Making Cents: How to call the scammers’ bluff

A new phone scam swept across Ireland last week, involving people receiving unexpected calls from international numbers. Liberia and Chad were the most common and no
message was left, writes Grainne McGuinness

We all know the annoyance of a missed call from an unknown number and the temptation to call back in case it is something important. But these calls are an example of the current Wangiri fraud scam.

Mobile users who do ring back are directed to a premium line that will quickly rack up costs while the caller listens to a pre-recorded message, usually not in English.

The Commission for Communication Regulation (ComReg) highlight the dangers of these type of scams and emphasise that “returning calls to unknown international numbers can be costly and we advise consumers to exercise caution when they receive a missed call from such numbers”.

All of which is good advice but will not help people who have already been caught by the scam.

If you fear you have been caught, ComReg has this advice: “The general guidance for consumers if they are concerned that they may have rang back a number that is involved in the scam, is to contact their operator immediately. That way the phone number can be reported and if possible the operator can refund/block any charges.”

I contacted a number of Irish providers for more information but it looks like consumers are unlikely to get refunds if they have been stung.

I asked Vodafone, Eir, and Three if they had any policy in place to assist customers who may have incurred charges by innocently calling back an international number. I also asked if there was a way customers could avoid having to pay the charges.

Both Eir and Three said customers should contact them about these scam calls, even if the customer did not call the number back. Alerting your provider could help prevent other phone users being scammed.

A spokesperson for Three said: “We recommend that if customers don’t recognise the number, they don’t answer the call and don’t call the number back.

“Report the number to Three. Three blocks these numbers as and when they are identified — this block the number from calling Three customers and blocks our customers from returning their call.

“Customers can also block the number on their own phone.”

Eir had similar advice, saying: “We are aware of an issue where members of the public are receiving or missing calls from international destinations. This scam is a telecoms industry-wide problem. Our strong advice is that customers should not answer or return calls to an unknown foreign number. If the call is legitimate, the caller will call you back or leave a voicemail.

“There is no charge incurred when people answer calls from these numbers, only when they call back, and the longer someone stays on the phone the higher the charge will be. eir proactively prevents customers from calling known fraudulent international numbers and we block new numbers as and when they become known.”

However, when pushed on whether the providers would refund or block the charges for customers who had been defrauded, the providers either did not respond or said that customers are responsible for their own usage.

If you have been a victim of this fraud, it is still worth contacting your provider so they can prevent that number being used to scam other users and ask about a refund. You should certainly ask about a refund and highlight your years of loyal custom, if applicable. But don’t hold your breath.

The Wangiri scam is a reminder to phone users that their mobiles can be used to defraud them.

Comreg’s advice is: “Be wary of multiple calls/missed calls being received from the same number that you are unfamiliar with. Do not call back any number that you don’t recognise where there is a blank or no voicemail message left.

“If you dial back an unknown number by mistake — hang up immediately on calls where there appears to be no recipient on the other end or where you are left on hold.”

They also suggest that if you have friends or relatives abroad that may be calling you, store their number (including the country prefix) in your phone and be aware of the prefix for the country where they might be calling from.

Deal of the week: 

In an effort to tempt gas customers to switch before the winter chill sets in, Flogas has launched a 25% direct debit discount tariff.

New residential customers who switch to Flogas for a fixed 12-month contract are eligible for up to 25% discount, with the discount percentage based off the Flogas standard gas unit rate.

The discount is dependent on choosing the direct debit payment option. A discount of 7% is available for non-direct debit customers switching from Bord Gáis.

Switcher.ie suggests the offer could save the average g a s cu s t om er up to €1 59 when compared to a typical standard tariff.

The offer comes in the wake of price increases from SSE Airtricity, Bord Gá is Energy, and Electric Ireland and is now the best discount on the market for new gas customers.

Terms and conditions apply. Find out more information at flogas.ie or by calling 1850 306 800.


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