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Monday 22 October 2018

Explainer: Everything you need to know about the unprecedented phone scam sweeping across Ireland

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Ireland’s telecoms companies have warned customers about a new phone scam that is affecting thousands of people. Here is everything you need to know:

How does it work?

The scam is a 'premium call back' scam designed to have people return missed calls which are charged at extremely high rates.

The calls usually only last for a couple of rings and generally happen either during the night or early in the morning, reportedly so that people may be concerned that it urgent.

How will I know I've been affected?

The calls, often with international prefixes such as +231 or +269, are designed to trick people into phoning back at premium rates.

“Unfortunately there is no way to identify a scam call number, and they can resemble a very normal, familiar, geographical number that we would come across on a daily basis,” said a spokesman for Comreg, the telecoms watchdog. “Do not call back any number that leaves you a blank voicemail message.”

While many of the calls come with prefixes from countries such as Liberia (+231) or the Comoros Islands (+269), some members of the public have reported calls using the Austrian prefix of +43.

What can I do if I've been affected?

Those affected by fraud calls are advised to report them to their mobile operator.

What is being done to stop the scammers?

Some mobile operators are taking action to block the scam numbers from calling any other phones on their network.

“Three blocks these numbers as and when they are identified and this blocks the number from calling Three customers and blocks our customers from returning their call,” said the spokeswoman from Three.

Vodafone is implementing similar blocking measures.

“To protect our customers we implement controls which allow us to stop our customers from calling these numbers back,” said a Vodafone spokeswoman.

How can I avoid being scammed in this way?

Avoid answering calls from numbers that you cannot identify, especially if you are not expecting a call.

• Hang up immediately, on calls where there appears to be no recipient on the other end.

• Be wary of multiple calls being received from the same number.

• Do not call back any number that leaves you a blank voicemail message.

• Do not provide any personal information for example – banking details/PPS number/credit card details/name and address/passport number etc.

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