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New Ofcom Rules "Could Help Tackle Vishing"

New consumer protection rules designed to combat nuisance calls could have an unexpected bonus: helping to prevent voice phishing (vishing) scams, according to experts.

Ofcom’s latest rules come into force on October 1 and will ban phone companies for charging for the Caller ID service that helps users screen their calls. They will also mandate that any phone numbers displayed to users must be valid and can be called back, and that phone companies must block calls with invalid numbers.

After October 1, Ofcom will also be able to take back whole blocks of numbers from telcos if they’ve been used time and again to carry out nuisance calls, fraud and similar.

“It’s important that our rules keep pace with developments in the communications market, and continue to give consumers the protection they need,” said Ofcom consumer group director, Lindsay Fussell.

“Our strengthened rules will help to protect people against nuisance calls and support our work to identify and punish those companies responsible.”

Given the number of big-name fines the ICO has been levying recently on nuisance call companies, the new rules will be welcomed by consumers.

However, they could also help to tackle vishing, according to Andy Kays, CTO at security firm Redscan.

“Calling potential victims pretending to be their bank, utility provider or pension company, with the aim of obtaining payment details, is a popular money-making tactic for fraudsters. Modern technology makes it easy for criminals to hide their identity or even mimic the number of a real company or person who may be known and trusted,” he argued.

“Any protection rules that compel phone companies to help reduce the number of nuisance or criminal callers is certainly welcome, particularly as most scam victims are liable to receive no financial compensation, even if they lose their life savings. While these new measures won’t put an end to phone scams entirely, fraudsters will now find it harder to scale up their activities.”

However, consumers must continue to be vigilant when receiving unsolicited calls and never give out personal information.

“Instead, ask for the phone number needed to call the person back and if still in doubt verify this online and against any official correspondence,” said Kays. “Wait at least five minutes before returning a call — this ensures the line has cleared and you're not still speaking to the fraudster or an accomplice.”

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