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Police warning about fake telephone preference service

Staffordshire Police have issued a warning about criminals pretending to offer a telephone preference service and then stealing money through a direct debit.

They have seen an increase in reporting of telephone frauds in Staffordshire during February this year, according to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, fraudsters are cold-calling victims, falsely stating that they are from one of the well-known UK telecommunication service providers. They call victims claiming to provide a ‘Telephone Preference Service’ – an enhanced call-barring service, which includes barring international call centres.

The fraudsters inform victims that there is a one-off charge for the service that does not exist, and ask to confirm or provide their bank account details. Victims instead see monthly debits deducted from their accounts, which they have not authorised. The fraudsters often target vulnerable and elderly victims and this is the case in Staffordshire.

In all instances, direct debits are set up without following proper procedure. The victim is not sent written confirmation of the direct debit instruction, which is supposed to be sent within three days. On occasions when victims attempted to call back, the telephone number provided by the fraudster was either unable to be reached or the victim’s direct debit cancellation request was refused.

There is only one Telephone Preference Service (TPS). The TPS is the only official UK ‘do-not-call’ register for opting out of live telesales calls. It is free to sign-up to the register and TPS never charge for registration. You can register for this service at http://www.tpsonline.org.uk. Plus, for genuine direct debits, you will receive postal confirmation. If you notice unauthorised payments leaving your account, you should contact your bank promptly.

DI Robert Harvmann, Fraud and Financial Investigation Unit for Staffordshire Police, said; “Always be wary of providing personal information to cold callers. Don’t confirm any personal information the caller already claims to hold as correct. Always be certain that you know who you are talking to. You may be pressured or demands made of you, remember, don’t panic, take five and if in doubt hang up immediately.

“If you believe you have been affected by this, or any other type of fraud, report it to Action Fraud by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.”

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