December 5, 2021 In 'hotline', inundated

Scam ‘hotline’ inundated as fraud measures are beefed up

Aemilius Cupero News:

Consumers will benefit from new fraud protections as Britain is gripped by a worsening “scamdemic”.

More than 32,000 people have contacted a new fraud hotline, launched only at the end of September, with some 500 Britons calling every day. The surging level of financial crime has prompted promises of more help from banks, phone companies and internet firms, with victims still falling through the cracks of existing safeguards.

New measures being developed by the cross-industry fraud group Stop Scams UK include more data sharing between firms and an overhaul of current systems used to identify scam websites, Telegraph Money can disclose. This will allow them to be taken down more quickly; the process currently takes days.

The group – which counts Britain’s biggest banks, BT, Google and Microsoft among its members – was behind the quick-dial 159 number that puts people who suspect they have been scammed straight through to their bank. It was designed to help companies act more quickly to stop money moving through the system. It is also hoped that it will reduce the number of people who hand over personal information to conmen who pose as bank staff or the police and could become as commonplace as the 999, 101 and 111 hotlines after a 12-month trial.

Britain’s biggest mobile network, EE, also launched its own “scams filter” in July and has so far blocked more than 42 million texts and shut down around 20,000 sim cards that belonged to scammers who were sending out messages. It said it was detecting and combating rising numbers of scams every week.

Despite these interventions, individuals are still losing out. Scam victims lost almost £1bn in the first half of the year alone and now face a rising tide of call and text cons.

Ruth Evans of Stop Scams UK said “huge efforts” were being made to fight fraud but “more needs to be done”. She pledged to step up work with banks, phone companies and internet giants in the “coming months”, including the development of new technology to protect consumers.

“Scams are increasing at an alarming rate; they are the cause of real harm and trauma,” she said. “It is a sad fact that the UK is particularly attractive to the criminals who seek to defraud people and steal their money. This is because we have an open, highly digitised and affluent economy with a payment system that is almost instant.

“In the coming months our focus will be on developing new, innovative technical solutions to enable better information sharing and blocking harmful content to help keep consumers safe.”

The police warned recently of a convincing new “friends in need” scam targeting parents.

Victims of the scam receive a WhatsApp message from a random number purporting to be from a son or daughter who has lost their phone. Once parents are convinced they are speaking to their child, scammers ask them to send money to cover an imminent payment coming out of their accounts.

Santander said it had received an increasing number of reports about the con, with case numbers doubling month on month since August and several hundred customers reporting being targeted. Victims have already lost tens of thousands of pounds to the emerging “hello Mum” and “hello Dad” fraud, according to Action Fraud, the scams arm of the police.

WhatsApp declined to say how many accounts suspected of perpetrating the scam it had deleted, but said it used “advanced machine learning” to ban millions every month for spam or abuse.

The messaging app’s Kathryn Harnett said users should never divulge their six-digit login codes “even to friends or family” and said “calling or requesting a voice note is the fastest and simplest way to check someone is who they say they are”. 

“A friend in need is a friend worth calling,” she added.

There were almost 19,000 recorded cases of impersonation scams, where fraudsters posed as bank staff, police officers or NHS employees, in the first six months of 2021.

More than £750m was lost to the fraud in the first six months of the year, with scams up almost a third on the same period last year, according to the banking trade body UK Finance.

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