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Are scam calls a warning of bigger problems to come with our phone network?

A few days back we had repeated calls from a number showing up as:- 0203769040. This phone number looks like is calling from the UK, as if you don't have the international country code on it. The 020 prefix is the city code for the inner London area, in the UK. But it might not be what it appears to be, as many virtual businesses use 0203 numbers to give off an appearance of being based in London, UK when calling people in the UK. Many firms now offer routed calls from London 0203 to a virtual number directly to any mobile, landline, or VoIP phone, and this is what opens up the system to scammers.

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and redirected calls can be extremely helpful as call forwarding, if used correctly, means a boost in your response times, helping your reputation, and leads to greater customer service. This was highlighted over the Covid lockdowns, when many businesses, including back and government services, used VoIP and other redirected phone services to allow people to still get in contact. Also, for many years, many UK businesses, including ours, have used routed calling to help customers keep in contact.

In the UK the best way to reduce nuisance calls is to register for free with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) In the UK it’s a legal requirement for organisations not to call a TPS registered number after 28 days. If an individual is registered, after 28 days from registering, you’re likely to notice a drop in telemarketers contacting you, but may not block scammers. Registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is the UK's only official 'Do Not Call' register. But you have many other ways to help fight the scammers.

There have always been issues to balance between protecting the real callers and banning fake callers, all over the world. Sadly, many fake call centres targeting the UK still get past restrictions as they are not registered with TPS and are not working within the UK. In recent months this issue has even had the Labour Party saying it now has plans that would take on foreign fraudsters who are targeting people in the UK with scam calls. Any system that would bar them from using phone networks in Britain seems like a good idea on paper, but in reality, it would be very unrealistic that it would have much effect in the long run. Even with the most stringent controls possible on scam calls from overseas, stopping them would be like asking the Canute to hold back the tide.

There are many products to block some calls (like international calls or withheld numbers) but be careful, as they don't always work, and blocking the number is also often pointless, as these call centres often keep changing numbers. Also, any systems set up to block nuisance calls​​ can also block calls you want!

Over the last few years, we have seen more and more VoIP calls originating from abroad, so even blocking international calls is not very effective, as those numbers show up as UK numbers on caller ID. This tactic is commonly used by fraudsters and also aims to hide the location of the call centre from the authorities. Most of the spam calls you receive are likely using spoofed numbers that are operated by scammers from all over the world. Some more sophisticated scammers even have ways to make the number appear to be the number you would expect to see for that business that they are reportedly calling you from! If they say they can confirm they are who they say they are, and ask you to look at a website, beware, as many now have fake websites that look like the group they are 'calling you from.' Plus these websites often now have other scams and viruses that can affect your computer.

We can all aim to reduce the number of nuisance calls we receive by taking simple steps. The 1st step is registering for services like the TPS service and reporting numbers to the authorities. But, the biggest solution is, never to give any private or confidential information out over the phone. If you get a call that asks you for information, we suggest you just put the phone down and never call back any calls from numbers you don't recognize.

So what do you do when you get a suspected fake call, trying to say they are something they are not, such as a bank or your phone provider? If they call you on your mobile and you are in the UK, you can text the word:- 'CALL' to:- 7726 or send (send what?) the you have received text to:- 7726.  Never give out:- email addresses, phone numbers, 1 time passcodes, or any other security information. Also, never give out any personal information to a caller, such as if you are heading to school or work. some scam call groups make note of this information and use it in more sophisticated scams or to make a call a few weeks later some more convincing.

Worryingly, within the UK, BT has taken the decision to retire the PSTN, (Public Switch Telephone Network) or what you might call the traditional landline analogue phone system, by December 2025, and other providers plan to follow a broadly similar timescale. This means that in the future, landline calls will be delivered over digital technology called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which uses a broadband connection. VoIP systems offer internal calls regardless of location, including between remote workers, and could also mean an end to the prefix system, that we all know now. Already, this ability to use the phone system remotely is being hijacked by scammers for phishing scams and other forms of social engineering scams. This is when attackers deceive people into giving customer information or getting them to do things, such as pay nonexistent bills or downloading computer virus scams... But what can the UK Government and you do to stop them and will our push to VoIP lead to even more issues to help spot scams? We have yet to get any information back from the government or the phone industry about this looming issue. Will this kill the phone system as we know and love it?

