans.

            Then the gas dug a hole just down the road to disconnect a pipe which they'd discovered (I'm not sure how) ran under someone's conservatory. They then discovered that (a) there were two lots of gas pipes just under the road surface where they only expected one, (b) one of them was flooded with water, (c) the pipes were steel & the working pipe had to be replaced and (d) the pipe running under the conservatory which they were about to disconnect wasn't a branch, it was actually the feed into the mains under our road.

            A year or so later whilst I was working in the garden someone came wandering up the road asking questions about the gas supply. His company had taken over the maintenance but didn't have current drawings. Fortunately he probably know more about the system as he used to work on the system years ago.

        3. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Interesting development

          I contacted BT and asked them to transfer our number to the new address

          Had sort of the opposite of that once when we moved house. The person buying our house contacted BT about a fortnight before the moving date to arrange to take over the line, and within a few hours of that phone call, we were cut off, just when we needed the phone the most. It wasn't that they just changed the number - could have been seen as a simple scheduling error - they actually cut us off.

          No amount of ranting and raging to BT would get them to reinstate us, so we spent a fortnight calling people on our mobiles, and making sure they had the mobile numbers as first (and only) point of contact. We were offered one month rental for free as compensation and a complaint to the ombudsman resulted in (effectively) a "meh, take it or leave it".

          Three days after the phone line was cut off, our ADSL service terminated too because (according to our ISP) they couldn't provide a service on a disconnected phone line. Email was via our ISP in those days, so no email for a fortnight either.

          New house, new phone provider, new ISP. A fortnight of lost emails, and an extra line to add to our "we've moved" cards.

          M.

    2. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: Interesting development

      Considering the quality of internal communications in BT, I could still believe that they actually had tried to call you.

      But it doesn't sound like something BT would do - actually monitoring your line speeds and calling you to troubleshoot if they fall off. They'll only trigger something if someone complains.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting development

      to be honest, I would NOT be surprised if the first call had been legit, and the BT call centre told you porkies, just to tell you something. With such a huge organization, I would be suprised if they were actually bothered to check at customer service what was really going on.

    4. RogerT

      Re: Interesting development

      When I was a BT customer I used to insist on asking my own security question first. Knowing that the agent, genuine or not, never has access to my call records I always asked what was the last number I dialled. Their explanations as to why they couldn't answer my question were great fun. Then I just told them that if they couldn't prove who they were I wouldn't talk to them and hung up.

  5. lukewarmdog

    answer machine

    I've always just let the machine screen the calls. It has the added benefit of recording actually useful messages. I'm all for BT blocking spam calls but I'm not sure about this unique technological breakthrough stuff, can't they just employ a guy to go through whocallsme and block the numbers people flag up as spam? I know their aim is to stop even the first call getting through and also to stop spammers hiding their number or number hopping I just don't have any faith they can do this.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: answer machine

      "can't they just employ a guy to go through whocallsme and block the numbers people flag up as spam?"

      What do you think this "huge computing power" is doing?

      1. Naselus

        Re: answer machine

        "huge computing power"

        You mean Dennis, the work experience guy?

        1. lawndart

          Re: answer machine

          Dennis the bloody hero, slayer of one of the scourges if modern life.

          How's that for work experience?

    2. David Hicklin

      Re: answer machine

      Same here, and then answer the phone if they start leaving a message and we know (or are at least wish to talk to them). Calls dropped a lot of time, even the 'international' ones.

      Now if only it was as easy with spam texts on the mobile...where the text "STOP" to opt-out gives a warning that this might cost you charges - wtf!?

  6. Blofeld's Cat
    Devil

    Hmm...

    I have trained most people at our hollowed out volcano to respond to computer scam calls by saying, "I'll just transfer you to our IT department", and then hanging up the phone.

    Nobody ever rings back.

    1. WonkoTheSane
      Trollface

      Re: Hmm...

      My favourite goes as follows:-

      Scammer:- "Scam scam scam scam scam?"

      Me (Best 1930's BBC accent):- "I'm terribly sorry old chap, but I'm afraid I don't speak a word of English. Good day to you!" <Hangs up>

      1. Naselus

        Re: Hmm...

        "I'm terribly sorry old chap, but I'm afraid I don't speak a word of English. Good day to you!"

        I've used this one myself a fair few times, though rather than hanging up at the end, I like to switch to perfectly accented German, ask them to repeat, and on the rare chance that they can do so be ready to follow up with 'entschuldigung, ich spreche kein Deutsch; parle vous le francais?'

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmm...

          "'entschuldigung, ich spreche kein Deutsch; parle vous le francais?'"

          Even more unlikely is Swedish "Jag talar inte Engelska - talar du Svenska?"

          1. Andy Non

            Re: Hmm...

            Just don't try replying in Bengali or Hindi or they'll likely understand every word. ;-)

            1. Anonymous Coward
  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Free as part of Line Rental? Thought not.

    This is bound to be left over (redundant) computing power from GCHQ Monitoring, now security services are targeting encrypted messaging / other call/messaging forms.

    And BT wrap it up as "doing good" for their customers, when for years they have ignored the problem, due to UK call revenue from such spamming activity.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Free as part of Line Rental? Thought not.

      This sounds like complaining about BT doing nothing about the problem, and now complaining that it is doing something about it.

