back to article BT's spam blocker IDs accident claims as top nuisance call

BT's free spam filter, launched earlier this year to crack down on nuisance calls, has identified accident claims as the worst offender for nuisance calls with 12 million made in the first week of March. Some two million customers have signed up to the BT Call Protect service, which it says has diverted 65 per cent of calls to …

  1. djstardust

    Seems you can't sign up

    Without renewing a 12 month contract.

    Shame really, but typical BT.

    1. GreggS

      Re: Seems you can't sign up

      But at least they're doing something and being pro-active about it (even if it is only for their customers). This does make me wonder if they are actually breaking OFCOM regulations by not delivering the call to it's intended recipient though. I'd like to see each and every telecoms company provide this service FOC!

      1. Bob Rocket

        Re: Seems you can't sign up

        They are delivering the call as per the customer instructions, 'divert calls like this to junkbox'.

        BT are missing a trick though, they should have various ELIZA machines answer the calls and keep the callers on the line as long as possible (running up the bill and occupying the time of the spammer)

        .

    2. death&taxes

      Re: Seems you can't sign up

      Yes you can, provided you are a BT customer.

  2. Paul Woodhouse

    seems even BT get things right sometimes... *shrug*

    1. Mike Richards

      Their call-blocking DECT phones are pretty good. My parents were targeted after the TalkTalk hack, I got them a BT8600, cancelled TalkTalk and their lives are much quieter.

    2. Fihart

      Too late for me and BT.

      When I rang to close my BT account they made little effort to dissuade me.

      Offered a deal which cost precisely the same as I was already paying.

      Replied to my comment that most calls seemed to be PPI pests that they could offer caller display (I'd already cancelled that when they suddenly started charging for it).

      When I explained that calls via my Three mobile were cheaper than on BT landline, the reply was that BT offered mobile phones too -- yeah, but I' was leaving BT-owned EE because they were raising their charges.

      BT seem to still have the GPO monopoly mindset.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Too late for me and BT.

        "BT seem to still have the GPO monopoly mindset."

        It's BT management that has the reality distortion field mindset.

        The in-house BT magazine used to have two major components:

        - The usual pompous management articles telling everyone how the latest reorganisation was going to make things so much better (artfully leaving out the recursive fact that this meant better than the last reorganisation of a few months ago which was going to make things so much better).

        - Letters from staff explaining how and why things weren't working in reality as management thought they should.

        The latter, contradicting the former, were obviously something the senior management could have learned from.

        So they stopped publishing the letters.

        1. Steve Goodey

          Re: Too late for me and BT.

          I seem to remember the change happened on the retirement of the editor. Once he'd gone the critical letters stopped and the magazine changed to a wipe your arse job.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Too late for me and BT.

          "The latter, contradicting the former, were obviously something the senior management could have learned from."

          Anybody else out there worked for a UK blue chip company and seen this in the last decade or so?

          There used to be an Employee Satisfaction Survey every couple of years. Initially the results were published with promises to address the biggest issues. Generally there were specific problems with management, and generally they were getting worse rather than better.

          Rather than see how the perceived issues could be better addressed, the surveys were discontinued.

          Don'tcha love those HR types.

  3. Terry 6 Silver badge

    The only real solution

    The only real solution will be when a large enough majority of the public stop making these crooks enough money to earn a living from this sh*t spreading.

    1. inmypjs Silver badge

      Re: The only real solution

      "a large enough majority of the public stop making these crooks enough money"

      The calls cost almost nothing which is why a microscopic proportion of the public responding is enough to keep them coming. A real solution would be to make calls more expensive.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The only real solution

      I detest these call with a passion, in the past week I've had 6 calls about "an accident I was in", likewise the PPI claims are just as annoying..

      But I'll admit, a couple of years ago they managed to recoup about £3000 from my bank for PPI and Account charges. Whilst I could quite easily have dealt with PPI myself (by simply calling the bank), the account charges are a completely different story.

    3. Alumoi

      Re: The only real solution

      Nope, the only real solution is for these bottom feeders to really piss of the ruling class. You know, politicians, CEOs and their ilk.

      1. FozzyBear Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: The only real solution

        Read a book recently "Daemon" The authors solution to scammers and their ilk , consisted of a coordinated mass killing of all involved.

        The more I think about it, it's the only reasonable solution to the problem. Then again my outlook is somewhat biased due to the half dozen scammer calls I've received this week.

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    it could divert 1.6 billion nuisance calls a year.

    "if all its customers signed up to BT Call Protect"

    Surely it could do this without its customers having to sign up?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: it could divert 1.6 billion nuisance calls a year.

      1.6 billion calls a year?

