The Christmas holidays provides the ideal opportunity for hackers to dial into business phone systems and do their worst. While businesses may be closed for the week between Christmas and New Year, schools are closed for two or three weeks at the end of 2016 and start of 2017.
This gives hackers ample opportunity to break into a school phone system and run up extortionate bills which would not come as a welcome surprise to business managers when they return to work at the start of the Spring term.
Earlier this year, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) and City of London Police sent out a warning to schools to prevent them from becoming victims of phone hacking during the summer holidays. The same warning applies ahead of the Christmas break.
Also known as telecoms fraud, dial-through fraud, PBX fraud and phreaking, this crime sees hackers target telephone systems from the outside and use them to make a high volume of calls to premium rate or overseas numbers to generate a financial return.
The warning* states that the NFIB has seen a “significant rise in the number of reports made in relation to this type of fraud. Around 6 per cent of the total of these reports relate to a school or college, although this is only based on what is reported and the figure could be much higher.”
The financial losses can be very steep, especially during times of prolonged closure, such as the summer holidays, because lengthy calls will not be noticed until an alarming phone bill arrives.
Cost to schools
Action Fraud has recorded the total losses to schools to be £186,923.09 since 2012 - an average loss of £1,683 per school.
With the majority of schools breaking up at the end of this week, we would urge them to take the time to contact their telecoms provider to see what steps they can take to help protect them from becoming victims of this crime.
Meanwhile, we can offer you a useful Guide to Telecoms Fraud which you may find useful.
* PBX/Dial-Through Fraud Threat to Schools - July 2016