Woman cuts off attempt at phone scam

KEEPING her wits about her when the phone rang probably saved Joanne McCullagh from becoming a victim of crime. The 37-year-old answered the call at her Stevenage home at about 1.30pm last Thursday. At the other end of the line was a man with an Indian ac

KEEPING her wits about her when the phone rang probably saved Joanne McCullagh from becoming a victim of crime.

The 37-year-old answered the call at her Stevenage home at about 1.30pm last Thursday.

At the other end of the line was a man with an Indian accent who said he was ringing from BT regarding an outstanding bill.

He told Mrs McCullagh that if the money wasn't paid immediately, when he put the phone down the line would be disconnected.


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Then he said that he would accept a part payment of £20 or £50 providing she gave him her account details.

"He was quite insistent but I told him there was no way I would give out my details to someone who just phoned me," said Mrs McCullagh.

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Most worryingly of all, the caller did know some details about her BT account, including that she had a bill due for payment, her account details and her BT password, and the value of the last bill.

In a bid to make the call sound genuine, there was even office noise, including keyboarding, in the background.

"He said: 'Once I put the phone down you'll be cut off and it will be your fault'."

This last statement convinced her something was not quite right.

BT has told Mrs McCullagh it was a hoax.

"I'm extremely worried. I just don't know how he knew all this. We are so careful," she said.

"At the moment we're really, really worried, sick to the stomach.

"Obviously we're not the only ones he's going to try. I'd feel awful if someone got caught out. Everyone's trying to make ends meet."

She advised: "Just be really vigilant. Never give details to someone who rings you, no matter what details they've got of you. Stand your ground."

The police told the McCullaghs that the information known by the caller could possibly have come from a stray bill which was intercepted before it reached them.

"We shred everything, all receipts. The police said I did all the right things," said Mrs McCullagh.

A Herts Police spokesman said: "We would always encourage anyone who becomes suspicious about phone calls or any other correspondence to contact us without delay. Never divulge any personal information over the phone to people claiming to be from a bank or any other utility companies, as they will not ask for this information."

To protect yourself against identity theft, she advised:

* Don't throw away entire bills, receipts, credit or debit card slips, bank statements or unwanted post. Destroy unwanted documents, preferably by using a shredder.

* If you receive an email purporting to be from your bank or credit card provider which asks you to update your details, it is likely to be a scam. If in doubt call your bank.

* With regards to computers, if possible either remove the hard drive from your PCs before recycling or use commercial erasing software to wipe the hard drive.

* Check statements as soon as they arrive. If any unfamiliar transactions are listed, contact the company concerned immediately.

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