Telephone torment for suicide helpline

Some of the charity's staff who are based in the Lanark office.
Some of the charity's staff who are based in the Lanark office.

The Gazette has been praised after it stepped in to help a Lanark charity resolve a two-year-old problem.

Esteem Clydesdale, a mental health charity based in Lanark, aims to stamp out the stigma surrounding mental illness and help reduce the rate of suicides in Clydesdale.

As a result of a telephone mix-up, it was sometimes receiving up to 100 calls a day, mostly from the elderly, who wanted to provide banking details. And it quickly became obvious that a form of scam was being operated using the charity’s telephone number.

Organisation boss, Theresa Elder, said: “For nearly two years I’ve been banging my head off a brick wall trying to fix the problem.

“Basically, people calling a Hamilton landline number were being diverted onto our Lanark exchange landline.

“Some days people couldn’t get through to us because of the volume of calls we were receiving, and worryingly, a high percentage were from elderly people saying they were ready to provide their bank details, or that they were now sitting at their computers. It was obvious that the calls had to have been linked to a money scam.”

Theresa contacted the Gazette and we contacted both her own telephone provider, Talk Talk and the exchange owners, BT Openreach.

Both companies are to be applauded at the speed in which they swung into action over the issue, with a BT engineer checking both the exchange in Lanark and the charity’s premises for faults that same day.

They have now managed to ascertain that the offending number was one of a batch which was not linked to a physical address, nor does it belong to BT or TalkTalk, but had been purchased and quite likely was being operated from outwith the UK.

Investigations have shown that it was more than likely being used to make cold calls of a scam nature.

BT and Talk Talk told us they had both now reached out to the service provider who holds the number via their internal fraud and investigations department, and that the matter had also been progressed to OFCOM with a request that the number be taken out of service immediately.

Theresa told us: “I am absolutely delighted with this outcome and can’t thank you enough. It’s taken me nearly two years to sort this, but you’ve managed it in a few hours. This will make a huge difference to the charity.”

An Openreach spokesperson said: “Although there was no line fault in this case, our engineers were happy to investigate.

“We’d recommend that anyone experiencing nuisance calls speaks to their Service Provider to get advice.”

A BT spokesman said: “BT Call Protect is a free service for BT customers that helps reduce unwanted calls.

“It has three features that will send unwanted calls straight to a junk voicemail. More than two million customers have signed up already.”

A TalkTalk spokesperson said: “We are very sorry to hear that Esteem had its number targeted by scammers.

“We can confirm that this incident is not related to TalkTalk and would advise anyone facing similar issues to contact their service provider directly.”