      Some people are never happy, and I suspect that you might be one of them.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Free as part of Line Rental? Thought not.

        "This sounds like complaining about BT doing nothing about the problem, and now complaining that it is doing something about it."

        It does indeed. However a little voice in my head keeps saying "It's free now but for how long?".

        1. Phil W

          Re: Free as part of Line Rental? Thought not.

          "It's free now but for how long?"

          To the residential consumer, free forever. However don't be surprised when we hear that BT start offering to whitelist companies for a nominal fee.

      2. Little Mouse

        Re: Free as part of Line Rental? Thought not.

        If there's one thing worse than someone who complains when things go wrong and then when they go right, its someone who complains about people who complain about people who complain about... Erm, no hang on, ...complains about...

        Am I complaining about myself?

      3. Wilseus

        Re: Free as part of Line Rental? Thought not.

        "Some people are never happy, and I suspect that you might be one of them."

        I think that many such people can be happy, but only when they are having a really good moan.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Free as part of Line Rental? Thought not.

      If BT wait 15 years after the horse has bolted, most customers have either moved away from land line calls or put up with umteen misery, how can you expect to please anyone? Just a thought.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    After having had enough of the accident texts, I filled a few of the web forms in.

    John Doe, Michael Rodent and Roland Rodent all had accidents well over a year ago (if not 2 years). One of them broke every bone in their body, and then some.

    Yet it seems it's still worth their while to claim compo on them, if the calls they receive are to be believed,

    Sometimes, a "just check that name you asked for again" produces a hangup. But rarely. Usually they just carry on with the script, after a few seconds of confusion :-)

  9. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    There is only one problem with phone numbers getting added to an blacklist - what if a legitimate company acquires a new number and it is on a blacklist, and it prevents said company from phoning other companies from placing orders and the such? (all legitimate company business, not cold-calling or trying to sell you some stuff you don't want...)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The same thing happens with IP address allocations which have been previously been provided to spammers / scammers and then blacklisted to hell and back. What happens is that the company getting the blacklisted number complains to the provider and either gets another set of hopefully clean ones, or they learn they need to pay more and go somewhere more reputable. Meanwhile the provider learns the lesson that having scammers / spammers as customers isn't such great idea after all, both financially and in terms of reputation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The same thing happens with IP address allocations

        Been there, done that. My company got an IP address allocated which was already blacklisted. We have been trying to send an e-mail to the helpdesk address listed in the contract only to be rejected by the ISP's mail server. Any attempts to ask to talk to the technical support over the phone proved futile as the call centre operators will direct us to the e-mail address. After enormous number of calls an "engineer" was sent over to investigate, only to prove to his satisfaction that "ping" works, and to leave.

        Guess why we have sent a termination notice, and refused to pay any bills for service not being provided.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: The same thing happens with IP address allocations

          Any attempts to ask to talk to the technical support over the phone proved futile as the call centre operators will direct us to the e-mail address.

          "Please provide your company's registered address so our lawyers can write to you."

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The same thing happens with IP address allocations

          "Guess why we have sent a termination notice, and refused to pay any bills for service not being provided."

          Unless you threatened lawyers, don't be surprised if you get a demand from a debt collecting agency.

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: The same thing happens with IP address allocations

          "My company got an IP address allocated which was already blacklisted. We have been trying to send an e-mail to the helpdesk address listed in the contract only to be rejected by the ISP's mail server. "

          Name and shame please. Some of us would prefer not to do business with ISPs who support spammers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There is only one problem with phone numbers getting added to an blacklist

      Yes, if they were using a blacklist. I don't get the impression that it's blacklist based at all - maybe they monitor trunks for high volumes of outgoing calls with a certain percentage of very short ones where the recipients tell them to go to hell (or when it involves robocalling).

      That would indeed be hard to beat via Jo Telco, so I suspect the problem's origin will merely move to a telco abroad or a VoIP supplier with UK numbers instead, which then get randomised. Blacklists don't work because they seem to change called IDs at will.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        > Blacklists don't work because they seem to change called IDs at will.

        That's because it's a piece of piss to spoof CLI as it's just a field set in headers..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "That's because it's a piece of piss to spoof CLI as it's just a field set in headers.."

          Presumably only a UK phone can generate a CLI number itself? BT should not allow a CLI to be different from its allocated number unless pre-registered.

          1. JetSetJim Silver badge

            > Presumably only a UK phone can generate a CLI number itself? BT should not allow a CLI to be different from its allocated number unless pre-registered.

            On the first part, you can configure asterisk servers and the like to do it, I'm told, and with VoIP it's almost trivial.

            In the UK, Ofcom publish rules much like you surmise on how to use CLI, but it is possible to work around them by using an out of country service as it then becomes an issue for how trusted is the relationship between the two organisations. But there are legitimate usages of an out of country service spoofing an in country phone number - e.g. off-shored call centres regularly do this.

            I'm sure more can be done with this network-to-network authentication of CLI information, and I wouldn't be surprised if standards have been written on the topic - but I'm not in that field...

            1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

              I'm sure more can be done with this network-to-network authentication of CLI information, and I wouldn't be surprised if standards have been written on the topic - but I'm not in that field...

