Ofcom Set to Crack Down on Phone Fraud

The UK telecoms regulator has announced new measures designed to crack down on scam phone calls that use fake numbers to trick their victims.

Ofcom previously said that 45 million people received a scam text or phone call during the summer.

Fraudsters often try to spoof the number of banks and other institutions in order to persuade targets of the legitimacy of their request for personal and financial information.

Under the new measures, all operators will be required to identify and block spoofed numbers. Ofcom said this could be done in several ways. Prime candidates for blocking are calls originating from abroad that do not have a valid caller ID, those that use a number which doesn’t fit the UK’s 10- or 11-digit format, and calls appearing from numbers already on Ofcom’s 'Do Not Originate' list.

This is a list of numbers that organizations such as banks and government departments never use for outbound calls.

As well as blocking spoofed numbers, Ofcom is proposing new guidance for operators to help them prevent scammers getting hold of legitimate numbers.

It now expects operators to run 'know your customer' checks on business customers, which could include checking Companies House register, fraud risk databases and the FCA’s Financial Services Register for any information indicating a high risk of misuse by prospective users of newly allocated phone numbers.

Ofcom will also expect phone companies to suspend numbers and report evidence of fraud to law enforcement where appropriate.

“The threat posed by scammers has grown significantly in recent years, and the sophisticated tactics used by these criminals can have devastating consequences for victims,” argued Ofcom’s director of network infrastructure and resilience, Huw Saunders.

“We’re taking action so phone companies have stronger systems in place to disrupt scams. While there is no silver bullet that will end the scourge of scam calls completely, we’re working with industry on how we can use technology to make it as difficult as possible to reach people.”

The move was broadly welcomed by KPMG UK's head of investigations and corporate forensics, Roy Waligora.

“To make any headway in fighting fraud, there has to be a collaborative approach from all parties involved – that’s why it’s so great to see Ofcom supporting phone companies to identify new ways to combat phone and text scams. However, we also need banks and the consumers themselves involved so that we are tackling this issue from every angle,” he said. 

“While the new rules state that all telephone networks involved in the transmission of a call will be expected to block numbers that are clearly spoofed, the most sophisticated scam calls will still be able to get through. More support for consumers – including education campaigns – must be incorporated into this strategy, so that they have the tools to know whether they are at risk of being defrauded by a criminal at the end of the phone.”

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