Dental health charity warns of premium-rate phone scam

The Oral Health Foundation says fraudsters have been giving out premium-rate numbers that connect to the charity's helpline, with some users running up large bills

A health charity has warned people to beware of scammers who provide fake numbers for its telephone helpline, with users hit by inflated charges.

The Oral Health Foundation said it had discovered that someone had been giving out a bogus premium-rate number in place of its standard-rate dental helpline number.

When people called the number they were redirected to the helpline, but were charged for being connected through the premium number in the first place, running up large bills.

In a statement released today, the charity emphasised that the only number for the dental helpline was the local Rugby number, 01788 539 780.

The helpline has received 400,000 enquiries since it was launched in 1997.

David Arnold, head of communications at the foundation, said the fraud came to light when a string of people contacted the charity to say they had been charged large amounts of money for using the helpline.

"We spoke to them and during the conversations it became clear that the numbers they had called were not ours," he said.

But Arnold said that although the charity was investigating the source it was difficult to trace who was placing the bogus numbers because they were appearing online.

Third Sector found two websites purporting to show the number for the dental helpline. Both were 0845 numbers, which can cost up to 10p a minute from a landline and 40p a minute from a mobile. One website displayed the charity’s logo and another featured an article quoting the charity’s chief executive, Nigel Carter.

In a statement about the scam, Carter said if people had been given any number except the 01788 one, they should tell the charity.

"The welfare of those who reach out to our dental helpline is really important to us," he said.

"It is always best to check the validity of a helpline number before calling or signposting people towards it. This is especially true if it is about a person’s health. In this case, their financial safety might be at risk too."

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