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Agents beware: premium rate scam

Monday 15 January 2018

Agents are being advised to remain cautious after a West Midlands agency received an email enquiry which led to their telephone system shutting down as a result of a scam.

The agency's customer service team received a buyer enquiry via email, asking for suitable properties for sale in the Birmingham area. The enquiry was forwarded to four of the agents offices and was followed up by two of them. 

During the return call, which was to a mobile phone number, the applicant indicated that his colleague had a property to sell and asked if he could he join the call by way of a conference call.

One office declined this and the call was ended. The other office however agreed to the conference call and began to take down the details of the alleged seller and the property they were looking to put on the market. The call ended after 30 minutes, and it was later established that the connecting conference call was charged to the agency at a premium rate.

This particular agency fortunately had a fail-safe feature built in their telephone system which is triggered once a daily maximum charge is reached, causing the whole system to shut down. In this instance the agent was only charged £30, however others without a safety system might not be so lucky.

How to protect against fraud

  • Don't accept conference call requests from callers you do not know.
  • If you ever answer a call and it asks you to press a number on your keypad, hang up.
  • Always check your phone bill, and report any suspicious charges to your phone operator immediately.
  • Consider investing in telephone fraud detection software.
  • Remain vigilant and be wary of phone calls and emails that seem too good to be true.

If you have received any suspicious telephone calls, they should be reported to Ofcom immediately by visiting their website or by calling 0300 123 3333.

Our online Fraud Awareness course covers a number of areas, including the primary motivators for fraud and how to identify when fraud is being committed.