The fake Telephone Preference Service scam

Esther Shaw / 27 March 2018

Find out about the latest phone scam, where callers pretend to be from the Telephone Preference Service, and how you can protect yourself



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.  


Reporting fraud

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

• 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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Tackling nuisance calls with a text message

Long suffering victims of nuisance marketing phone calls will breathe a sigh of relief to know they can now send a quick text message to join the official “do not call” database.

A YouGov survey found that 81% of British people frequently receive unwanted calls, with a quarter receiving more than 10 a week. 

Retired people are frequently plagued by such calls, particularly if they are at home a lot in the daytime. Calls from sales people flogging supposed good deals and third party claims companies trying to convince you to take legal action against any Tom, Dick or Harry can disturb an otherwise peaceful day.

How to avoid getting caught out by a phone scam.

Protection from nuisance calls

The telephone preference service (TPS) holds a list of member numbers that are protected from nuisance calls. It is illegal for organisations to make unsolicited sales and marketing calls to numbers registered with the TPS, unless they have a person’s consent to do so.

Previously, those plagued with lots of unsolicited calls could register your number over the phone (by calling 0845 070 0707), or signing up on the website (tpsonline.org.uk). Now you can take advantage of its new text service.

Text ‘TPS’ and your email address to 78070. You will receive a text reply from the TPS confirming your number has been successfully added to its database.

Read our guide to stopping spam text messages.

Stamping out rogue calls

John Mitchison, head of the TPS, said: “Rogue callers operate illegally and against the interests of ordinary people.

“Texting will make it easier for people to register their mobile numbers on the TPS, which is the only official no-call list, and help us stamp out rogue callers once and for all by giving the Information Commissioner more ammunition to prosecute these cases.”

While registrations take 28 days to come into effect fully, you should see a gradual reduction in calls. However, it won’t stop all unwanted calls, so make sure you ask any other companies that make unsolicited calls to take you off their list.

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Block calls to your mobile too

The service works for landline and mobile phone sales lists so don’t forget to register all household numbers. According to Ofcom research, only half of people familiar with the TPS are aware that mobile numbers can be registered, compared to almost nine in 10 for landline phone numbers.

The text-to-register service is not free for all mobile customers. For most users, the text should be included within their bundle. However, some users may be charged a standard message rate by their operator, depending on their contract. But it’s a small price to pay for peace.

A study commissioned by Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office found people registered with the TPS saw a reduction in the monthly volume of live sales or marketing calls received of around a third (31%). Registering with the TPS, however, does not prevent spam text messages.

How to beat nuisance phone callers.

How to tackle nuisance calls

1. Be careful who you give your contact details to, whether it's online, on the phone, or in person.

2. Look for marketing ‘opt-in' and ‘opt-out' boxes when shopping online. These boxes are often buried in the small print.

3. Ask your phone provider to see what privacy services are available, and consider a call-blocker – though be aware, you may need to pay for these services.

4. Complain about live telesales call, an automated marketing message, or a spam text message to the Information Commissioner's Office on 0303 123 1113. If you receive a silent or abandoned call, complain to Ofcom on 0300 123 3333. You can report spam texts to your mobile network operator by simply forwarding the text to 7726. 

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.