Tens of millions of fraudulent texts and tens of thousands of SIM cards have been blocked with the help of a Home Office anti-fraud service, the Government says.
It said that its 7726 anti-scam service had been key in the reduction of scam texts and the hike in disconnected SIM cards sending fraudulent messages.
New data from telecoms showed that one provider blocked 142 million fraudulent texts in nine months, while another disconnected 60,000 SIM cards that were sending scam texts.
The Home Office said another network reduced fraudulent texts by 97 per cent and cut “smishing” – when fraudsters sent text messages claiming to be from reputable companies to gain access to personal information – from other networks by 76 per cent.
The 7726 anti-scam service provides operators with information and intelligence to help them tackle fraud.
The Home Office said figures show that reports to the service had dropped by nearly 90 per cent – from 500,000 reports down to 50,000 since August last year.
It claimed this was “in line with the reduction in scam messages reaching customers”, adding the National Cyber Security Centre’s takedown service had also removed 2.7million scams online in the past year.
However, Detective Chief Superintendent Oliver Shaw, from City of London Police’s Action Fraud, said this month that phishing scams “continue to pose a significant threat for both individuals and businesses”.
“I would urge everyone to be vigilant of unexpected messages or calls that ask for your personal or financial information,” he added.
His comments came alongside a report from Action Fraud that stated the public had made over 12million reports to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS), with the removal of more than 83,000 scams and 153 malicious websites.
It said the most impersonated organisations in phishing emails reported last year were the NHS, HMRC and gov.uk.
Whilst the public become more aware of some scams, others continue to appear in their place.
Fraud and suspicious text messages surged during the pandemic, prompting network providers and the Government to enact a series of measures in the past nine months to give greater protections to consumers.
This included introducing firewalls to block fraudulent messages and carrying out extra checks on SIM cards.
All major UK networks pledged to roll out these measures, which were set out in the Telecommunications Fraud Sector Charter agreed between the Home Office and Telecommunications sector in October 2021.
Home Secretary Priti Patel stated the charter was developed “in response to a dramatic rise in scam texts during the pandemic, which saw consumers defrauded of around £2.35bn last year”.
“In October 2021, Ofcom revealed that 45million people – the majority of the UK population – had received a scam text or call in the period June – September 2021,” Ms Patel said.
“Signed by BT EE, Sky Mobile, Tesco Mobile, Three, Virgin Media O2 and Vodafone, the Charter sets out nine voluntary actions to protect individuals and businesses from fraud.
“Actions included putting firewall solutions in place to detect and stop scam texts reaching customers.The firewalls use sophisticated monitoring and filtering to identify and block fraudulent messages.”
What else is the Government doing on fraud?
This year, the Treasury Committee published its findings into the state of fraud across the financial services and banking sectors, and beyond.
The group of cross-party MPs’ report called on the Government to legislate against online fraudulent adverts and seriously consider whether online giants should reimburse those who fall victim to scams on their platforms.
Furthemore, the Committee is urging for the Government to legislate when it comes to reimbursements for “authorised push payment fraud payment” to assist victims further when they are targeted by fraudsters.
What to do if you think it’s a scam?
All banks provide advice for their customers about the best course of action to take when faced with an obvious yet dangerous scam.
- The broad advice is to keep your money and details safe. Never move money, make a payment or give personal or banking details for a message that comes out of the blue.
- Only click on a link or download an attachment if you’re sure it’s genuine.
- Look at the spelling and layout. If it has mistakes or looks odd in any way, don’t reply and delete.
- Take your time. A scam may use warnings or threats to try to get you to act without thinking.
- Double-check before you pay. Confirm payment details before you pay an invoice or bill.
- Call the person or business on a number you trust, not one from an invoice or message.
- Besides blocking the sender and deleting the text, recipients can also report the text they receive to 7726.