070 phone scam

So I’m looking to move back to London, and more actively since the announcement of the futher rise of train fares in 2013. I already pay £280/month for my commute. If I could find a flat in zone two, that cost would halve. Of course living in London costs more, but if my rent+council tax + utilities is less than what I’m paying currently, I’ll still be happy.

I had a peek yesterday on gumtree, and this morning, when I arrived in front of our offices at 8:30am, I thought… what the heck, let’s see if gumtree has an app and if there’s anything new posted. The answer was “yes” and “yes”! The topmost ad was for a two bedroom flat near waterloo for £500/month. Clearly a steal, but as I was looking only for private lets, I figured it was possible.

 

 

There was a phone number. I called. 079.xxxx.xxxx
A bloke answered, said “oh, my partner takes care of this, you can call him on 070.xxxx.xxxx”.
It took me a moment to find pen and paper, but he waited, and I took down the number. It was 070, which I wasn’t sure was a mobile number (most are 078, 079, 077, 076…) but I figured that it should be. I called it.
Someone picked up “Oh, hello, can I put you on hold for just a minute?” “sure”…. And I waited about 5 minutes. Then went “Hello?”. He immediately appeared on the line “Just a sec, yeah?”, and bleeped off. A few more minutes went by, and this was repeated. Time was passing, it was nearing 9:00am, so since I knew he could hear me despite being on hold, I told him I was going in to work, that he had my number and could he call me back, as I would quite like to see the flat.

About 20minutes later, at work, I try calling again, this time from the office phone. “Your call cannot be completed” says a mechanised voice. I start wondering if our phones are broken. I try another one. Same message. So I call the original number 079.xxxx.xxxx, talk to the same guy, who again tells me someone is dealing with that flat and can I call 070.xxxx.xxxx. “Yes, I’ve tried that, I was on hold, and I can’t call it from a landline, what’s going on?”. His reply: “Sorry mate”, and he hung up.

Clearly, something is wrong, and whoever I’m talking to has absolutely no interest in letting a flat.

Having read enough about how much telcos can rip you off for in charges, I immediately tried calling Vodafone. I sneaked past their mechanised “press N for Numpty” system by somehow finding “press 2 if you’re thinking of leaving us”. I apologised to the person I was talking to, and asked if they could help me find out how much my last call had cost me. Turns out Vodafone have a 24 hour (twenty four HOUR!!) delay on their call records system (It’s 72 hours if you want to look at the website) and the guy cannot tell me anything at all. I repeatedly ask “how much does it cost to call an 070 number?”. Poor guy has no idea.

I google “070 number” and find a forum about 070 scams. Ouch. I scroll. There’s a mention of reporting these to OFCOM (020 7981 3040). I call, talk to a lovely guy called Martin, who in the end advises me that I should talk to Phone Pay Plus and the Advertising Standards agency instead, as 070 numbers are premium re-direct numbers, most often used for dating sites.

I call Phone Pay Plus (0800 500 212), and they tell me that it’s indeed a personal number, that I should have been told that it would cost money to call it, and that a company called J TEC UK LIMITED (0149 183 2619) owns it.

So I call J TEC, and talk to another lovely guy who tells me that there were indeed some scams about four years ago (auto-dialers making missed calls in hopes people would call back) but there was a huge crack-down on them. He doesn’t seem convinced my experience with this was particularly dodgy, and is under the impression that it’s ok to not be told by anyone (not the person, not vodafone) that I was going to be billed ridiculous amounts of money to make that call. Inconclusive, despite him taking the “dodgy” number down. Eventually we hang up.

I then google “vodafone premium 070” and end up on the Pay Monthly call charges page where, under “non-geographical call charges”, I find “Personal numbers” and that they cost 66.4p/min.

Now if only that Vodafone git had told me that my 10 minutes on hold would most likely have cost me about £6.60, I would have been angry, but I would have stopped freaking out. It’s not £60. It’s £6. Two lunches at work. Still a dent in the weekly budget, but nothing major.

Meantime, I reported the advert at around 9:15 as “fraud” on gumtree. It’s 12:44 (3.5 hrs later) and it’s still there.

Moral of the story: Nobody gives a toss, nobody will do anything, just don’t call anyone from your personal mobile…