ICO Reveals 60% Rise in Nuisance Contact Reports

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The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) recorded a 60% rise in reports of nuisance calls, texts and emails in the first six months of 2021 compared to 2020, according to official figures analyzed by litigation firm Griffin Law.

In the first half of 2021, the ICO received an average of 13,925 reports of nuisance calls, texts and emails per month; this compared to just 8680 per month throughout the whole of 2020. The disparity was even greater when comparing the total number of reports in the first half of 2020 with 2021 (38,269 vs. 83,558, an increase of 116%).

The majority of nuisance contact reports in 2021 related to telecoms services, such as broadband, tv or phone, averaging just over 2000 per month. This was followed by communication relating to banking (1059 per month) and accident claims (620 per month).

In contrast, the most frequent type of nuisance contact in 2020 was accident claims, with an average of 1946 reports per month. Interestingly, calls, texts and emails relating to telecoms services averaged just 1182 reports per month during 2020, while for banking it was 534 per month.

The month with the highest number of nuisance contact reports was March 2021, at 17,728. This compared to just 6484 reports in March 2020.

Griffin Law also noted that the most active month for nuisance calls in 2020 — October at 13,131 — is still less than five of the first six months of 2021.

Security experts believe these figures are linked to the surge in social engineering scams and cyber-attacks since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ed Blake, area vice president EMEA for Absolute Software, explained: “’Nuisance’ contact has become synonymous with malicious cyber-attack attempts, which usually starts with a phishing, spam or malware email or text, sent to a recipient under the guise of a legitimate service or brand name.

“This is not to say that all reports of nuisance contact have malicious undertones, but it is certainly something that end-users and business decision-makers must be aware of, particularly as the remote working climate has increased the cyber threat facing businesses.”

In June, the ICO fined a home improvement company £130,000 for inundating consumers with nearly a million nuisance calls.

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