Business Counts the Cost of Telephone Hacking

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A concerned businessman is warning of the dangers of telephone hacking after his company was left with a bill 20 times higher than normal due to fraudsters.

Richard Shute, a Director of Surrey-based office technology supplier BCL, says bandits ran up a bill of over £10,000 in just four days.

He is alerting businesses across the country about the growing threat of telephone hacking or Phreaking as it is also known which can leave unsuspecting victims with huge bills as part of a multi-billion pound global scam.

Phreaking is big business, run by organised crime gangs often with links to terrorism, as hackers re-route calls through affected systems – before often selling ‘stolen minutes’ on phone cards in foreign countries.

The UK is now one of the top five global hot spots for communication fraud – including telephone hacking – which is estimated to be running at up to $80 billion worldwide. According to the latest research from The Communication Fraud Control Association (www.cfca.org) the UK has joined Cuba, the Philippines, Lichtenstein and India where the biggest outbreaks are concentrated – with problems continuing to escalate.

Established in 1979, BCL supplies multi-function copiers and printers to small and medium size businesses backed by an efficient after sales service. The Caterham company works with major brands such as Canon and Ricoh.

Richard pointed out: “Being an independent operation in an ever-changing market, we continually look to supply the highest levels of service and support. Our telephone system sits at the heart of the whole company’s operations.”

His problems began one Monday Summer evening when unusual call volumes were noticed. Instead of a standard monthly bill of £500, BCL was facing call charges of £10,807.

“I was dumbfounded,” Richard recalled. “In just a few days our bill had rocketed out of control. Even though we knew the calls had not been made as part of our normal business activities we were facing huge demands for payment.”

He pointed out: “We called the police to investigate. After making some enquiries they discovered other similar cases but conceded the likelihood of tracing the perpetrators was remote. We were totally disillusioned when they said no further investigations would ensue.”

In a further blow, BCL’s insurance company declined to pay out claiming that it was the company’s responsibility for the security of their phone system. Richard says when faced with the prospect of not being able to receive or make any calls, he decided to pay half the bill of over £5,000.

“As a service provider we would not have been able to function at all without a phone system. In the interests of preserving our business and maintaining the ability to support our customers we felt we had no choice but to pay. At this stage the only solution to prevent further phreaking was to completely disable our ability to make outbound international calls. Our voicemail ports remained protected only by passwords which had already proved completely ineffective against Phreaking,” he claimed.

It was only when Richard made contact with The Callista Group, manufacturers of an innovative software-based firewall for telephone systems, he says his problems were finally resolved – and peace of mind restored.

Distributor Nimans is the exclusive UK main supplier of Control Phreak, a fully automatic PBX (Private Branch Exchange) firewall, and said by Nimans to be the only software-based product of its kind on the market, which has an RRP of £500. Control Phreak provides total around-the-clock protection, detecting and killing all illegal activity, automatically.

Richard concluded: “I don’t think many businesses realise just how vulnerable they are. Certainly we were not aware of the risks posed. I am keen to highlight the problems to other businesses so that they can get suitable protection before it’s too late.

“I would urge any business worried about their telephone security to invest in Control Phreak. For the sake of a few hundred pounds it can save you a fortune and bring total protection. You wouldn’t leave your computer systems exposed to hackers so don’t do the same with your phone systems.”

Roger Ansin, Chief Architect from The Callista Group, emphasised: “There is little doubt this problem of hacking is really happening. It’s no good burying your head in the sand. We’ve recently heard of two companies that nearly went bankrupt due to carriers insisting on payment for fraud-related calls. We are finding that every telecoms equipment reseller/installer we talk to have customers who have been hit. It’s becoming a major problem.”