New plan to triple housebuilding delivery and add:- "billions" to Northern economy

A "once in a generation" plan to tackle the North of England's housing crisis and provide more and better homes for the Region is revealed.

Homes for the North's blueprint will treble the number of houses being built and create billions of pounds of economic growth.

The organisation; an alliance of the Region's biggest housing associations; has today published its Plan for More and Better Homes which sets out how a new Government can turbocharge housing delivery across the country and provide real levelling up to some of the UK's poorest areas.

1 in 3 of these projects is located in local authority areas, including:- Liverpool, which are in the top 10% most deprived in England.

Exclusive polling also reveals that homebuilding is a key electoral issue for voters in marginal Northern constituencies, with 7 in 10 swing voters saying the issue will shape their decision at the next election.

The scale of the housing shortage is undeniable, with research showing that the North of England needs 2 million new homes by 2050 to fulfil its economic potential, and 100,000 homes in need of significant upgrades or replacement or in the medium term.

Housebuilding in England alone is expected to fall far short of the Government's target of 300,000 new homes per year, and even to fall to just ½ of that level following changes to planning policy, at a time when new good quality homes are needed more than ever.

Barriers such as:- net additionality rules, funding gaps, multiple landowner negotiation challenges, and under-resourced local authority planning departments are holding up crucial home building projects.

In the North, of 80 regeneration projects slated to be delivered in partnership with housing associations over the long term with public funding, only a quarter have secured the required funding in full, and over ½ have no public funding in place to enable their delivery.

An example of the kind of essential development which the plan could help bring to life can be found at Hartley Locks at Lightbody Street in Liverpool. The flagship £52 million project, which is expected to be complete in Spring 2025, sits at the heart of the historic northern docks. The development will turn disused brownfield land into 185 apartments and townhouses, all of which will be available for Rent to Buy.

However, without action from national and local policymakers, much needed housing projects like this are likely to falter.

By taking a strategic approach to investing in local delivery partnerships, providing long-term certainty on rent and grant subsidy, and linking Local Plan making to Regional economic targets, the Plan will add £3.9 billion of gross value added to the UK economy, deliver 42,920 homes, and regenerate 80 communities, which is enough to provide almost 59,000 people with a year's work.

Homes for the North chair Steve Coffey said:- "Our Plan provides the 1st ever comprehensively-mapped vision of regeneration opportunities across the North, and would deliver what the Region, its people and economy need; more and better homes. With housing associations at the heart of new local delivery partnerships, our Plan is a roadmap for Government to unlock blockages and delays in housing delivery and shows how regeneration can interlock with key infrastructure and centres of growth. We know that housing will be a huge focus at the next election. This is a once in a generation chance to rapidly increase the number of good homes being delivered while providing real opportunities for Regional economic growth."

In the short term, the Plan sets out how; with a supportive policy environment; the number of homes scheduled to be built in partnership with Homes for the North members in the next 5 years could be trebled to nearly 10,000.

This could unlock £1.2 billion of investment in construction and add £910 million gross value to the UK economy. It would also provide a year's worth of work for over 13,500 people across the UK, with around three quarters of these in the North.

Joining up new homes with key infrastructure and other public goods, including:- investment corridors, Freeports, Regionally significant transport projects, and centres of innovation, will also be essential to help regenerate Northern communities and boost the local economy.

But what about Swing voters? There is clear political imperative for politicians of both major parties to support plans to accelerate home building in the North of England:- private opinion polling commissioned by Homes For The North in 15 marginal Parliamentary constituencies across the North of England show that Northern voters do not share the NIMBY tendencies of their Southern counterparts.

A total of 65% of people say that there is too little affordable housing in the North, while 68% of those polled said they supported the building of new homes, and 64% of these saying they specifically supported the building of new homes near them.

There is also broad consensus that the Government, MPs, Metro Mayors, and Councillors are doing too little to ensure enough high quality housing is available in the North. Crucially, 64% of respondents said that a party's policy on housing will be an important factor in how they decide to vote at the next election.

Among swing voters that number rises, with 69% of those surveyed in marginal Northern Parliamentary Constituencies saying housing will influence who gets their support at the next election.

Let us know your thoughts on this news topic... Email our Newsroom at:- News24@SouthportReporter.Com or send us a message on:- Mastodon, Facebook, or Twitter.

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