Telephone Fraud

Andrew Parkes, Swains Plc


Telephone Fraud, Phone Hacking, Dial Through Fraud, Phreaking – whatever you want to call it, this sophisticated crime is real and is happening in the UK now.

The recent economic down-turn is seeing a rise in this form of criminal activity and the UK is one of the top 5 countries being hit and it is currently reported to be costing UK businesses around £1.3 billion per year.

Typically, criminals will hack into your phone system on weekends, public holidays and outside your office hours when they are least likely to be detected and usually will call out to premium or international numbers. It is hard to say how much telephone fraud could cost your business, but it can range from £1,000 to over £90,000 depending on the destination dialed, the number of calls made and how long it is allowed to continue before being detected and stopped.

Many businesses will think it won’t happen to them or affect them if it does. What they do not realise is, that the liability of the debt caused by this criminal act lies with the company or person contracting the phone lines.  Due to the nature of the fraud, justice is very rarely served and any recovery of costs is primarily based on your insurance cover and maybe any goodwill that your provider may offer.

There are some simple steps your business, system maintainers or phone line provider can take to reduce the risk of phone hacking:

Bar Premium and International Numbers

If your business does not need to make international or premium rate calls, ask your line provider to put a bar in place so they cannot be made.

Lock Down Phone Systems and Change PINs and Pass Codes

Phone hacking is most commonly perpetrated by gaining access to a company’s internal telephone system or PBX. Often, this is achieved by dialing in and accessing the voicemail, then they set up a call divert to another number (often an expensive international destination).
It is essential that you change your voicemail PIN / pass code on a regular basis (and ensure they are not still set to the default “1234”). If you don’t require the dial through or divert facilities on your phone system, disable them or ask your system maintainer to do so.

Make Sure You Are Alerted To Suspicious Activity

Where you can, set up email alerts with your provider to highlight any unusual activity. 

Check Any Firewalls Attached To Your Phone System

Make sure any firewall has as many ports disabled as possible and has a strong password.


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