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Broadband scams: keeping yourself safe from fraud

man wearing hoodie with hood up using laptop
Broadband is an easy topic for scammers to try their luck on. Just as they assume everyone has a bank account or a mobile phone, they’ll consider it a likelihood most people will be signed up to an internet package.

It’s also not unusual to receive regular messages from your service provider. At a glance, you wouldn’t think it too odd to receive a text about a service update or a billing issue.

Unfortunately, scammers cash in on the fact we lead busy lives and feel threatened by the idea of losing our broadband connection.

Key points: broadband scams

  • Broadband scams will cash in on making you feel threatened or vulnerable.
  • Broadband Community Forums are an excellent place to keep on top of current scam tactics.
  • Openreach will never turn up at your doorstep out of the blue.
  • Phishing scams often use fake email which contain links to clones of real website to obtain personal information.
  • Smishing scams are a phishing technique sent by text.
  • Always report a scam or attempted scam to your local police, or Action Fraud.

Some scams can be very clever and complex. Others are less sophisticated and obvious. To keep ourselves safe, it’s important to learn about the ways we can be scammed, how to spot a scam and what to do if we’re worried we’ve fallen victim to fraud.

Over the course of this page, we’re going to take a deep dive into these topics. 

With Broadband Genie at your side, we hope to help you feel more confident and safe online. We also encourage you to share your knowledge with your friends and family, so they know how to spot fake messages, scam calls, or even an opportunist at their door.

What are some common broadband scams?

Broadband scams tend to focus on making you feel threatened that your internet connection will be shut down, there’s a technical fault, or there’s an issue with your billing. 

Common broadband scams include:

  • Claims to be from Openreach
  • Claims to be from your internet service provider’s Internet Security Team
  • Claims to be from your ISP’s Tech Team
  • Claims to be from your ISP’s Finance Department and/or your bank
  • What’s an ISP?

    ISP is short for ‘Internet Service Provider’. This is the company that’s responsible for providing your internet connection and who you pay your bill to.

  • Why would a scam claim to be from Openreach?

    Openreach isn’t an ISP. Instead, it builds the phone and broadband infrastructure that serves UK homes and businesses. It’s also responsible for maintaining the green cabinets you’re likely to see on a pavement. More than 650 service providers use the BT Openreach network, including BT, TalkTalk and Sky. Because of this, the hit rate of finding a broadband customer who’s on an Openreach network, is very high. This makes it an easy ‘in-road’ into a conversation.

Scams evolve and change all the time as they lose effectiveness. They’re also more successful if they’re topical. Think about how many new scams popped up during the COVID-19 pandemic! The cost of living crisis is currently a popular theme.

So, how do you keep up with all of these? Unless you were an expert in cybersecurity, you’d be hard pushed to know all the possible scams going.

Keep an eye out on broadband community forums. It may be the case that your internet service provider has its own space for customers to share experiences and stories. They’re an excellent place to keep on top of the latest scams doing the rounds - even if it’s just once in a while.

Here are some common ways you might be targeted:

On a phone call or text message:

  • Remote Desktop Access: Scammers try to gain access to your computer. You’ll be asked to install remote access desk sharing software (TeamViewer, AnyDesk etc.)
  • Bank Information: You’re asked for personal data such as your debit or credit card details, PIN code or password, or asked to carry out money transfers.
  • Threats of being cut off: You’re told your IP address has been noted, or your broadband has been blocked or will be cut off if you don’t take action (note, this will feel urgent).
  • Fake claims of illegal activity: You’re told illegal activity has occurred on your IP address, or your broadband has been hacked.
  • Router issues: You’re told there's a problem with your router.
  • Fake claims of poor broadband performance: You’re called out of the blue and told you’re having issues and not receiving the speeds you should.
  • Fake calls claiming to be from your broadband provider: A caller claims to be from “your service provider”, or “from Openreach". They're unable to confirm which provider you’re actually signed up with.

In your home:

  • Door-to-door Openreach scams: A fraudster will knock on your door unexpectedly and claim to be from Openreach. They will have no authentic ID. Always remember, Openreach will never turn up out of the blue.

This video, from Age UK, is a good resource for explaining how a door-to-door scam might play out:

What’s are phishing scams?

Phishing is a technique used by criminals to attempt to steal information about a person’s identity. A common phishing technique is to use fake emails which contain links to clones of real websites. At first glance, you might be forgiven for thinking you’re looking at an authentic email from BT, or from your bank. However, there’s normally a link that will head you off to a fake website, or a phone number that will connect you up with a fraudster who will probably ask you to share personal details such as your bank details or passwords.

Emails may also ask you to open an attachment that will likely contain a virus or malware.

Often, these emails have a sense of urgency. They are designed to frighten you into believing you need to act immediately. 

There are a few things you can do to help spot whether a web link you’ve been sent is the real deal.

  • Check the hyperlink: If there’s a link, hover over this and look in the bottom left-hand corner of your web browser to see where this would take you. Look carefully. At first glance, all may seem normal, but tiny details will give this away (i.e www.vodaphone.io instead of www.vodafone.co.uk).
  • Use Google: If you’re being asked to go to a web page, try Googling this yourself to access the website directly.
  • Look for the padlock: A ‘https’ at the start of the web address, or a padlock symbol’ means you can have confidence a page is secure.
  • Check the language: Keep an eye out for spelling and grammar. We all make mistakes occasionally, but scammers aren’t best known for their grammatical prowess! 