              I understand that there is sufficient information within the data packets to verify that the billing data isn't getting spoofed, but have no idea how feasible it would be to cross-check that with the CLI data.

            2. Martin-73 Silver badge

              The best way to dump a LARGE percentage of these calls would be to drop impossible CLIs. Most of the people spoofing CLIs don't seem to know what they're doing, we repeatedly get calls from 001604 (yes just 6 digits) or a number beginning 1, in US format (1-xxx-yyy-zzzz) which are impossible numbers. But BT terminates them just fine. Looking forward to this new (dis)service.

              Still have and need a landline for several reasons: elderly mother who can't work a mobile reliably, broadband is needed anyway, and it's good for finding my lost phone and making free calls to 01/02/03

            3. Alan Brown Silver badge

              " it then becomes an issue for how trusted is the relationship between the two organisations."

              The answer is that in the world of telephony, once past the border (ie, enduser lines), ALL connections are trusted. Apparently there's no concept that a telco might be a fraudulent front company, despite this happening repeatedly for the last 30 years.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phone_fraud#Fraud_by_phone_companies_against_one_another

          2. This Side Up

            "Presumably only a UK phone can generate a CLI number itself? BT should not allow a CLI to be different from its allocated number unless pre-registered."

            A phone (handset etc) doesn't know its own directory number. It's connected to a line card at the exchange or local concentrator which has an equipment number. The software on the switch translates between equipment number and directory number. So presumably to spoof a CLI you'd need to access the switch e.g. by using a particular command sequence, but I'm not a BT technician.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    100% success record

    I've not bothered with a fixed phone for 15 years - the line is for broadband only. On the odd occasion I've accidentally left a handset plugged in (in the days before free 0800 calls on my mobile) I've been rudely reminded how the other half lives with calls selling me conservatories and the like; eugh.

    Truecaller on the mobile has pretty effectively dealt with mobile spam and the parents were trained early on that I'd call them back if they phoned me (to avoid big bills). It's worth a shot - honestly, try it.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: 100% success record

      "It's worth a shot - honestly, try it."

      OTOH £10 on a PAYG SIM lasts a long time if you have a fixed line.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 100% success record

        Well, yes but there are other benefits to having and using a mobile. As well as services that are (now) available via data over wifi connections (15 years ago I texted a lot and bundles were a lot more pricey then), I can also use my number abroad at no extra cost (3's Feel At Home deal is amazing for regular travellers) and it's not a major leap to assume that most users of a web site like this are interested in tech, surely? Fixed lines are not exactly the future.

    2. Anonymous IV
      Happy

      Re: 100% success record

      > I've been rudely reminded how the other half lives with calls selling me conservatories

      In the days when I had a land-line I spent quite a number of happy minutes showing mild interest in buying a conservatory to a pushy salesman thereof who had cold-called. I was (apparently) just about to purchase their finest and most expensive model when I told the salesman that there might be a minor difficulty with the installation - I lived on the third floor of a block of flats...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 100% success record

        Similar - this was a double glazing salesman that would fit windows for free (or low cost) so that the property could be used as a showcase.

        "This is an industrial unit, only have two windows and one of them is for the loo. Will that be a problem?"

        He hung up on me - how rude!

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. TheProf
    Unhappy

    How much to review your spam call messages?

    Digital minister Matt Hancock described nuisance callers as "a terrible blight on society" and welcomed the service.

    He said: "We’ve forced companies to display their numbers when they call you, "

    Well that's not going to work when an overseas call centre uses a fake number. And doesn't BT still charge £1.75 a month for providing the caller ID service? Of course if the caller withholds their number you can use BT's Anonymous Call Rejection service that won't let numberless call through. That'll cost you £5.80 a month.

    1. MrT

      Re: How much to review your spam call messages?

      They currently charge for their 'Choose to Refuse' number-blocking add-on, (or include it free in the premium line rental - IIRC it's about £4 as an extra and only holds 10 numbers). I'll bet that they won't be calling customers of that service to tell them that they can save a few quid...

      1. PNGuinn
        Mushroom

        Re: How much to review your spam call messages?

        The answer to this (BT) scam is simple.

        A memorable 3 digit number to dial after a spam call.

        If that number is reported more that, say, 10 times in an 1/2 hour, 15 times in 1 hour, 25 times in a day ... BT HAVE to block it, investigate, inform OFCON, OFCON HAVE to prosecute, etc.

        If the number's from abroad, Johnny Furriner has to do the same to OFCON's satisfaction, or the whole nation goes onto manual intercept with no exceptions until they do.

        Decent minimum penalties - is public hanging, drawing and quartering too lenient? - discuss.

        A _N_ D - just to make it fair - every certified spam call attracts a £20 compensation payment from the telco, which they are obliged as part of their obligations to recover with costs from the spamming company and / or its directors.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: How much to review your spam call messages?

          "A memorable 3 digit number to dial after a spam call."

          you mean like collating stats on the 1572 reports? That's part of what they're doing.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How much to review your spam call messages?

      I'm unclear as to why caller id is a monthly recurring charge rather than a one-off payment.

      1. Magani
        Unhappy

        Re: How much to review your spam call messages?

        I'm unclear as to why caller id is a monthly recurring charge rather than a one-off payment.

        The words 'ongoing' and 'revenue' come to mind...

