People should be on their guard as scammers are now claiming to offer an enhanced Telephone Preference Service to protect against nuisance calls.
This scam involves fraudsters cold-calling victims, and falsely stating they're from one of the well-known phone service providers. They then offer a paid-for TPS service – which they say is an “improved” version of TPS’ call-blocking service – and ask for payment.
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What victims may not realise is that there is only one TPS, and that this is the only official “do-not-call” register for opting out of live telesales calls and other unsolicited calls.
Once you register, companies are required by law not to cold-call you. Signing up to the TPS is free, and you'll never be asked for bank details.
You can report a TPS fraud – or any type of fraud – by visiting Action Fraud or calling them on 0300 123 2040.
How the fake Telephone Preference scam works
According to Action Fraud, with this latest TPS scam conmen ask victims to hand over – or confirm – their bank account details, informing them there's a one-off charge for the service.
However, those who fall for this scam then see monthly direct debits deducted from their accounts which they haven't authorised. Direct debits are set up without following the correct procedure. For example, victims aren't sent written confirmation of their direct debit instruction. This is supposed to be sent within three days.
If victims try to call back, they're unable to do so, as the phone number provided by the fraudster cannot be reached. In other cases, the victim’s direct debit cancellation gets refused.
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How widespread is this scam?
In 2017, there were 493 Action Fraud reports relating to this scam Campaigners are concerned that criminals are increasingly targeting elderly people who may not understand what they're buying. They're concerned that individuals are paying for an over-priced subscription, or for call blockers which do not work properly.
What does the official TPS say?
The official TPS says it is aware of a number of organisations that call people claiming to be the TPS – and which try to charge consumers for registration.
A spokesman says: “It's free to sign up to the TPS register. We will never contact you requesting payments or credit card details. Once an individual’s telephone number is on the TPS, it will remain on it and there is no need to update your registration.”
What can you do to protect yourself?
• Register for the official TPS. It's free to sign up to the official register. There's now also a free mobile app, TPS Protect, which screens incoming calls to identify malicious or annoying callers. You can find it on the App Store for iPhones or Google Play for Android phones.
• If someone asks you to pay for a TPS, this should set alarm bells ringing. This could be a scam as the TPS will never call you out of the blue.
• With genuine direct debits, you will receive a postal confirmation of the direct debit. If you notice unauthorised payments leaving your account, contact your bank right away.
• Never give out personal information or financial details over the phone to someone who has cold-called you. The same applies if someone calls out of the blue asking you to confirm your details. Always be certain about who you're talking to. If in doubt, hang up immediately.
• If you're worried about phone scams, you could install an answer phone and just ignore the phone when it rings. Genuine callers will leave a message, but scammers rarely will.
What other steps can you take to stay safe?
Some of the major phone service providers now offer their own security services which you can use in addition to registering with the official TPS service:
BT customers can get its free BT Call Protect service. This free service for landline customers prevents nuisance calls coming through by sending them straight to your junk voicemail. The service also lets customers create their own blacklist – and to choose to divert to junk voicemail. You can also block numbers by category, such as international, withheld or unrecognised.
Sky Talk Shield is another useful personalised screening service for your home phone. It's free to broadband and landline customers (those with Sky Broadband and Sky Talk). You can choose to answer the calls you want and to block the ones you don’t, and you can add up to 1,000 phone numbers to your “block” list.
TalkTalk has a free security feature, CallSafe, for its customers to help stop unwanted callers. Every time you get a call, check to make sure it’s someone you want to hear from. The caller is then approved, blocked or screened. This means that you'll be able to receive calls from the numbers you regularly dial – such as friends, family and work. And you'll be able to block unwanted numbers, so your phone won’t ring when nuisance callers try and get in touch.
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