Phishing emails can be forwarded to [email protected]. The UK’s National Cyber Security Team will then analyse it and action on it.

What’s smishing?

Smishing is a phishing technique that’s sent by text. The actions in these will be similar to those we’ve already covered, but there are a few ways you can protect yourself.

Make sure you:

  • Never call the number or text back (if you reply, you’ll only open the door to receive more).
  • If you’re not expecting a text, don’t click on links (it’s harder to preview where these are going to on a phone).
  • If you’ve clicked and infected your phone with malware - do a factory reset to remove this (do not create a backup after your phone has been infected).
  • Tweak your phone settings. Android users can prevent downloading third-party apps in their settings and should make sure the ‘Google Play Protect’ function is on.

How do I keep myself safe from broadband scams?

  • Use an app on your Android or iPhone mobile to filter nuisance calls (eg, Truecaller, Call Control, Call Blocker). You may want to keep your landline number private for friends, family and emergencies.
  • Block the number on your phone, or add it to a reject list to avoid repeat phone scam attempts and other unwanted calls.
  • If you speak to someone on the phone, ask them who your ISP is. If they say they’re from BT Openreach and you aren’t expecting an engineer visit, take caution. Openreach will never call out of the blue.
  • If you feel compromised, hang up and call your internet service provider yourself.

I think I’ve been scammed. What can I do?

Scams work well when they catch people off-the-cuff. This means your defences can be down, and you have little time to think carefully about what’s happening. Maybe you had a call earlier in the day, but it’s only after a short while you start to think that it may have been unusual.

As soon as you get these thoughts, go through this list:

  • Check and contact your bank. If you passed over any personal information, payment details or passwords, check your bank statements and inform your bank immediately. Tell them you’re worried you’ve fallen victim to fraud.
  • Change your passwords for critical online services, online banking, emails and work log-ins. Use 3 random words to secure your email.
  • Scan for viruses and malware first of all. If you’re a PC user, Windows Defender antivirus software is built-in and does a great job. You might also want to consider Malwarebytes to be thorough and opt for the free version.
  • Enable 2FA (Two-factor authentication) on all your log-ins, if you can.
  • Set up a password manager, if you’re not already using one.
  • What's 2FA?

    2FA or ‘two-factor authentication’ is a security system that requires two separate forms of ID to access or log in. For example, you may be asked to enter a password and then receive a code on a text sent to your registered phone. There are also dedicated 2FA apps (ie, Google Authenticator) which show a time-sensitive code you need to enter online. 

If you’ve had a scam email claiming to be from Openreach, you can forward this, as an attachment, to [email protected]. If you think an engineer, or someone claiming to be working on behalf of Openreach isn’t genuine, you should call 101 and always report scams to your local police.

Virgin Media customers who suspect they've been approached by a scammer can forward phone numbers or texts to 7726 (this spells 'SPAM' on your phone's keyboard, so it's easy to remember).

Action Fraud is the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre in the UK. You can report any online fraud here, here for yourself, or on someone else’s behalf (ie, an elderly relative or friend). 

The National Cyber Security Centre is a good place to find more information on how to keep yourself secure online. You can also use this to get a free, tailored Cyber Action Plan and find out how safe you are at the moment. 

How do I find more information about my internet service provider and scams?

The good news is that most internet service providers have clear protocols and excellent advice on scams. Here’s a quick rundown of where to head:

Are some internet service providers safer than others?

Anyone’s at risk of falling victim to fraud. Scammers are opportunists. They aren’t necessarily targeting you because of the internet service provider you’re signed up to.

However, if you do get caught out, it’s comforting to know you’re going to be looked after and listened to. Because of this, when you’re looking for a new broadband provider, we recommend taking the time to research its customer service reputation.

Broadband Genie can help you find a new provider that ranks high for customer service.

To find a great broadband deal that’s available in your area, you can type your address into this checker:

Broadband Genie deals checker

Once you’ve found a package that looks interesting to you, you can look for how that provider ranks for ‘Customer Care’ in the Broadband Genie Awards.

You can also take a look at some other customer experiences with that provider by searching for feedback on Trustpilot.

Here are a few deals from providers with an excellent track record for customer care:

Dynamic deal panel
Dynamic deal panel
Dynamic deal panel

Expert Summary

Everyone’s at risk from scams or fraud if they let their guard down. If you want to protect yourself online, a little bit of housework on your devices and some time getting familiar with how basic scams work goes a long way. Enable 2FA on your devices and add an app to your mobile to filter calls. Make sure your passwords are secure and get familiar with your web browser, and how to spot a fake link.

If you know or care for someone vulnerable, you should have an open conversation about how to spot scams in emails, texts and in person. This is particularly important if they are likely to fall victim to cold callers on their doorstep.

You should always get in touch with either Action Fraud or 101 if you feel you’ve fallen victim to a broadband scam. 

Meet the author:

Online Editor

Broadband Genie's Editor, Emma Davenport, has been contributing to the site since 2007. She has 20 years of experience writing articles, guides and tutorials on consumer technology for magazines and online.

Specialist subject: Broadband advice for vulnerable people

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