Ofcom's Scam Call-Blocking Plan Could Save Consumers Millions

A plan by the UK telecoms regulator to block scam calls from abroad could save consumers nearly £10m annually in money lost to phone fraudsters, according to a new study from Comparitech.

Ofcom announced on Monday that the country’s telephone networks had agreed to block calls made from outside the UK but displaying as a domestic number — a common tactic used to add legitimacy to fraudulent calls.

It claimed one network has already introduced the measures, and others are looking at ways of following suit.

Comparitech decided to see what the value of the new strategy would be to consumers targeted by so-called “vishing” and other phone-based scams.

Ofcom last week revealed that 45 million Brits received fraudulent calls and texts over a recent three-month period, which equates to 180 million over the year.

Using Pindrop data, Comparitech calculated that roughly two-thirds (64%) of these are likely to have come from another country.

It then used Action Fraud data from April 2020 to March 2021, which revealed that the average victim of reported incidents loses £296. A Which? study claimed that only 10% of total incidents are actually reported to the UK’s national fraud reporting center.

That means the new Ofcom-led plan could prevent as many as 115 million scam calls per year and save consumers as much as £9.6m.

However, it will only be effective if used alongside other measures as part of a multi-layered approach, argued Comparitech privacy advocate Paul Bischoff.

“This includes these recent regulations from Ofcom, third-party apps that enable call blocking, and initiatives from service providers to combat spam calls,” he explained.

“However, implementing effective network-level call screening would require upgrades to old copper-line infrastructure (something the UK is still heavily reliant on) — and that’s an investment that providers won’t make if they don’t have to.”

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