      Lets assume BT make a profit of 1 pence per call......

      Wow.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: it could divert 1.6 billion nuisance calls a year.

        >Lets assume BT make a profit of 1 pence per call......

        And I'll bet voicemail counts as "connected"!

        A much "better" solution than stopping the spam in the first place or adding call origination & routing information to CLI!

      2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: it could divert 1.6 billion nuisance calls a year.

        Lets assume BT make a profit of 1 pence per call.....

        Not sure about profit per call but BT's 2016 financial report says turnover was 19 G£, profit after costs and tax was 2.6 G£. (To two figures in each case.) That's 13.7% profit margin.

      3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: it could divert 1.6 billion nuisance calls a year.

        Lets assume BT make a profit of 1 pence per call......

        For consumers with no call bundle with BT, maybe. But many consumers are on calls & broadband bundles.

        Commercial rates for UK calls are a pittance (below 0.5p per minute) with some providers throwing in free calls as part of their line rental package.

        I can't see it being long until calls to 01, 02 & 03 numbers are universally free.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: it could divert 1.6 billion nuisance calls a year.

          "For consumers with no call bundle with BT, maybe."

          Perhaps someone needs to explain how interconnect charges work. BT get paid for terminating calls originating from other telcos (and vice versa).

          One of the reasons that telcos started paying attention to scam calls was because of fraudulent accounting data getting injected into the network resulting in them not being paid for the calls.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: it could divert 1.6 billion nuisance calls a year.

        .. 1 *penny* per call.

        1. EVMonster
          Trollface

          Re: it could divert 1.6 billion nuisance calls a year.

          Pedant alert

    2. Number6

      Re: it could divert 1.6 billion nuisance calls a year.

      "if all its customers signed up to BT Call Protect"

      Surely it could do this without its customers having to sign up?

      Probably not, I suspect for automatic call divert on selected numbers you have to actively opt in otherwise they open themselves to lawsuits from junk callers who find their calls are not being delivered as required by law, even though that non-delivery is what everyone else would want.

    3. orb8

      Re: it could divert 1.6 billion nuisance calls a year.

      No need to sign-up to BT.. As long as you have caller id enabled with your phone provider you can use the number blocking features on the DECT phones..

      We're with Sky and were getting fed-up with the amount of random nuisance calls we were getting (about 4 per day.) We ended up buying a BT 8600 Advanced Call Blocker DECT phone.. After putting all the friends and family numbers into the phone we now don't get ANY nuisance calls at all. If somebody calls from say the hospital or doctors etc those calls are filtered by the phone itself and the caller has to give their name before getting any further (we don't hear this part) Then we then get a message and option asking us whether we want to accept that call or not. It's brill.

  5. Natalie Gritpants

    Any chance of getting the top ten offender companies directors names and addresses onto a kickstarter fund for a hitman?

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Any chance of getting the top ten offender companies directors names and addresses onto a kickstarter fund for a hitman?

      Tempting though it is, I think the Constabulary might have something to say about that. Let's just get their email addresses and telephone numbers on as many spammers' lists as possible.

  6. Vince

    Of course once those millions of calls stop happening, BT will simply raise line rental pricing to compensate for the loss of call revenue (and everyone else will follow as usual).

    The net result will be us paying for those calls with money rather than time.

  7. wisewellies

    Database access?

    This problem could easily be solved once and for all if BT took the initiative. Since they already have the mechanism in place to identify these calls (and hence must know where they're coming from), could they not add a flag to their CallerID implementation to indicate that the call may be from a suspect source? It would be trivial to integrate this into (for instance) an Asterisk dialplan so that businesses (and advanced home users) can make use of this service too

    1. Number6

      Re: Database access?

      It may still be true, but back in early stages of ISDN, they did this on digital lines. The incoming caller ID as part of call set-up would say 01234567X890, which was BT's way of telling you they only vouched for the digits to the left of the X. Usually this was where a company had a DDI range and supplied that last three digits so you could call back the originating phone (or a particular department if they didn't want to identify individual phone extensions), so BT couldn't determine the accuracy. I've seen the X further to the left, too, which implies that BT were unsure about more of the digits.

      On an analogue line I was always irritated by the useless 'INTERNATIONAL' calls, given that some countries I didn't want to talk to but others I did. Surely they could have given at least the international prefix so I could tell whether to pick up or leave it to the answerphone.

      Asterisk with a few AGI scripts and a suitable dialplan is great for call blocking, I've used it for several years. It has the advantage too that you can substitute your own text when you've got a system that supports it, so your friend John is clearly identified as such. I have a system that will speak the caller party name field. I also have an AGI script that broadcasts the CLI data on the local network and a small app that pops up an info box on my PC so I can see who's about to call. It also makes it easy to add the last number to the blocking database too.