    3. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: How much to review your spam call messages?

      Re: Caller ID

      You can get for free but you have to make at least two calls through BT per month. Look in the phone book under "Privacy".

      I use a prefix when dialling for cheap calls but made a point of making those two BT calls a month. (shows how much I hate BT!)

      Then Caller ID stopped working but I got charged for a whole year before it was fixed. Any chance of a refund? Nope :(

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: How much to review your spam call messages?

      "Well that's not going to work when an overseas call centre uses a fake number."

      Requiring Indian TelCo calls to be whitelisted would be an excellent start. Or even announcing that they'll be doing that in a few months might prompt some of them to get their houses in order.

      "Of course if the caller withholds their number you can use BT's Anonymous Call Rejection service that won't let numberless call through."

      It would also block any calls from organisations without DDI - our GP for starters.

      1. agurney

        Re: How much to review your spam call messages?

        "It would also block any calls from organisations without DDI - our GP for starters."

        The way around that is to ask your surgery's receptionist to update your records and prefix your phone no. with 1470. Works for me.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How much to review your spam call messages?

          The way around that is to ask your surgery's receptionist to update your records and prefix your phone no. with 1470. Works for me.

          That probably won’t work with any GDS gov.uk sites because the input field is too short.

      2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: How much to review your spam call messages?

        Blocking Number Withheld calls is going to bugger up the NHS even more than it is now.

        A good number of NHS Trusts block their number from all outgoing calls. All in the name of Security.

        This whole number ID thing is a total pile of dog excement.

        If there was a regulator who actually cared, this could be sorted out. And there goes that squadron of flying pigs....

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: How much to review your spam call messages?

          Withhold your number when you have been told the person will reject blocked calls, and you didn't actually try to contact the person. That could be breach of duty of care for NHS trusts

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How much to review your spam call messages?

      "[...] Rejection service that won't let numberless call through"

      Presumably that might also block my doctor's and local council offices' "withheld" - and my international friends who don't use Skype?

      Can overseas callers provide a number CLI? I thought part of the problem was that BT can only show "international" .

      1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        Re: How much to review your spam call messages?

        Can overseas callers provide a number CLI? I thought part of the problem was that BT can only show "international" .

        I can see incoming international numbers displayed on a phone in Europe, so that's probably a lack of willpower on BT's part.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: How much to review your spam call messages?

          BT's caller ID...sorry caller display... service has shown international numbers PLUS the 'int' flag for a long time now (at least 6 yrs). If it's international AND withheld or unavailable, it will still simply show 'international' though

  12. MrT

    Unblocking...?

    On the face of it, this seems a good idea, but there will also have to be a procedure for unblocking a phone number that makes it back from a personal list to the central one. This means that there'll be some sort of appeals process, with maybe a timescale before the block is in place on the central list.

    BT no longer have a block of numbers for Residential customers and a different block for Business customers (IIRC this ceased to be the case some time around 2011, apparently due to telecoms deregulation). When I last moved house, the number that was allocated formerly belonged to a tyre fitters - for a year I would get calls from HMRC, debt recovery companies, car leasing firms and various others chasing the former owners. Clearly they were not a very reputable company (towards the end, at least) and one might imagine that they could have been added to personal blacklists by some customers.

    In the new 1571 blacklist, I'd hope that the processes around reallocating a dormant/abandoned number would also trigger a reset of any existing blocks on that number, especially given the rate at which scammers use almost disposable mobile numbers and suchlike these days.

    1. Andy Non

      Re: Unblocking...?

      Apparently it's 1572 not 1571.

      1. MrT
        Facepalm

        Re: Unblocking...?

        Oops - thanks. The old remote answerphone service was 1571 :-)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Unblocking...?

          Still is, I use it all the time (free from plusnet).

  13. John Sager

    BT need to sort out CLI

    I get a bit fed up of BT's approach to calling line identification. Lots of scam calls come through with obviously weird CLI (e.g ok area code but 5-digit phone no), and a few judiciously crafted regular expressions should filter most of them. What's worse is that BT don't seem to be able to forward incoming international CLI with any consistency. A US friend has a mobile on Sprint, I think, but when she came over here her calls were marked 'Unavailable' so they went straight to our answering machine:( Her calls to our mobiles (Vodafone) had correct CLI.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BT need to sort out CLI

      What's worse is that BT don't seem to be able to forward incoming international CLI with any consistency.

      That's usually the sending carrier being lazy and not formatting the calls in international format by default.

    2. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: BT need to sort out CLI

      I agree - the routing system cannot seriously connect the caller number 000000000000 to my number can it? Similarly the five digit numbers mentioned. If these are spoofed numbers, at what point are these numbers injected into the exchange systems as this is a significant part of the problem? However, if it can recognise invalid numbers, why doesn't the system automatically block them?

      Will the 1572 service be made available free to all providers as an exchange service or is it a BT tool?

      1. Little Mouse

        Re: BT need to sort out CLI

        cannot seriously connect the caller number 000000000000

        I feel your pain. I got a "MS Virus" call with a caller ID of "0123456789" about 3 weeks ago

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: BT need to sort out CLI

        "If these are spoofed numbers, at what point are these numbers injected into the exchange systems as this is a significant part of the problem?"

