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A phone scam warning for all translators in the UK
Thread poster: Cicero

United Kingdom
Local time: 04:49
Member (2008)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Dec 11, 2003

Dear all

I have just received this e-mail, sent from a local police officer:

Please be aware of the following telephone scam relating to home and or
work phones including mobiles:

Your phone rings and you receive a recorded message:
"Congratulations, We are calling to advise you that you have won an all
expenses paid trip to ....... Please press 9 now to hear further details".

If you press 9, you'll be connected to a premium line that bills in the
region of £20 per minute! If you press 9 and connect, even if you
disconnect immediately, the other end will stay connected for a minimum of
5 minutes - at a cost to you of £100 - the message lasts for 11 minutes.

The final part of the call asks you to key in your postcode and house
number (which has other security issues!!) and then after a wait of a
further 2 minutes responds with the message:

"Sorry, you are not one of the lucky winners" and disconnects adding a
whopping £260.00 to your bill!!!
BT advise that these calls originate form outside the UK and as such, they
are powerless to act.

All the best


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virginia ferreira
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:49
English to Spanish
+ ...
oh boy... Dec 11, 2003

What a horrible joke is that?

Thanks indeed for the information.

Have a nice day...


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Local time: 04:49
Thanks dear.... Dec 11, 2003

I'll be on the alert.
Anyway, are you sure that this is not the latest hoax and the message is really from the police?
Thanks a lot!

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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:49
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Not sure, this might be a hoax. Dec 11, 2003

I saw something like this from the Thames Valley Police recently, but in view of the following from
I am wondering if all these warnings are hoaxes.

The most annoying things which can turn up in your email are; viruses, spam, and letters warning about spam, hoaxes and scams, especially those which invite you to email a copy to everyone you know.
While a legitimate warning about a virus, hoax or scam may be appreciated ( if it's from a trusted source, such as a virus protection company ), most are just hoaxes in their own right, and do nothing but waste internet bandwidth and cause unwanted emails for recipients further down the line. They are in themselves a simple form of virus, and at best spam.

Most of these hoax warnings rely on the original recipient's naivety, and use simple social engineering techniques to cause them to send the hoax on. They aren't as damaging as actual viruses, but are none the less annoying.

It is therefore extremely worrying when UK Police Forces start sending out warnings to businesses, about a scam which doesn't exist, and tell the recipient to warn everyone else they know about the alleged scam.

This is exactly what PC Paul Toseland, Corby Business Anti-Crime Network Administrator, did.

Toseland claims, in his email sent to Corby businesses, that there is a scam running, whereby someone will knock on your door, claim their car has broken down, and ask if they can call their partner to arrange a timely rescue.

Having agreed, and fulfilled your role as Good Samaritan, you will later be shocked to find that the number called was a 50 GBP per minute premium rate number, and your phone bill will cause a nasty dent in your bank balance.

Toseland went on to claim that there had been five reported cases of this scam occurring in Luton, Bedfordshire, over a period of a couple of weeks, and that everyone needed to be warned.

Toseland's warning was taken seriously by many, and copies of his email started to flood the internet - After all, this was a warning from the Police.

Some people did question the origin of the email, having doubts about certain "facts" stated in the original email, and wondering if someone was pretending to be acting as an officer from Northamptonshire Police Force, and contacted the Force.

The number of enquiries prompted Northamptonshire Police to issue a statement on the matter, confirming they had sent the email, and although admitting that there had been no reported cases of the scam occurring in Northamptonshire, they believed that there had been a number of cases reported elsewhere.

They also re-affirmed the serious nature of the scam, stating that, to the best of their knowledge, this was not an urban legend as some people have been suggesting.

The Police's only evidence that this scam was operating was that they believed there had been some reported cases of the scam being used, and that they didn't think it was an urban legend.

It finally took a statement from ICSTIS, the Premium Rate Services Regulator, who had been inundated with queries about the Police email, to point out that it was impossible to create a 50 GBP per minute Premium Rate number, that they had received not one complaint about such a scam operating, and they completely rejected the fanciful warning as being the stuff that urban legends are indeed made of.

