Smartphones see return of premium rate scams

There's a new kid on the block when it comes to scams '“ and it might have been affecting you without you even realising it.
Charges for 118 calls are sky highCharges for 118 calls are sky high
Charges for 118 calls are sky high

Last year nearly 20,000 people made a complaint about a mobile phone issue – and numbers are rising. Most people in the UK have a smartphone these days, and there’s a bewildering range of tariffs out there for us all to chose from.

Many of us opted to go for online only bills too – then promptly forgot our passwords. So we literally only know what amount we’re paying each month, not how that sum was reached.

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Enter the premium rate phone scams. Remember the bad old days of 0898 numbers and huge bills? The premium rate phone industry is still around, it’s just rebranded itself.

I’ve been warning about 118 directory enquiries for years now, but I’m still hearing horror stories. These scams work by charging not just for making an enquiry, but for the ongoing cost of the call if you agree to be transferred through. You’ll be paying by the minute and the charges can be astronomical. I’ve seen upwards of £60 for a ten-minute phone call.

Next up are premium rate text messages. If you enter one of those “text to win” TV competitions or sign up for a free offer from a firm on the understanding they’ll text you every now and then, you might have unwillingly found yourself being billed a few quid for a load of spam text messages that you don’t want.

The good news is there is a regulator for premium rate phone charges – and you can take the matter up with your mobile phone company too if you feel they should have alerted you to excessive charges.

Here are Resolver’s tips on how to deal with dodgy firms:

Don’t ignore your bill. It’s likely that the vast majority of people affected by dodgy phone charges don’t know it. The charges might not stand out if you pay by direct debit and your monthly bill varies. Get into the habit of scanning through your bill and questioning unexpected charges.

Get your mobile provider to resend your online login information and set a password you’ll remember, then check each month. Lots of us don’t check our bills because we’ve opted for online billing but can’t remember our login details.

Be a sceptic. Don’t trust “text in” premium rate competitions numbers which can mine your details. If you want to donate to a charity, check online to find out how you can make a regular payment that you can control. Never give details to “adult” services.

Make a complaint to your mobile phone company. If you explain that you haven’t authorised the payments, the business should block the charges and should consider a refund. If you don’t know how to get started, Resolver can help you for free.

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Failing that, you can take a complaint about a mobile phone provider to the ombudsman if they’ve failed to help you with your dispute.

Rubbish service should never be accepted. So, if you’ve been driven mad by a dodgy firm charging your bill, report them to regulator the Phone-paid Services Authority.

So check your bill right now. You might find you’ve been ripped off – but you could also get your cash back if you’ve been overcharged by the premium rate cash cons. Get in touch and let me know how it goes. And watch this space… I’ve got many more “stealth scams” to expose.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service