A shocking new mobile scam has left customers with high phone bills for calls they say they never made. Some users have had bills in excess of £300 and Ofcom are now investigating.
Victims of the scam apparently received a phone call from an 0843 or 0845 number which lasted mere seconds, showing up as a missed call in their call log. Their bills then show that they called the number back for a prolonged period of time, sometimes up to 12 hours, all the time racking up charges. The scary thing is that none of the victims report to have called the number back at all, let alone for hours on end.
Customers don’t notice anything strange until their phone gets blocked for hitting call allowances or the users receive their bill and get a nasty shock.
For reasons yet unknown, the majority of customers hit by this scam are Vodafone users. Vodafone insist the problem is not due to a fault at their end and have demanded that customers pay the bill.
An O2 customer from East Grinstead named Sally Phillips was hit with a bill for £278 last month. Ms Phillips has never gone over her £40 allowance and was shocked when the bill came through. She called O2 only to be told she had to pay the bill despite escalating complaints to the company.
She eventually paid the bill, “I was getting so many emails saying you haven’t paid your bill that in the end I just ended up paying it.”
Sally called the number to try and find out who it was and got through to a missed flight compensation line.
Another customer who has fallen victim to the scam is Denise Denith, a 67-year-old, who only uses her mobile for emergencies. Last month Denise received a bill for £375. Since her phone is only used for emergencies, she only usually pays her £9 per month line rental charge to Vodafone. Again Vodafone demanded payment for the bill, claiming she had been on the phone over 12 hours through the night to an 0845 number.
A Vodafone spokesman said: “Our systems have not been compromised or breached.
“Our security monitoring systems have identified that a number of customers have returned unsolicited calls, leading to them being charged significant amounts.
“We have taken proactive measures to ensure none of the customers affected are out of pocket and have identified and blocked the numbers creating this issue.
“As this is an industry-wide issue, we are working with Ofcom and other operators to identify and close down this issue as soon as we can.”
One theory as to how the scam is being conducted is that criminals are hiring these 0843 and 0845 numbers, setting high fees for incoming calls on the lines. They are then hacking peoples phones and setting them to automatically call back if a call is missed from an 08 number. Unfortunately, this is out of the control of mobile operators who have to pay the premium rate fee to the telephone companies, which is sent on to the fraudsters that hired the numbers.
If you have been a victim to this scam, it is recommended you go through your settings and change them back to stop your handset calling back 08 numbers automatically.