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BT direct debit ‘cancellation’ scam

Some dude just tried to scam me by claiming to be from BT. I answered the phone and he quickly introduced himself, confirmed my name and address, and said my BT direct debit had been cancelled. It was odd, though: there wasn’t the usual call-centre background chatter, and the line was poor quality, so I was a little wary. I was asked if I’d cancelled any direct debits lately; I said no. Which bank did I use? I told him. He then said non direct-debit payments incur an extra charge, and as a result of these being unpaid my line had been suspended. I was obviously a little concerned, and he told me I could check whether this was the case: he’d put the phone down, and I should try to make an outgoing call. If the line were suspended, I wouldn’t be able to. He’d then phone back.

I put the phone down, picked it back up, and there was indeed no dial tone. At which point all my baloney detectors kicked into third gear, because he could engineer that – if he didn’t put the phone down and silenced his end, I’d have a ‘dead line’ no matter what I did. Anyone who’s been accidentally called from a pocket knows the recipient of a call can’t force a disconnect. It also didn’t sound like a dead line, it sounded…roomy – just no noise, rather than a null signal.¬†Plus, if my phone line were suspended, I doubt I’d receive incoming calls. This was all a bit too suspicious and I decided it was a scam, so I pulled the plug out of the wall, just to confuse him (I later checked, and I can indeed make outgoing phone calls). If he calls back, I’ll suggest he send me a letter.

I initially thought he was going to ask for credit card info for the extra payments, but it’s more likely he was after my bank details. I figure it’s worth spreading the word, just in case it’s a big operation.

Update: In mid-September BBC News filmed me talking about this.

Update 2: Just to say that while the BBC report was fine, Breakfast had an advice chap recommending you ask the caller to confirm your address. But the guy who called me did know my address, so that might not work. The other advice about asking for the account number might be a better bet.


  1. Tweeted this post as I think it's good to be aware of this kind of scam!

  2. I've not come across this one, thankfully, but I've had enough dubious calls that I now refuse to give bank details over the phone without being *absolutely* certain that I should. If there's doubt, as you say, they can send me a letter …

    I'm tweeting this too. Thanks for the reminder :-)

  3. If you put the phone down for long enough, it does hang up the other end. On my digital phone it definitely hangs up the phone. :S

    Do you have some ancient analogue thing ;-)?

  4. Must admit that the 'dead line' is a bit of a sneaky one but I am always wary of handing details over regardless. thanks for the warning though!

  5. I got scammed by both my credit and bank details, but I thought the call was very fishy at the time, but I was stressed out at the time, Phoned Bt immeditaly after the Scam, I also cancelled my Bank and Credit card immediatly after the call, nothing was taken from from my bank just £20 on my credit from someone to do with O2 at the time of the call, but that being dealt with via there fraud team. I wasn't going to give any details at first but I was stressed at the time, it sounded very fishy all the time, but at least I realised it was a scan straight away.

  6. The real scam is that BT haven’t brought their telephone exchanges into the 21st Century and made them so that either party tears down the call but more importantly that the called party hook state indicates both answer and disconnect and the disconnect does a teardown. So BT – when will you be offering disconnect supervision for the called party on these particular exchanges ? People should be complaining about BT.

  7. Had the same thing last Tuesday , phone call, some guy saying he was from BT, that a letter had been sent 10 days ago and that my phone line would be disconnected unless i paid some money right then for the analogue to digital upgrade of the telephone line !

    None of what he was saying made sense , i explained that phone/broadband was working fine , it wont be after this call he said , would you like me to ring back in 5 minutes whilst you try to make a call .
    I said i wasn’t interested , i asked him for his name , who he was working for – as he didn’t seem to know , i also asked him to start at the beginning again.

    He then told me i needed to relax , have a couple of pints , then he told me i must be thick if i couldn’t understand what he was saying, i replied that i needed his name as i would be complaining to his superiors about him, i asked to speak to his boss.
    Eventually he launched an absolute tirade ,swearing and cursing , calling me all manner of things , then he slammed the phone down.

    I’m glad i took the call and not my wife , she might have fallen for it , i did think about reporting the call but wasn’t sure who i would report it too ,i’m not with BT for line rental , call package or Broadband .I didn’t pursue as i figured that as the number was withheld no further action could be taken anyway .

  8. this has just happened to me.Be very wary, they said i had been sent 2 letters and if i did not pay the 312 owing now the line would be disconnected at the end of the day.I said i would look into it as i had not cancelled my direct debit and would not hand over my card number to anyone over the phone.Line went dead, tried to call bt but its so trickey getting hold of some one that i gave up.warning to all.

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