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The "Press 9 to Claim Your Prize" Telephone Scam

Homer's picture

A couple of days ago I received this telephone call, the transcript of which is as follows:

You have been randomly selected to receive a Florida Bahamas holiday with all accommodations.
To hear more details press "9".

Now I don't know about you, but to me this is an obvious scam. In fact even the UK Home Office thinks so, and yet when I contacted my phone company, British Telecom, they were rather less than helpful, and indeed the attitude of the person I spoke to was borderline abusive, as she persistently cut me off mid-sentence; insisted this was not a scam; and vehemently denied that there was anything BT could do about it - with a surprisingly aggressive tone, almost as though she was defending something. However, she was somewhat less than forthcoming about what that "something" might be.

I'm quite prepared to believe BT are in fact completely impotent in the face of such abuse of their network, but the very least they could do is hear me out, before cutting me off like an unwelcome guest, rather than listening to the genuine concerns of a paying customer.

And oh how I pay, and pay and pay and pay again, for a service I barely use at all (for voice calls anyway). In fact if it wasn't for my ADSL Internet connection, I probably wouldn't even bother having a land line at all, and yet I am nonetheless billed around £60 ($120) a quarter just for the "privilege" of being on their network. The actual cost of my calls is typically less than £5, but "Option 1" (which is actually the line rental and not "optional" at all) and VAT (yes folks, communicating is a "luxury" that must be taxed) inflates the final cost of my £5 calls by a whopping 1200%.

For that kind of "mark up" (i.e. blatant rip-off), you'd think the least BT could do is offer a little sympathy, when the inadequacies of their service causes a customer problems.

I'm also rather intrigued as to why they were so insistent that this call was not a scam. How do they know for a fact that it wasn't? To me, this sounds deeply suspicious. Could it be that BT are suffering some conflict of interest between their business and residential customers, and that the very thing I am complaining about is actually a source of BT's income?

I've done everything within my rather limited power to prevent nuisance calls, including signing up with the TPS (Telephone Preference Service), and activating Anonymous Call Rejection, but since these scam calls originate from outside BT's network; don't provide Caller ID information; and are therefore classified as "out of network" rather than "withheld number", apparently the ACR system will not block such calls.

Well IMHO it should.

Now certainly anyone with even an ounce of common sense should just hang up on such calls, but then not everyone has the benefit of common sense, or even full control of their faculties. Take the elderly, for example, especially those suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

In addition to the obvious lack of mental agility, such people tend to be more trusting, having come from an era of simpler times. I recall my mother reminiscing about how her phone calls years ago were typically preceded by a long conversation with the operator, with whom she was on first-name terms. She still hasn't quite grasped the concept of talking to a machine, as with so many of today's customer "service" systems.

There are many such people in Britain, and indeed according to government figures there are some 700,000 Alzheimer sufferers in Britain today, with that figure set to rise to over 1.7 Million by 2051.

Who is going to protect such people from the ever-increasing threat of scam telephone calls?

Not BT, apparently.

Meanwhile, I've made an official complaint to Ofcom, the The UK telecoms ombudsman. Let's hope they're more helpful than BT.

Update: Don't get mad ... get even:


Anony Mouse's picture

Its a nice post, Thanks for

Its a nice post, Thanks for sharing.

Anony Mouse's picture

Scam Calls

I get these calls constantly. Mostly local ones from the domestic terrorists. They try all different social accents to try to fool me or get me to "relate" to them. They try to sell me stuff, lately it's Solar Energy. NEVER PRESS OR TELL OR DO ANYTHING THAT SOME TELLS OR ASKS YOU TO DO ON THE PHONE!

Homer's picture

More info

I think I may have discovered the identity of these scammers:

Name: Vacation Promotions
Email: unknown
Telephone number: 1-802-681-4148 (US)
6014 US Highway 19
Suite 100
New Port Richey
FL 34652
Pasco County

This seems to be a subsidiary of another company called Makri Inc., registered at the same address, which owns a number of other companies, including Adsontrucks Inc.

The two company directors are Richard M. Smaldone and Philip M. Rao, who both live at the following address:

9400 Rainbow Lane
Port Richey
FL 34668
Pasco County

When you press 9, you are redirected to a call centre in India owned by the following company:

Name: SK International
Telephone number: 91-22-4076 1000 (India)
SK House, 94-A, Avval Baug,
DSP Road, Dadar (East),
Mumbai 400 014.

More details:

Anony Mouse's picture

I just got hit with this

I just got hit with this today. Naturally, I hung right up. Has anyone sent an SMS to your land-line via BT recently? That's the only thing I can think of that's happened this end, unless they're just pulling numbers out of a hat.

Homer's picture

Ref: SMS to Land Lines

I didn't know it was even possible to send SMS to land lines. I assume certain handsets must have that capability, but AFAICT mine don't, or at least I have no way of telling if such messages have been received.

Anyway, yes I'm also aware of similar scams on mobile networks (scammer gets access to the SIM, then all his subsequent calls are charged to you), and a scam involving PABX systems at businesses (not sure how that one works), but in my case I think it was just trying to redirect my call to a premium-rate number.