  8. Lee D Silver badge

    People still use BT?

    I gave up on landlines just as the broadband era came in. Aside from the fact that up until then, they'd barely been able to get through to my landline as it was running V90 / 56K for most of the day, when the line was free it was never anything I wanted to receive.

    Then we all got mobiles and the necessity of the house having a number, rather than the individual, meant that it became useless. And each person also received - for free - CLI and call blocking to their preference rather than neither on a shared line.

    Since then, there's a voicemail on my landline (which is unused) which I never check. People have my mobile and my mobile has all the people I want to hear from. If my mobile shows that the call is from anything else, it gets Googled to see if it's relevant, or just left to ring. If it rings twice, it gets blocked.

    Anything important will identify itself, send a text, etc. If the text is spam, it gets blocked.

    But the landline? PAYING for a service where they anti-spam it? Yeah, 20 years too late. And it's still possible to fake CLI in a trice anyway, and SIP means that everyone can have any regional number whatsoever.

    Basically, BT couldn't be bothered to stop profiting from spam for the sake of their users. As such, they lost all my custom. The telecoms company that does get my custom (Virgin), the landline is a freebie that I never use. My mobile phone has quite a lot of blocking stuff on it by default. And in the end, I just don't answer if I'm not sure.

    Well done, BT. After 20+ years of dragging your feet on the issue, you've successfully trained us all to just not answer the phone unless someone's in a whitelist anyway. Whether that's contacts, WhatsApp, or Skype, all you did was made yourself obsolete.

    1. Andy Non Silver badge

      I too discovered that the best way to stop nuisance calls was to get rid of the BT land line. I rarely used it to make any calls, so saving myself a significant amount of money each month and stopped the nuisance calls. Win, Win.

      1. Ivan Headache

        Except that now I get more nuisance calls to my mobile than I do to my landline.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Refuse anything with a CLI (option on most smartphones)

          Install the apps that lookup the number as it's ringing so you know if it's got a high chance of being spam or not, they can even auto-refuse the call if you want.

          Also, make the default ringtone "silent", and the ringtones of contacts (stick them all in a contact group, say) your normal ringtone.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "Refuse anything with a CLI (option on most smartphones)"

            Even if it's important?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Try living in the country. My mobile won't work in my house unless I stick my head out of an upstairs window and hold it up at arms length. At least I get 20Mbps fibre. Several work colleagues have trouble getting a proper landline, let alone mobile. No fibre for them -- 720 Kbps download for one and a 1Mbps download and 1GB per month expensive satellite system for the other.

      1. Alex Colston

        3out of 4 of the major networks now offer a wifi calling solution built into the phone (does depend on model).

      2. Nifty

        Re "Try living in the country. My mobile won't work in my house"

        Aren't you using WiFi calling? It works seamlessly with Three on an iPhone 5s for example - you cannot distinguish between texts and calls that are carried by WiFi from 4g ones.

        1. YetAnotherLocksmith

          To Nifty

          Doesn't work that well if you're on a crap broadband connection, and not at all on a satellite Internet connection regardless of speed due to latency. :-(

          On the plus side, now I've got two (slow) connections it is far more stable.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I gave up on landlines just as the broadband era came in."

      How's your broadband connected?

      "People have my mobile and my mobile has all the people I want to hear from."

      Using your approach I'd certainly miss calls I'd need. For instance my phone has our doctor's number on it but that doesn't help because their calls come as number withheld.

    4. Number6

      My landline is the spam trap. It's the number I give out when I'm not sure why and I can't be bothered arguing about why they need a phone number. Then the blocklist comes into play, such that probably 10% of incoming calls actually make it to the point where the internal phones ring.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "My landline is the spam trap. It's the number I give out when I'm not sure why and I can't be bothered arguing about why they need a phone number. "

        I have a 070 for that. £1.50/min serves to discourage all but the most determined spammers.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can the BT system distinguish the individual callers behind "Withheld" and "International" designations?

    If not then it's a blunt weapon. My GP's surgery and the local council both use "Withheld" - presumably for privacy of the recipient. A few friends still call from abroad - even though Skype is more common.

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      I rarely answer either of them. If it's someone legit they can leave a message - the spammers never do.

      Getting really fed up with that one that starts 'With winter coming .. '. Don't know what it is, I recognise it in the first second and put the phone down.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Can the BT system distinguish the individual callers behind "Withheld" and "International" designations?"