        If I understand the system correctly, the CLI you get at your phone is the equivilent of an email "To:" header, ie it's purely for display purposes. The routing info is more like the "Envelope-To:" header which you don't always get to see (depending on your mail server)

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: BT need to sort out CLI

      If BT are doing this properly they won't be relying on the (possibly-spoofed) CLID, they should be able to see the real number in many cases. Won't help for VOIP calls, but it's a start.

    4. Starace

      Re: BT need to sort out CLI

      You do realise that some people do genuinely have 5 digit phone numbers?

      Utter pain though when someone has a fiddle in the system somewhere and incoming calls (eg international) don't come through if an extra random digit isn't tacked on the end. Took a couple of weeks to get sorted.

      In other parts of the EU I've known people who had area code plus 3 digits.

      One thing that should be a giveaway is the calls where they spoof the number they're connecting to as being the source as it's an obvious impossibility.

      1. John Sager

        Re: BT need to sort out CLI

        You do realise that some people do genuinely have 5 digit phone numbers?

        How many area code areas still have 5-digit numbering schemes? Northern Ireland used to be a bit strange but have they now not regularised that? In any case, all the calls like that I had up until recently were scammers (PPI mostly). I did let them go to the machine but the bastards just play their recording into the machine, unlike most other scammers who just ring off when they get the machine. Now I have to answer the call & then ring off:(

        If BT can stop these then all power to their elbow but I still WANT THEM TO SORT OUT CLI!

        1. Anonymous C0ward

          Re: BT need to sort out CLI

          There's some places in Cornwall that have only 5 digits.

          1. David Roberts Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: BT need to sort out CLI

            Although allegedly there are some people in Cornwall with more than 5 digits.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: BT need to sort out CLI

          Some St Helens (01744) numbers have 5 digits. The ones beginning with 2 are all 5 digits.

    5. Rob Daglish

      Re: BT need to sort out CLI

      There are some legitimate 5 digit numbers - certainly here in West Cumbria anyways (01946 and 01900 both have some). Causes all kinds of fun when PABX installers come along and don't configure call routing for 5 digit numbers to the local area code!

  14. Nick Kew Silver badge

    1572

    They can add a number simply by dialling 1572 after receiving the call

    OK, something the victim can do to register with them, as opposed to some third-party. This is progress.

    What we really need is a version of that that applies some kind of penalty on any caller who collects more than a handful of 1572s. Say, £1 per spam call, collected by BT/phoneco as in normal billing and going to Good Causes (in the manner of a Lottery).

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: 1572

      "Say, £1 per spam call, collected by BT/phoneco as in normal billing and going to Good Causes (in the manner of a Lottery)."

      Or credited to the callee's account as a fee for handling the call. But not a flat rate but, say, a pound per minute so there's more to be gained by keeping them on the line.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Mass wire tapping, "sorry we thought it was spam", so we record everything now.

      You're missing the point, the whole reason this has taken so long "is" because of the BT revenue issue from spammers, who else makes actual calls today (or can afford to on a BT line)?.

      BT had the tech to do this at BT Oswestry, its just GCHQ don't need it anymore.

      BT were(are) making serious money from the spam calls. The way BT have implemented this, BT still get the revenue from spammers, even when they fail to connect the call, routing it to voice mail (i.e. setup fee at least). Does the spammer get notified his calls are being made in vain? Doubt it.

      It's hardly honest behaviour by BT either. Spam Calls convert illegimate gains (Spammers-their costs) into legimate gains (revenue) for BT, by BT just staying on the side of 'corporate legal'. It's a sort of money laundering.

      If BT had been fined for carrying/connecting each of those calls in the first place, this would have been stopped years ago.

      We also have a Privacy situation now, where mass wire tapping can take place, and BT can always use the 'we thought it was spam'. It's starting to sound like a product thought up by Theresa May.

      Bottom Line, if BT know that call is spam, why should they make any revenue from that call at all. It's all a bit of damp squib, because its 15 years too late, no one really uses their landline for calls.

      Spam being one, lack of Privacy being the other.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Mass wire tapping, "sorry we thought it was spam", so we record everything now.

        "BT were(are) making serious money from the spam calls. The way BT have implemented this, BT still get the revenue from spammers, even when they fail to connect the call, routing it to voice mail (i.e. setup fee at least). "

        Only sometimes.

        The vast majority of these outfits are scamming the international routing system and there have been a number of investigations into billing fraud.

      2. eionmac

        Landline is ALWAYS used for outgoing calls

        1. I always use only my landline for all outgoing calls. Free cost inside ISP charges .

        2. Incoming calls only from family as text messages to mobile. All other calls to mobile disregarded.

        3. Incoming calls on landline have occasional Spam , All are logged and reported.

        3.1 If genuine all callers know to call on my land line.

        4. If I feel like it I apply a spurious talk on a spam call up, but I have to be bored by

        Answer that no one uses landlines is false. (PS my work also only uses landlines for non company calls, so many thousands per year on landline)

  15. Law

    Good first step, but really we need collaboration between networks...

    ...maybe they could opensource the data...

  16. muddysteve

    I never get spam calls on the home number. I am ex-directory and I use TPS. Still get them on the mobile, mind.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      You can register a mobile on TPS.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Having the mobile registered on TPS doesn't stop the scammers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I am ex-directory and I use TPS. Still get them on the mobile, mind."

