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Mobile phone scam that leaves you with a £300 bill for calls you never made

Mobile customers are falling victim to a terrifying new scam that leaves them with a giant bill for a phone call they insist they never made. Some victims are being hit with charges of more than 300 for mystery calls lasting up to 12 hours. But they only find out about the calls when they get an itemised bill or receive a text message saying their phone is being blocked due to high usage.

In every case seen by Money Mail, the scam begins with the customer receiving a call from an unfamiliar number that starts with 0845 or 0843. The customer never answers the call typically lasts just a fraction of a second and it’s recorded on their mobile handset as a missed call.

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Mobile Phone Scam That Leaves You With A £300 Bill For Calls You Never Made

Scam alert: Mobile phone customers are falling victim to a terrifying new trick that leaves them with a giant bill for a phone call they insist they never made

Weeks later, the bewildered victim receives a bill showing they called that number back and owe a huge sum.

HOW THE TERRIFYING NEW PHONE SCAM WORKS

1. Mystery call from 0845 or 0843 number

2. Person receiving call usually ignores it believing it is a nuisance caller

3. It appears as a missed call – no voicemail is left

4. Weeks later the victim will receive a huge bill of up to 300 showing they have called the 0845 or 0843 number back

In almost all the cases we have seen, the return call supposedly made by the customer is shown to have lasted between three and 12 hours. Yet the victims have no recollection at all of calling the number on their bill. Many say they didn’t even see the missed call, let alone ring back. Others say they did notice a strange number pop up on their phone, but just ignored it.

Customers who ask their mobile supplier to waive the charges are being fobbed off and told to pay up. All of the cases seen by Money Mail so far have involved phone giant Vodafone, which insists the problem is not its fault. Communications watchdog Ofcom says customers of several mobile firms providers are being hit and has launched an investigation.

The mobile giants admit their customers are victims of a clever scam but seem to have little idea of how it works. One theory is that hackers are gaining access to mobile users’ accounts and making fraudulent calls in their names. Vodafone denies this suggestion. When Money Mail called some of the numbers used in the scam, we got through to the answerphones of several different claims management firms touting flight delay compensation.

But the puzzle of how the fraudulent calls could have been made without customers noticing remains a mystery.

Mobile Phone Scam That Leaves You With A £300 Bill For Calls You Never Made

Threat: One theory is that hackers are gaining access to mobile users’ accounts and making fraudulent calls in their names

Daphne Bagnell from Shirley, near Solihull, usually runs up a 9 monthly mobile bill. But last month, it jumped to 90 after she received a call from a number beginning 08 which she did not answer. Daphne tried to reason with Vodafone, but the phone giant insisted she pay up.

Diana Dentith has barely used her iPhone in the two years that she has owned it keeping it just for emergencies. Her usual bill is just 9 a month. But last month, the 67-year-old, who lives near Lowestoft, in Suffolk, received a text message from Vodafone saying her phone had been blocked. When the retired tourist office manager contacted the firm, she was horrified to discover she owed 375 for a call to 0845 429 0015.

Vodafone insisted she had stayed on the line for 12 hours through the night. But her phone only showed a missed call from the number and no sign of any calls being made to it. When Diana queried the bill, Vodafone insisted she pay up. The firm has since removed the charges, but only after she complained in the media. When Money Mail called the number, we got through to a Canadian flight delay claims firm.

Gillian Innes, 69, a care worker from Ripon, North Yorkshire, faced a shock bill from Vodafone for 176.81. She usually pays just 17.90 a month. She received an 0845 call, but did not hear her device ring.

Mobile Phone Scam That Leaves You With A £300 Bill For Calls You Never Made

Victim: Ruth Dance was hit with a bill for 300 from Vodafone

The phone giant claimed that she made an 11-hour return call to the number and racked up the huge bill. Ruth Dance, from Bracknell, Berkshire, didn’t even notice she’d received a call from 0843 9800 146. But she was hit with a bill for 300 from Vodafone.

Ruth, 52, normally pays 35 a month for her phone. Vodafone staff insisted she must have made the call, which lasted nine-and-a-half hours. When Money Mail called the number, it connected to the voicemail of a firm called Money Help Marketing. Usually, there should be no charge to receive a call from an 08 number. But they can be expensive to call.

One theory is that crooks hire 0845 and 0843 numbers and set high fees for incoming calls. They then hack into victims’ mobiles and program them to automatically call back if there is a missed call from the scammer’s 08 number. The cost appears on the customer’s bill and, like with any premium phone line, the mobile company passes on a share to the company that hired the 08 number. That means the crooks can take a cut of the exorbitant charges. Telecommunications expert Ben Levitan says: ‘There are people who spend their lives looking at phone companies’ systems and ways to make money from them.

‘People share these secrets online and use them, but the criminals can be very hard to trace and catch.’ A Vodafone spokesman says: ‘Our systems have not been compromised or breached.

‘Our security monitoring systems have identified that a number of customers have returned unsolicited calls, leading to them being charged 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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