Scottish Daily Mail

200,000 are f leeced by phone scam where you pay to receive texts

- By Sara Smyth

ALMOST 200,000 people a year are being hit by scam texts which they are charged for receiving.

Customers can end up paying up to £4.50 a time for the unsolicite­d premium rate messages.

The messages do not make it clear people are paying to receive them – and they are often being billed for weekly or monthly texts, which advertise competitio­ns, gaming services or pornograph­ic content.

Industry insiders revealed that more than 500 people a day are being billed for so-called ‘premium rate’ texts.

Experts said most victims do not realise they have been targeted, as the sums added to monthly phone bills can go unnoticed.

Fines against scammers charging for the texts, and in some cases phone calls, more than trebled in a year to their highest level for almost a decade.

Last year, industry regulator the Phonepaid Services Authority (PSA) imposed fines of £5.1million, up from £1.4million in the previous year.

Some people have been scammed over a number of years to receive messages they initially believed to be spam and deleted.

Currently, it is up to consumers to approach the rogue companies and seek repayment unless they complain via the regulator.

Peter Carter, 70, a retired brewery engineer of Preston, Lancashire, was unwittingl­y billed £275 to receive texts from a competitio­n provider.

He said: ‘These companies are leeches. They should have to bill users directly – in which case only people who wanted to be charged would pay.’

Mr Carter has since been refunded the money.

In one case, people searching for contact details of organisati­ons ranging from Sky to HMRC were directed to websites advertisin­g premium rate numbers.

Callers were then put through to the legitimate organisati­on’s helpline but for an eye-watering £4.54 connection fee, then a charge of 60p per minute.

The company involved, De Veritate Sumus, claimed it was

‘Companies are leeches’

offering a service where customers could record their call. But the PSA found neither the extra service nor the charges were clearly advertised.

De Veritate, based in County Durham, was banned from operating and fined £850,000 last July.

Labour MP Chi Onwurah, the shadow science and technology minister, said: ‘Mobile phone operators say they have no responsibi­lity for charges coming across their networks.

‘It’s time to review what their responsibi­lities should be and to ensure customers are better protected.

‘I have been a victim of this problem myself and had to complain to Ofcom before it was resolved. It should be easier to make a complaint and to be refunded.’

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