      One night in our office all the phones in the room were rung by the same Indian cold calling centre a few minutes apart. After answering a few I just ignored them.

      The phones were company DDI numbers that were not published as such. It was obvious an automated call set-up was just dialling all possible digit combinations on our town's STD code.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Had one like that here in the States just after we went to VOIP for the company. One could call the area code, the prefix (company wide) and then 4 digits for the extension. At that time we had roughly 6000 phones. The call center left voicemail on just about each phone about "having a virus" and a number to call back. The Helldesk was swamped in the morning.

        A few morons actually called the number and worked with the scum right up until they got the "I need your credit card info". The buffoons who called the scum then called the Helldesk because his/her computer was screwed up beyond belief and they needed it fixed "now"....

        In some ways, it was a good thing as a certain Indian call center made no money that night.

  17. Lee D Silver badge

    20 years too late.

    Sorry, BT, you lost my landline long ago because of this and your unwillingness to combat it.

    And now virtually every mobile has a spam blocker built-in to the contact lists.

  18. Your alien overlord - fear me

    So if it's an ex-directory number and I then dial 1572, does that then blacklist every ex-directory number?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't accept any unsolicited calls

    Period.

  20. AstroNutter
    Facepalm

    I love the windows phishing calls. Just lead them on, to the part where they start to tell you how to "fix" your computer. Then they'll start giving instructions.

    idiot: ok, let's start by pressing the "Windows key"

    me: What's a windows key?

    idiot: That little key on the bottom left if your keyboard between the Ctrl and Alt keys.

    me: Oh, you mean the tile key, I see, ok pressed it.

    idiot: now what do you see?

    me: my computer

    idiot: and on the screen?

    me: it's black with some test, and little flasshing line.

    idiot: what does the text say?

    me: rasberry@pi:~$ (said as rasberry at pi dotty squiggle money

    Wonder why they hang up on me at that point? ;)

    1. James Cullingham

      And on the screen?

      me: it says "Would you like to play a game?"

    2. Zippy's Sausage Factory
      Devil

      I used to try to get them to talk me through getting them a remote connection on an OS/2 virtual machine - version 3, naturally, to keep up the pretence that I bought the computer from Escom the same day I bought my vinyl copy of Nevermind. Ah, good times...

      Then I moved. I kinda miss the scammers :)

      1. Anonymous C0ward

        Mine says...

        Mistake

        >_

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Mine says...

          BBC Computer 32K

          Acorn DFS

          BASIC

          >_

  21. myhandler

    Made a car insurance claim last year and took car to local London assessor.

    Got a call a few days later from Liverpool with a dodgy geezer going on about my lovely motor and they could maybe write it off or do the repair after my sad accident - wtf?

    Didn't trust him an inch and had to call insurer to verify who this random geezer was.

    I bet the spam filter catches him.

  22. rh587 Bronze badge

    I can't tell you how many spam calls I get.

    Literally.

    This is 2017 and I have a mobile. My landline doesn't have a phone connected to it, just the router. I'm told I have a phone number, but I couldn't tell you what it is.

    I can see there are certain people who need them for one reason or another, but I wonder how many people actually need a landline phone and only actually have one plugged in out of old habit, despite never actually making outbound calls with it.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Same.

      I plugged a phone into a socket once, to see what it was doing. I get a BT-automated-voice saying this line isn't active. No idea what the number is and wouldn't activate it unless incredibly desperate.

      My broadband is on Virgin. My backup is 4G via my Draytek router (which has an ADSL/VDSL port too, but has never had anything plugged into it).

      My mobile phone has a spam blocker and doesn't tend to receive much anyway.

      I can't imagine random-dialling is much of a return nowadays because of the above, and anyone who claims to have a business relationship better be able to show me a bit of paper that says that and where I've given my number to them (mostly I just write N/A nowadays).

      If I could be bothered, and I was being hassled, I'd set up a Google Voice number or even a VoIP system, such that known numbers are passed on and unknown numbers have to pass a greylisting-like test (e.g. "state your name and I'll pass that on.... Sorry, you're not a registered caller, goodbye!").

      But, to be honest, I get such little call spam that it's just not worth the effort.

      My parents are still complaining about it though, but I have just told them to get rid of the landline I don't know how many times.

      1. agurney

        There are still large areas of the country with minimal or no mobile phone or cable coverage, so a land line is the only option.

    2. Martin-73 Silver badge

      From experience (suburb but fairly inner city one) of a major city: if the power goes out, so does the feed to most of the mobile base stations round here. And either they don't have battery backup or (more likely) it was last checked 36 months after install and left to sulphate ever since. When the power goes out, we can and WILL lose cellular signal. It's a rare event, but the corded landline phone in the hall is a boon when it happens

      1. anywherething

        Yes good ole landlines (sometimes).

        During the Dudley earthquake (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_Dudley_earthquake) I can recall the house moving from side to side, much creaking and the power went out BUT laptop with battery and USB powered router carried on for a few hours :o)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    too late

    BT have been raking profit from the scammers for years, so now they can go and (...). A much more compresensive solution, applied las year: bye-bye BT. No more scam calls! PLUS no more charging me a "low usage" fee, no more charging me - for charging me.