Rather belatedly, Northamptonshire Police admitted, "We can confirm information circulated ... by the Force regarding a telephone fraud, is now believed to be an urban legend."

Presumably Toseland received notification of the alleged scam and thought it best to let local businesses and their staff know, but it is surprising that he never did what hundreds of recipients of his email did, and checked with the ICSTIS to see if the scam was possible, nor contacted Bedfordshire Police to see if there were any actual reports of the scam being operated.

Most worrying is the claim by Toseland that there was nothing the victim of the scam would be able to do, as they would have given the perpetrator permission to use the phone.

This seems to be highly suspect advice from the Police, and plays into the hands of those who hold the view that the Police are only interested in pursuing crimes which generate revenue for themselves, citing the ever increasing, and seemingly never ending, roll-out of speed enforcement camera systems as an example.

It seems highly likely that the Police do have powers to charge someone who tried to carry out such a scam as it is obviously a fraud based upon deception.

If the person making the call hadn't actually broken down, or the person they said they were calling wasn't the relative they claimed, nor at the receiving end of the call, they would obviously have been lying about the circumstances and their intended actions. Consent for the use of the phone may have been given, but only because the householder was deceived into allowing its use.

Even if a criminal conviction could not be secured because evidence of the fraud could not be established beyond all reasonable doubt, a civil case, on balance of probability, would stand a far greater chance of success. It wouldn't be that hard to identify the criminals involved, as they would have provided details when setting up the premium rate line.

The advice from Northamptonshire Police, that there would be no means of come-back, is wrong, inaccurate and at least incomplete. It is tantamount to saying, try this scam; there's nothing we can do about it. The warning of the alleged scam in the first place is, in itself, little more than scaremongering.

This is not the first time that a UK Police Force has alleged that some crime is likely to be committed without even one shred of evidence to support their claims.

Those involved in anti-globalisation and anti-capitalist campaigns have, in particular, been targeted frequently. These protesters now wait with baited breath, as every May Day approaches, to read the latest Police and Home Office announcements that it expects "anarchists" to descend upon London, intent on causing mayhem and destruction, and almost certainly armed up to the teeth with firearms, Samurai swords and anything else which could be used as a weapon.

Toseland's email may not have had the political motivation behind it as other Police concocted disinformation has had, but some see it, not just as another "clueless user" re-posting a ridiculous hoax warning, but as something symptomatic of deeper problems within the Police Services of the UK.

Businesses and residents of Corby are no doubt fuming that this warning of a non-existent scam has taken up so much of the Force's time, which they pay for, while parts of the local area are becoming known as "no go areas" for innocent residents and workers.

Toseland's email has probably caused Northamptonshire Police considerable embarrassment, by making the Force front page news. I'm sure they would have preferred to have seen their names in lights as they successfully reduced crime in their area, rather than being lambasted for their incompetence, and inability to foresee the damage a misleading email can do as it wings its way across cyberspace.

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Anne Lee  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:49
Member (2003)
Dutch to English
+ ...
truths and untruths Dec 11, 2003

The truth from someone living in Northamptonshire: I have had a call last week starting with a recorded voice saying: "Congratulations, you have won..." (didn't hear the rest, I put down the receiver). So this is not a complete hoax. I have also read the police warnings in the local paper.
But there is an 'urban myth' aspect to this warning. We have been warned to watch out for people who knock on your door with the story that they have broken down further in the street and would like to call their partner for a lift. They then claim to have been put on hold because their partner is in a meeting, and spend up to 10 minutes on the phone. After they leave, it emerges (so the myth goes) that they in fact called a premium rate number which would cost £50 a minute, leaving the householder with a huge phone bill. In fact, there is an upper limit to how much premium numbers can charge, and it is substantially below £50 per minute.
That said, it is amazing how many British people seem quite prepared to phone premium rate numbers to vote for Pop Idol or to take part in national competitions. If you see the prizes given away in these competitions, you realise that some companies are making a lot of money from those calls.
- I just noticed that the urban myth I mentioned is contained in Jack's article, but I will leave it in.
[Edited at 2003-12-11 15:04]

