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UK phone networks to block scam calls from abroad

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Phone providers are to automatically block online calls from abroad that are made to look as if they come from UK numbers, as part of efforts to crack down on a rise in foreign scams.

The communications regulator, Ofcom, said it had been working with telecoms companies to tackle the “complex problem” and would introduce the new measures “at pace”.

The Telegraph, which first reported the news, said the regulator was also considering whether customers should be forced to show ID when buying multiple sim cards, which can be used by fraudsters to send millions of text messages to victims.

Government taskforce to tackle sharp rise in scams during pandemicRead more

Ofcom revealed last week that scam calls and texts had targeted 45 million people in the UK during the summer, and said it was particularly concerned about a “significant rise” in fraudulent communication over the past 18 months.

The regulator said tactics used by fraudsters had become increasingly sophisticated, such as spoofing the numbers of well-known UK companies and organisations. Foreign criminals have increasingly been deploying internet-based technologies to carry out their scams.

Fraudulent calls continue to plague elderly people, many of whom still use landlines. About 60% of over-75s reported receiving a suspicious call to their landline over the past three months.

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Younger people are more vulnerable to text fraud. Three-quarters of 16- to 34-year-olds have been targeted by such scams.

Ofcom said that tackling the problem of foreign phone scams required coordinated efforts by the police, the government and the telecoms industry.

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“We’ve been working with telecoms companies to implement technical solutions, including blocking at source suspicious international calls that are masked by a UK number,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s networks and communications group director.

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“We expect these measures to be introduced as a priority, and at pace, to ensure customers are better protected.”

Rocio Concha, the director of advocacy and policy at the consumer group Which?, said: “As we have witnessed over the pandemic, consumers are being bombarded with scam calls and texts – and unfortunately we have seen people lose significant sums of money as a result.

“It is encouraging to see Ofcom and the telecoms industry working together to develop solutions, which should make it harder for fraudsters to exploit systemic weaknesses to reach potential victims. It is important that companies implement the new measures as soon as possible, in order to prevent yet more scams and ensure that consumers are protected.”