    And no, I don't get scam calls on my mobile.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: too late

      "charging me a "low usage" fee,"

      I remember the days when BT used to give a "low user discount". t'were all fields 'round 'ere back then too.

  24. JimC Silver badge

    It must be becoming a problem for genuine companies.

    If I get a telephone call in an asian accent from a call centre I assume its some kind of scam. So it would be nearly impossible for a genuine company with an Indian call centre to contact me by phone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It must be becoming a problem for genuine companies.

      "[...] with an Indian call centre to contact me by phone."

      I have nearly put the phone down a couple of times on those criteria - but I also apply it to anyone who I don't instantly recognise. There's an oven cleaning company cold caller with a Del sounding voice. Luckily genuine ones say the company name first - or give it in reply to my best receptionist voice "Who's calling please?".

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It must be becoming a problem for genuine companies.

      "So it would be nearly impossible for a genuine company with an Indian call centre to contact me by phone."

      What? Not even the agents with a heavy Indian accent and called Kevin?

  25. PassingStrange

    So - is this BT as in "BT the infrastructure supplier", or BT as in "BT the telephony supplier"? In other words, is this going to work even if I nominally get my telephony from (say) Sky, or PlusNet? because if it isn't, then BT needs hitting with a VERY big stick until it gets the message.

    1. Rasczak

      It is from BT Retail, well Consumer actually as it is residential only. Don't know whether the Wholesale side is offering it to the parasit<<<<< LLU and WLR companies, so you'd have to check with them. That said OFCOM will probably insist that it is offered out at about 1% of the actual cost to supply and there will still be complaints that there is any cost at all.

  26. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    FAIL

    But...

    Can OFCOM make this mandatiory for all providers at no charge?

    No? Well See ICON

    1. Gerry 3

      Re: But...

      OFCOMatose is always asleep at the wheel...

    2. Rasczak

      Re: But...

      Why should a service of one company be provided free of charge to another ? No problem with it being provided to any other company who wants to share in the costs of providing it, of course those other companies could always build and pay for their own service to do this if they wanted to,

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: But...

      "Can OFCOM make this mandatiory for all providers at no charge?"

      Maybe they will. After all, it's not their money providing it.

  27. Dave 15

    Nice one but

    Lets hope they are not using the same technology as Tesco (they use cloudmark) to determine who is a spammer. ... They block whole ip ranges

  28. JaitcH
    Happy

    The Most Harassing Cellular Calls Often Originate With The Celco

    I have to keep my cell handset on in order to receive SMS messages from overseas time zones where family and friends still think the Earth is flat and we are all on the same time.

    Here in VietNam, with 6 or 7 physically separate networks - not resellers, advertising is rampant. Such advertising is provided either through the celcos or through standalone computers attached to the celco switches.

    Some of the worst offenders for sending SMS messages between 00.00H and 06.00H are celcos themselves.

    After months of digging I obtained the cell handset numbers of many celco executives as well as installing at our company a SMS Messaging Administration system. Unlike North America, cell handset numbers readily identify the network which originate the calls.

    Our SMS system now captures overnight messages, identifies the originating network and simply forwards the unwanted messages to the executives numbers.

    Their reactions are invariably quick, and effective, and result in these late night SMS advertisers being suspended.

  29. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Don't get annoyed - have some fun!

    I think it's great to be called by someone who is pretty much forced to listen to any drivel you decide to spout.

    "I'm so glad you called about my accident. The weather's awful here - where are you based?"

    After getting the reply, talk without allowing the other person to reply (Adapt for gender) :-

    "Oh, I used to visit that place regularly. I'm going this weekend as a matter of fact. It's a bit of a shit-hole, but I suppose someone has to live there. Is that club still operating next to the church? That place is OK. I spend a lot of time there, in the members' only section, if you get my drift. Not quite so much fun since my accident of course, though as you know, my penis escaped reasonably intact. So nice to be speaking to such an obviously gay person as well - not like the old days where we had to keep such things hidden. Are you wearing any underclothes? So restricting, I think. Anyway, it would be much better to talk about my accident in person. Could I drop by and pick you up on Friday? We could go to this club I know ..."

    1. JimC Silver badge

      Re: Don't get annoyed - have some fun!

      If I'm reading a book I'll sometimes read them a few paragraphs...

      1. Mike Richards Silver badge

        Re: Don't get annoyed - have some fun!

        Great idea!

        But should it be porn or the finer details of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act?

  30. Duffy Moon

    My system

    I have a simple system. I don't answer unless it's a caller I recognise. If it isn't, it goes to voicemail. If no voicemail message, I block the number. They can call all night and day then, I won't hear it.

  31. DougS Silver badge

    Numbers that put out a lot of calls?

    And how do they determine that? Probably most spammers are using some VOIP gateways to route their calls through, and probably have the ability to switch between them quickly. Once the spammers figure out how BT's system operates, they'll quickly work out how to get around it, and BT will always remain a couple steps behind.

    I don't see how stopping spam in phone calls is all that much easier than stopping it in email, and we all see evidence in our inboxes that email spam is still very much a thing.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Numbers that put out a lot of calls?

      "I don't see how stopping spam in phone calls is all that much easier than stopping it in email, and we all see evidence in our inboxes that email spam is still very much a thing."

