Nuisance calls, no drama.

Have you received a call from a number starting 020 7946?

I have, and it took me by surprise, because these numbers can never exist.

A little background; I am, and have been for many years, very actively engaged in trying to prevent misuse of telephone networks.

This is a very 'cat and mouse' game, and we have to keep up with the mice who keep trying to find new ways to get calls through, or appear more genuine than they actually are.

Most recently, there has been a move from Withheld / Unknown calls to those presenting a number, presumably because of people (like me) who will ignore anonymous calls.

But these numbers are rarely as they seem...

Spoofed CLIs

Scam artists moved to 'spoofing' CLI, meaning that looking up the number's rangeholder shows a company that has nothing to do with the calls (a concept that even seems lost on BT Nuisance Calls Bureau at times!).

This has led a few companies to have a link on the front page of their website "Are you receiving Nuisance Calls from one of our numbers" leading to something like this

The above provider, Simwood, also puts a recorded message on the numbers concerned explaining calls appearing to come from that number should not be trusted.

The problem with 'spoofing' CLI is that it can be anything, not even a valid number. I could call you 'from' 0123 if I wanted, that's the number you'd see on your phone, but obviously it doesn't mean I have (or can be called back on) 0123.

"Drama" Numbers

Increasingly the scammers are turning to numbers that can't be controlled in this way, numbers that when called back are guaranteed to be invalid, and there isn't even a rangeholder.

These are the Ofcom Drama Numbers, and are the UK equivilent of the ubiquitous American 555 code you see in movies (you know 1-212-555-1234 and things like that)

Some numbers are reserved in all major cities, and these should be the ones used in TV broadcasts.

  • 0113 496 0000 to 496 0999 (Leeds)
  • 0114 496 0000 to 496 0999 (Sheffield)
  • 0115 496 0000 to 496 0999 (Nottingham)
  • 0116 496 0000 to 496 0999 (Leicester)
  • 0117 496 0000 to 496 0999 (Bristol)
  • 0118 496 0000 to 496 0999 (Reading)
  • 0121 496 0000 to 496 0999 (Birmingham)
  • 0131 496 0000 to 496 0999 (Edinburgh)
  • 0141 496 0000 to 496 0999 (Glasgow)
  • 0151 496 0000 to 496 0999 (Liverpool)
  • 0161 496 0000 to 496 0999 (Manchester)
  • 020 7946 0000 to 7946 0999 (London)
  • 0191 498 0000 to 498 0999 (Tyneside)
  • 028 9649 0000 to 9649 0999 (N. Ireland)
  • 029 2018 0000 to 2018 0999 (Cardiff)
  • 01632 960000 to 960999 (Fictitious Area)
  • 07700 900000 to 900999 (Mobile)
  • 0808 157 0000 to 0999 (Freephone)
  • 0306 999 0000 to 0999 (National)

Any call from any of these numbers is unlawful and almost certainly a scam the caller is not to be trusted. Although, in practice, most of the calls I've received have been silent (which is also unlawful)

These numbers should be blocked

There is no legitimate reason for any phone to be able to receive a call from those CLIs unless it is being used as a prop in TV or film.

I would therefore urge all the networks to block these numbers at source unless the customer has opted in to receive them (as you would if using them for film/TV)

They should also consider putting a recorded announcement on calls to these numbers, indicating that it's not only not an active number but it's not, and never can be, a real number and the caller is definitely perpetuating a scam.

Never trust CLI

The ultimate 'takeaway' from this is that CLI should never be trusted, it is no more reliable than the From line of an eMail, or a return address scrawled on the back of an envelope - trying to get that message out to those outside of the industry though is nigh impossible.

Maybe drama numbers are appropriate after all, it's all a big act; fake names, fake companies, fake insurance claims etc...