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Beware the 'unknown caller scam' that could cost you a fortune

Unknown Caller Scam

Many phone scams have been going around for a long time, including this one I am going to explain...but more recently this specific one has seen a dramatic increase, hence why I believe it is worth covering.

You have likely received an unknown call from abroad at some point on your mobile or landline, whether you have answered or missed it. These calls from abroad are becoming far too common, and costing people thousands of pounds on their mobile bill unknowingly, until they receive it at the end of the month. 

It works like this; you receive a call from a random number, usually beginning in a + symbol, as it shows from abroad (but sometimes not, as this caller ID can be changed so be aware), and you either answer or miss the call. Usually if you answer the caller hangs up instantly, and the common thing for most people to do is call them back instantly...this is where they get you, as the number you are calling is a premium rate number from a foreign country, and can rack up your phone bill or drain your credit extremely fast, in some cases I have heard a few thousand pound on a mobile bill. If you missed the call and go back to your phone, usually many people have the same thought, 'I wonder what that call was about', and call them back...instantly the same happens. On the other end of the phone is an individual who will tell you all sorts of things; there have been many different reports, but they include things such as you winning the lottery or getting inheritance etc. They will keep you talking for as long as possible to raise the cost of the call.

How did they get your number?

They didn't, well not really...they use automated dialler's to call thousands of randomised numbers from hundreds of different Caller ID's. Some fail, but some are successful, hence why when you pick up, it automatically cuts you off, as it is a machine. They then hope you call them back wondering what they wanted. It will continue doing it all day, regardless of mobile network, phone network, and regardless of you changing your phone number. Them things are not the issue. The mobile networks are aware and there isn't much they can do currently. There is a simple thing you can do to ensure that you are not caught by this scam however... 

DON'T CALL THEM BACK! Ignore is really that simple...

The way these scams make their money is through people calling them back, and if nobody did, then they would eventually give up. I am not too naive to believe that will ever happen however, but if we can share this with as many people as possible and minimise it, all the better! 

They are calling thousands of numbers, the majority of which hardly cost them anything as most will miss the call, and the others will get hung up on after a split second. If you think about this, if only 100 people were to call them back and speak for 2-10 minutes a day, this could easily make them a few thousand a day.

They can become annoying after a while, granted, and some people call back to just vent their frustration, but this is what they hope for.

Currently it has been reported that the calls are known to be coming from these countries, but don't think it is limited to these;

Estonia +372

Nigeria +234

Malia +223

Remember that these could show as long numbers without the + symbol, for example, the number +223 69 83 54 61 could well show as 022369835461, which actually looks as if it is from the UK, because the caller ID has been changed to look as if it is, and your phone may display it as from the UK, but remember there is no spaces in-between that number...type it in to your phone and see what I mean (below is an example).

So the machine outputs the Caller ID with a '0' instead of a '+' and you end up with this showing on your phone, which from a distance would look something like a UK number and your phone may even accidentally tell you it is from the United Kingdom. However usually a phone automatically formats UK (and all numbers in fact) with correct spacing when typed in properly... This has none... So BE AWARE!

And again, being output correctly with the correct country code of +223 (Malia), it formats correctly on the phone and will show as from a foreign country on an iPhone or Android device. You know immediately that it is strange to receive a call from a number like this, especially when not expecting a call from a foreign country... so unless you are familiar with it...DON'T CALL IT BACK! 

What if you are expecting a call from a foreign country?

If you are actually expecting a phone call from a foreign country, then of course, you should remember to check the country code to begin with, and number if possible. Then it is always worth double checking on Google before calling back. A few seconds or even a minute spent online to check it could save you hundreds, if not thousands of pounds and a lot of hassle! If you do pick up and they immediately hang up, you have your answer as well. A genuine caller would not do that would they?!

So in summary, what can you do?

There are a couple of other things you can do to help prevent this costing you money, but the most important thing to remember is just don't call them back.

If you want to, you can block the number using the built-in features on the iPhone and Android devices, however do remember that the machines these scammers use generate new numbers and caller ID's regularly, so you will have to continue to block a huge list of numbers every time they call. You may eventually manage to block all, but unlikely and the scammers will probably change their 'game' by then. Some new phones and operating systems allow you to block country codes completely, so utilise that feature if you have the option. 

And aside from all of that, there are apps you can download which help you identify scam and spam calls such as TrueCaller, which is worth installing, however these are not to be relied upon 100% and I do not endorse them, purely because they are only as good as their updates...and these dialling machines are designed to change regularly. So you should still keep your whits about you at all times.

There is another option as well from the carrier end... the majority of carriers will allow you to block ALL International calls, so presuming you are not going to ever need to receive an international call, then give them a call and ask them to put a block on all international numbers. That will definitely filter a lot of calls out. This is not very convenient however for those who have friends, relatives or business associates around the globe.

Good luck and remember to think before doing next time you receive a call from a strange number!

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