      The solution in both cases would be to revise the protocols so that the alleged source (From: line in email headers) can be verified by the system before the connection is accepted.

      1. Vic

        Re: Numbers that put out a lot of calls?

        The solution in both cases would be to revise the protocols so that the alleged source (From: line in email headers) can be verified by the system before the connection is accepted.

        The envelope sender address already can be verified. And yet a vast number of people refuse to do so...

        Vic.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Today I got a call from guy with a thick indian accent so I put the phone down but not he'd had time to claim that he worked for BT (I'm not their customer). How ironic to be getting that call just when BT announce their anti-spam call initiative (I wish them luck with that - but it's BT so they'll need luck).

    I did wonder if the scammers might try using the anti-spam call initiative as a way to scam people "This is a call from BT. You'll have heard about our anti scam call initiative. To set you up on the new system I need [passwords, card details...]"

  33. Slx

    I'm in Ireland but spam calls were one of the reasons I just ditched voice service entirely on my landline. I just went wirh VDSL (up to 100mbit)! "Fibre" without a dial tone.

    Voice service was bundled with broadband in the past and i never really used it. I didn't even plug the phone in to wall.

    I think the pstn is likely to be as relevant as the fax machine in a very few short years.

  34. Simon Rockman

    I know someone who used to have some 070 numbers back in the day when you could revenue share on them. He'd ask scammers to "call back on my mobile", and give out the 070 number. This they duly called without realising that it was premium rate.

    He built this up to a system where he courted the calls and VoIPed them to South Africa where he had kids in townships being paid to keep the callers on the line for as long as possible.

    Me? I just run my own mobile network which has never connected a nuisance call to a customers.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "I know someone who used to have some 070 numbers back in the day when you could revenue share on them. He'd ask scammers to "call back on my mobile", and give out the 070 number. This they duly called without realising that it was premium rate."

      Whilst revenue sharing is no longer allowed, I still have a 070 and set it to maximum rate (£1.50/min) for this very purpose. The provider asked why I was using it and set the rate so high - they had a good laugh when I explained and said they wished they'd thought of it.

      The 070 gets about 10 calls per week and only about 1 call a month isn't scammy.

  35. bobbear

    Free scam/spam call blocker...

    I used to get a lot more scam and nuisance calls on my landline than I do now. I get far fewer since I put the following message on my answering machine:

    "Hello, this number blocks all withheld and unrecognised numbers. To speak to us, please leave a message after the tone and we will either pick up or call you back. Thank you for calling."

    If it's an obvious spoofed CLID, International, or if I don't recognise the number I just let it go to the message. Perhaps the scammers and spammers have a "remove number from database" option...

  36. RedCardinal

    >>Digital minister Matt Hancock described nuisance callers as "a terrible blight on society"

    Well why don't you and the government you work for actually do something to prevent them...

  37. Slx

    People also need perspective and to chill out a bit!

    I do think though people need to stop getting so 'rattled' by spam callers. There's a lot of total over-reaction to relatively small volumes of calls.

    I know a few people who get absolutely ridiculously annoyed by them. I realise they're annoying and they waste a couple of minutes of your life, but you can always hang-up or tell them to feck off!

    In the big scale of things, it's a relatively minor nuscance unless you're getting absolutely bombarded with calls.

    I completely stopped using my landline largely because I have no need for it anymore.

    It's the same with my office phone, I don't think anyone even rings my desk anymore. Everything goes to my mobile. It's now largely just a slightly retro looking 1980s style paper weight with buttons and lights. Anytime I check the fixed line voicemail at work, it's invariably people trying to sell me conferences I don't want to go to.

    I really do think the PSTN is finished other than as an incoming number for businesses.

    Other than a few elderly relatives, I just don't ring landlines at all and mobiles are so cheap these days it's no cost saving anyway. In most cases, if I ring someone's landline, it will ring out / go to voicemail as many aren't plugged in anyway. It's definitely a legacy technology.

    I'm in Ireland though so maybe there's still more landline usage in the UK and US?

  38. anywherething

    Accident calls ...

    Interesting stuff by the sounds of things.

    I've found that answering the call, say nothing for about 5 seconds and then you hear "okay we'll take you off our list.."

  39. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Ring ring

    me: "Hullo. Microsoft security. How may I direct your call"

    Does seem to work quite well

  40. JBowler

    Wot, no Google Voice?

    Seriously, you don't have Google Voice? I do, everyone knows my 'phone number (and my email, and my address). No problem; no spam calls, well maybe there are but they disappear without my ever hearing them. Not only that but when someone telephones me a selection of my telephones (mobiles, computers, SIP devices) ring (what selection, I admit, seems to be down to Google), and if I don't answer (which happens if I don't immediately recognize the name) Google sends me an email with a transcript (which can be hilarious) of the message.

    I remember after my mother died being in her flat in Lincoln and encountering one of these spam calls. No problem, telephonus disconnectus. I have a perfectly adequate UK number which connects to me via my voip; apparently you Brits think phoning overseas is expensive, so I set up a Tiverton number to get phone calls from various people involved in my father's estate. They never used it though, I don't think anything meaningful is every said on the 'bone so that makes sense.

    John Bowler

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wot, no Google Voice?

      We don't have Google Voice in the UK!

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