How to spot if you've been contacted by a broadband phone scammer
Phone scams are unfortunately common these days, and many people fall victim to them as the scammers can be very convincing and catch vulnerable people unawares. Most people are aware of financial bank scams, or people claiming to be from Microsoft saying there's a problem with your PC so they can get you to install malicious software. Similarly, broadband customers are reporting that they're getting contacted by scammers claiming to be from BT Openreach, and that there is something wrong with their router.
It's easy enough to make sure you're not caught out by this, and we've got some information to arm yourself with so that you can stay safe.
BT Openreach will never contact you directly out of the blue
BT Openreach don't provide internet service directly. They're responsible for running and maintaining the phone/broadband network and aren't directly involved with the public. If BT Openreach need to be involved then it's to do with needing to fix faults on the line, and your Internet Service Provider will deal directly with them. In the case of a faulty router, BT Openreach wouldn't be involved at all, as it's either you or your provider who supplied the router.
Your ISP is also highly unlikely to contact you out of the blue like this
If there are problems with your individual router, your ISP won't know about them, and you'd need to contact customer support to report a problem yourself. In the event a problem is discovered with a batch of routers, your ISP would make an official statement on the matter, most likely this would be via the email registered to your account, or via letter.
If there was a genuine problem with your router
There are simple checks to be done before you even get to checking the router itself, such as replacing cables or filters. These are basic first steps that all staff will ask a customer to run when they are contacted.
You won't find any information by running some random command on your PC. For example, 'perfmon' is a common command scammers ask you to run, which is related to the performance of your PC, nothing to do with your router or your internet speeds. You'd need to access the router directly to get useful information, usually by putting the local IP address to it into your internet browser (such as 192.168.1.1).
There are some simple things to do to check if a scammer has contacted you
- Ask them who your ISP is - they either won't know, or if your ISP is BT, the anwer should not be BT Openreach. Genuine BT customer support staff all know this.
- Ask them what model your router is - odds are they'll give you a generic answer of 'BT Hub' because they have no way of knowing. If there's a problem as they claim, then they'd know that information.
- Ask them how to access your router to find the information - they have no good reason to insist you run checks on your PC.
- Take note of the number that called you, and do a Google search for it - usually the first results will reveal it is a known number used for scams. If it's a number associated with your ISP, that will be obvious in the search results.
Remember, it's always better safe than sorry when it comes to phone scams
If you're really unsure of whether it is a scam or not, say you'll contact your ISP customer services directly and hang up. If the call is genuine, then the caller will have your security interests at heart and won't mind you hanging up to run checks to verify that they're legitimate.
If you do contact your ISP directly, be aware that some scammers keep the line open so they can pretend to be the company you're trying to contact. It would be a good idea to contact your ISP with a different phone (such as your mobile) or use other methods of contact, such as live chat online, or call someone you know to clear the line first.