Phonejackers leave Holloway charity with �1,000 bill

PHONEJACKERS have cost an Islington charity more than �1,100 in call charges after tapping into its phone lines to make international calls.

Women and Children First UK, which is based in North Road, Holloway, noticed something was wrong when received a flood of calls and answer phone messages from countries as far flung as Afghanistan, Ecuador, Sierra Leone, Nepal and New Zealand.

The charity’s phone provider, Class Telecom, immediately put a bar on the line - but it was already too late.

Within a ten-day period the fraudsters had made 2,456 international calls using dial-through fraud – a scam redirecting calls through a company’s voice mail service.

Ros Davies, chief executive of Women and Children First UK, said: “We will pay it with great difficulty. It’s been a difficult year with the recession and we certainly hadn’t factored for such a large payment. The amount we planned to spend for the whole year on phones is �356 – we’ve already spent �267 of that.”

The small charity works to save the lives of mothers and babies in some of the world’s poorest communities. Its work has resulted in a 45 per cent drop in infant mortality in India, Bangladesh and Malawi. The unexpected cost will delay its plans to set up a new mother and child project in Ethiopia.

“It will take us quite some months after this bill to raise the money again,” said Ms Davies “We probably won’t be able to visit until some time next year.”

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“The vast majority of our income is committed to the work overseas, and it is terribly hard for us to meet unexpected expenditure. We don’t have spare funds lying around in our bank account.”

Class Telecom say this type of fraud is often related to organised crime. It has agreed to pay half of the �1,114 bill and stagger the charity’s payments.

Jonathan Levy of Class Telecoms said: “Dial through fraud is unusual and it doesn’t happen very often. But across the industry and the UK it’s an all too common occurrence.

“It’s extremely sophisticated and every situation is unique – unfortunately this time is was a charity.

“We specialise in providing service to the voluntary sector so we understand their predicament. It’s not them and us - we’re very sympathetic to their position. We will not make a single penny from this.”

Detective Inspector Keith Blundy, who oversees Islington police’s crime management unit, said: “It is unfortunate that in this instance there are no leads to go by and without any more information we cannot investigate this crime any further.

“The company have had their IT expert analyse the phone line and he has been unable to find how it was intercepted or used.

“We strongly advise businesses to invest in a secure phone and computer system that is both fire walled and locked down to prevent fraudulent use.”

- To make donations and help Woman and Children First UK pay the bill call 020 7700 6309.