Those who have fallen victim to the latest scam insist that they received missed calls from premium numbers but never returned such calls. A large number of them were surprised when they either received their phone bills or were notified by Vodafone that their numbers were being blocked because of heavy usage.
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As per The Money Mail, each of the alleged calls lasted between three to twelve hours and none of the mobile phone users, all of whom are Vodafone subscribers, returned any of the unsolicited calls, believing them to be hoax calls. Those who contacted Vodafone to complain about such calls and requested the amount to be refunded were rebuffed and were asked to pay their bills in full. Vodafone insists that customers returned the calls and were billed accordingly.
'People share these secrets online and use them, but the criminals can be very hard to trace and catch. Our systems have not been compromised or breached,' said a Vodafone spokesperson. 'Our security monitoring systems have identified that a number of customers have returned unsolicited calls, leading to them being charged significant amounts,' he added.
However, Vodafone said that it is taking steps to ensure that customers are not duped any further or made to pay significant amounts. 'We have taken proactive measures to ensure none of the customers affected are out of pocket and have identified and blocked the numbers creating this issue. As this is an industry-wide issue, we are working with Ofcom and other operators to identify and close down this issue as soon as we can.'
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The Money Mail speculates that some crooks hired 0845 and 0843 numbers, set high fees on incoming calls and then hacked phones of unsuspecting users to automatically call back such premium numbers. The crooks then got their share of the billed amount from the network operator, who in this case is Vodafone.
However, it is learnt that Vodafone has started refunding some customers as we speak, including a £375 bill owed by Suffolk-based Diana Dentith after she approached the media. Her unbelievable bill reflected a 12-hour call made to an 0845 number hired by a Canadian firm offering flight delay compensation.
Ofcom has appreciated the measures taken by Vodafone to resolve the issue and stop the scam. 'We are very concerned to hear of a number of people receiving mobile charges they didn’t expect. Ofcom is working with the mobile operators, industry experts and partner regulators to establish the causes and address the problem.
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'We are pleased that Vodafone is blocking suspicious numbers and refunding affected customers. We advise those who believe they are affected to contact their phone company promptly,' said the industry watchdog.
If you ever receive unsolicited calls from a 0843 or a 0845 number, never call back on such numbers as you will be charged premium rates for the duration of the outgoing calls. In such cases, you can either activate Telephone Preference Service (TPS) on your phone by calling 0345 070 0707 and opt out from receiving unsolicited calls or go ex-directory to prevent businesses and sales firms from getting your number through various directory services. At the same time, you can complain to the relevant organisation or regulator about unsolicited calls which you may consider fraudulent or part of a larger scam.