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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.

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