[Edited at 2003-12-11 15:09]

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Uldis Liepkalns  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:49
Member (2003)
English to Latvian
+ ...
It may be true Dec 11, 2003

Some time ago there were similar scams in the US, you return home and find a message on an answering machine “something has happened to your close relative, for further info call… follows the number which by all seems like US number, but actually is in Bahamas (I may be mistaken mentioning exactly Bahamas) or some like region, where codes are the same as in the US, but which are outside the US jurisdiction. You call, are connected with an answering machine (all operators are busy, please wait a moment) and as a result you are charged $250 a minute.


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Valentina Pecchiar  Identity Verified
English to Italian
+ ...
It might be going on in Ireland as well... Dec 11, 2003

Cicero wrote:

"Congratulations, We are calling to advise you that you have won an all expenses paid trip to ....... Please press 9 now to hear further details".

I'm not sure, as I heard the story on the radio while I was driving the other day, but the gist of it (it was a lady telling what'd happened to an elder relative) sounded pretty muche as this one - Final outcome: no holiday, scary phone bill, nothing the phone provider can do about it.

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Local time: 23:49
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

Bahamas Dec 12, 2003

The scam here two years ago was to call a number in the Bahamas, to claim a trip or cruise, and be charged 25 $ CAD per minute. Not 250, but still 25 CAD per minute can really take the fun out of the holidays.
You know what they say : if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Why would you win a contest you've never entered ?

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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:19
English to Tamil
+ ...
Some basic precautions need to be taken Dec 12, 2003

I have entered dynamic electronic locking in my phone. Once this is done, this cannot be violated even by the telephone company people. I have given the settings in such a way that only local calls can be made and no premium numbers can be dialled.
Another thing: The terrorist situation is so bad that one should be careful in letting any stranger enter the house, leave alone allowing him to use your telephone. If you are too kind hearted, ask him for the number and dial yourself.
Sometime back I received a call congratulating me for having won a random lottery of telephone numbers and asked me to attend a "presentation" ceremony. Note the careful use of the noun "presentation". It may mean giving a gift or award or giving a boring lecture of a product promoted by the person concerned. I knew better and declined saying that I am not interested. Whereupon the person changed the approach and asked me to name someone else on my behalf! No marks for guessing which "presentation" he meant.
And then there is this Nigerian scam. There seems to be no dearth of people willing to be conned.

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Lydia Smith
Local time: 04:49
French to English
+ ...
Get these calls all the time! Dec 12, 2003

Just to say I have had loads of these calls recently but I just hang up anyway so I have no idea if it's a scam. My phone just says 'International' so I don't know if it's coldcalling or one of my customers...
I would just say if you're bothered by such calls when you're working, don't be worried about being rude to the person or recorded voice on the other end (sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference!)

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Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:49
+ ...
The responsibility should be the phone companies, surely? Dec 13, 2003

It is obviously not within the power of the consumer to check whether they are being redirected to a pay number. But shouldn't the telephone company issue a warning in such cases. It is technically easy for them to do: a voice comes on before the transaction is completed and states:"You are about to be directed to a pay as you speak number - do you wish to proceed? Press * to agree" - or whatever.

I think it is immoral of the phone companies to allow consumers to be scammed by such techniques.

A woman I know who works as a cleaning lady just got an enormous telephone bill she can ill afford. She queried it and found out that her young brother in law had been on the internet while visiting her house and had been exploring pornography pages. He swears blind that he did not click on any "accept payment" page. It seems that there is a way that your modem can get redirected from the number you usually ring for access, to a pay by the minute one simply by following a link to a particular internet page!

That this should be technically possible without warning a client simply makes the telephone company an accessory to fraud in my opinion. But hell, I am old fashioned enough to have a sense of morality. That seems to have been thrown out the window by our corporate world today.

Have a "con free" weekend,



[Edited at 2003-12-13 10:23]

[Edited at 2003-12-13 10:26]

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A phone scam warning for all translators in the UK

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