Residents' premium phone bills shock

By Juliette MaxamALMOST every householder in a tiny hamlet has been sent a phone bill charging them for premium rate numbers they claimed to never have dialled – including a call to a gay sex chatline.

By Juliette Maxam

ALMOST every householder in a tiny hamlet has been sent a phone bill charging them for premium rate numbers they claimed to never have dialled - including a call to a gay sex chatline.

Fourteen householders in New Green, Bardfield Saling, near Braintree, have received bills from BT with a total of more than £1,000 of premium rate calls registered in the early hours on two dates this month.

The premium rate numbers all start with a 0906 prefix and range from a gay porn chatline to an information line about the latest episode of BBC soap Neighbours.


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Stephen Woodcraft, who has been charged for £113 of premium rate numbers, said about 90% of the hamlet's population had been sent the bills and added all the calls had been made in the early hours of May 12 and May 17.

Mr Woodcraft said one villager, a woman aged in her 80s, has been charged an extra £171 for premium rate calls and added the largest bill received was for £204 of 0906 calls.

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"I phoned BT direct and registered a complaint. I've also emailed them and ICSSTIS (Independent Commission for Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Service). Some people have been given a helpline from BT, which is permanently engaged," said Mr Woodcraft.

Jack Penfold, 69, said he had been shocked to find his phone bill was £172 when he normally paid £30 to £34.

"When I rang up BT, they looked at my records and said 'You've got a computer, it's your computer' and I said 'My next-door neighbour doesn't have a computer and they have got a bigger bill than I have'," he added.

"I think somebody's hacked into their computer, not ours, otherwise it wouldn't affect people without computers."

Mark Aston, who received a bill for £252, compared to his usual £40 to £50, said: "At first I thought 'These things happen, I'll ring BT'. But they've been so unhelpful, not really wanting to know.

"They suggested my wife and I discussed it between ourselves and find out who made the calls or reported to the police someone had broken in and made the calls."

Jason Mann, a BT spokesman, said: "As far as the BT network, experience shows the billing system is very secure and the network is also very secure.

"If they have reported it to customer services, we will investigate it properly and carry out the necessary checks to get to the bottom of the whole thing. That would be the case with any customer who reported a problem or had concerns about calls on their bill."

juliette.maxam@eadt.co.uk

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