A widely shared Facebook post is warning people not to call a premium-rate telephone number that doesn’t exist any more.
The post features an image of a sheet of paper which reads: “To all. There is a scam going around this Christmas. You may get home and find a card on your mat from PDS (Parcel Delivery Service). They will tell you that you have missed a delivery and need to ring them on 0906 6611911.
“If you ring this message you willhear [sic] a recorded message. Once this has started you have already been billed for £315. This is a very expensive premium rate number! If you find one of these cards please call Royal Mail Fraud on 0207 239 6655. Many thanks".
This particular post was originally published in 2015 but has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent days. In total it has been shared over 250,000 times.
The premium-rate number warned about was once in operation, but was shut down in December 2005. Under Ofcom rules people who ring an 09 number now could not be charged anything like £315 for a one-minute call.
Where it comes from
The warning in the post refers back to 2005 when, according to fact checkers from Snopes, a number of cards bearing the first phone number in the post were delivered to some UK houses. The number was investigated by the UK regulator for all content, goods and services that are charged via phone bills, and shut down in December that year.
The regulator, which has changed name several times and is currently known as the Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA), has repeatedly issued statements clarifying that the line is no longer in operation.
The Belize-based company that operated the service was subsequently fined £10,000, according to the statements.
The out-of-date warnings continue to re-emerge on a regular basis, usually in the run-up to Christmas. They have been highlighted by the Guardian, Action Fraud and Surrey Police, to name a few.
This is an example of a “zombie claim”—a false claim that crops up repeatedly over the course of weeks, months or years. The claim simply refuses to die off, even after being repeatedly debunked.
Calling the second number in the post, 0207 239 6655, connects to a recorded message from the Royal Mail Group Security Helpdesk which confirms that the premium-rate number is no longer in operation.
It is worth noting that, although there are a number of scams that involve getting members of the public to unwittingly call premium-rate phone numbers, under current charges it would have to be a very long phone call to cost £315.
The PSA limits the maximum amount that can be charged on any premium-rate phone line. The cost will vary slightly with different phone companies, but the maximum charge for a one-minute call nowadays would likely be closer to £10 than £315.
Image courtesy of RoseBox