      Yes. Withheld just flags the CLI as "hidden" which tells the system to not pass it on to the destination, BT still know what it is since they need to bill the caller. Certain call destinations, such as the emergency services, still get to see the CLI, even if the caller withholds it.

      International is different in that BT might only know the company passing on the call (as a minimum, they need that for billing purposes) but may not have the actual CLI or know if the CLI is real.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "My GP's surgery and the local council both use "Withheld" - presumably for privacy of the recipient. "

      My GP has a note on the patient field saying I don't answer withheld numbers along with instructions on how to switch withholding off.

  10. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
    Trollface

    Fun (and karmic) solution

    Divert the spammers to each other!

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Fun (and karmic) solution

      That's what I do - using a Frizt!Box, I redirect nuisance callers to a freephone number (BUPA quote line). Chose BUPA because they kept calling me, so can suffer,

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All I want ..

    .. is a line that charges premium rate connection fees as soon as it's a spammer (or a government official, I'm not picky). In that case I'm happy to remove my number from the TPS and have it spread wide and far.

    I could probably give up the day job, even without having to practice my heavy breathing :).

  12. cb7

    Fake CLIs and why did the names and numbers leak out in the first place?

    Two things:

    1. The foreign land (usually India) call centres these calls originate from typically fake the CLI so it appears to originate from a geographic area within the UK eg an 01xxx or 020xx number. In the last few weeks I've noticed a trend where the number appears as a mobile ie 07xxx number which means a higher likelihood of me answering it due to how I use my landline.

    I'm hoping this big data analysis algorithm can still spot these nuisance calls even if the dodgy outfits can fake a different number for each call... I guess time will tell. Always one step behind comes to mind, which brings me to the next point...

    2. Seeing as most of the calls I get seem to relate to a) a car accident my wife had 14 years ago and b) energy/utility bills, and they have our names and addresses, it's abundantly clear it's the car insurance and utility companies that leaked our details in the first place. I suspect as a result of off-shoring their call centres where unscrupulous now ex-employees have made off with a download/extract from the main customer service database.

    These companies need to be held to account for allowing this to happen and fined massively with the money going to the customers whose details were leaked

  13. Da Weezil

    What annoys me is the BT refuse to add the *International* flag to the anonymous call blocking service. I had the anon call block on my elderly fathers line after I discovered that he was becoming very "suggestible" to the call centre scam scum.

    The Anonymous flag block was very effective, however the overseas scum could still reach him. I looked at phones with spam blocking built in but to introduce him to a new phone with a new menu system was a step he wasn't able to take at that late point in his life, where illness had all but killed his ability to take in new information and retain it.

    It is unacceptable for BT to hide behind excuses. They know whats going on, they *can* do something to reduce it, but seemingly refuse to. Its one of the reasons that I have nothing with any BT group retail arm.

    My mobile has Truecaller installed - as my mobile is my primary phone for for work and I get all sorts of one off calls from people not in my contacts so I find Truecaller flashing the screen red for a spammer useful to flag up the parasitic scum that interrupt our days.

    1. MondoMan

      re: Truecaller

      Doesn't Truecaller slurp your whole contact list, as opposed to just your own cell number for something like NoMoRoBo?

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: re: Truecaller

        "Doesn't Truecaller slurp your whole contact list"

        Only if you let it.

  14. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    How do you block invalid numbers?

    I can't understand why spam calls using numbers with a valid STD code but without enough valid digits are routed at all - why aren't they just dropped by the system? If they are foreign numbers there seems to be some numbers that report the international dialing code prefix, others that don't. How can the system route the number 0000000000 - a simple "if calling number valid then route" test would wipe out 50% or more of my spam calls ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How do you block invalid numbers?

      There are areas in the UK whose numbers don't have the usual number of digits. (There are also areas in the UK whose inhabitants don't have the usual number of digits.)

      1. YetAnotherLocksmith

        Re: How do you block invalid numbers?

        Yes, but we still have 10 digits in the usual format, rather than 11.

        000000000 isn't the usual format!

  15. frankster

    BT charge you to show you who is calling you, so I adopted a simple solution which was to switch the ringer off. Now no-one bothers me and BT doesn't get any money from people calling me.

    1. Oodles of Noodles

      Something similar here

      Only I just unplugged the phone.

  16. Esme

    Why can't phones have whitelists?

    I've asked this before, but no-one's responded with an answer - not knowing how the phone system works, I'm genuinely interested to know why phones can't have whitelists, ie: all calls are rejected except those from given numbers. Is there some technical reason this can;t be done on either landlines or mobile phones?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why can't phones have whitelists?

      They can, I have 3 of these, they can be configured in pretty much whichever way you want (Requires Caller ID):

      BT Call Blocker 8600

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