45 million people in the UK have received fraudulent text messages or calls in the past three months | criminality
The scourge of texting and fraudulent calls has been exposed by a study by the UK telecommunications regulator showing that nearly 45 million people have received at least one in the past three months, while the EE mobile network has had to block 18,000 SIM cards used for fraud during this period.
Ofcom research found that 82% of adults received a suspicious message over the summer, with most saying it came via text.
Calls to landlines continue to be a threat to older people, with 61% of those over 75 reporting having received a potential fraudulent call.
Scams have exploded since the start of the pandemic, with fraudsters taking advantage of changing spending habits over the period.
Text messages and emails claiming to be from courier companies and messages offering access to vaccines and Covid passports have been among the tricks used by criminals to get their hands on people’s personal data.
Recently the banks’ trade body UK Finance said £ 754million was stolen from bank customers in the first half of this year. Readers of The Guardian alone have reported losses worth £ 1million over the summer months.
The use of cell phones in fraud is underscored by EE figures which show it has blocked 18,000 SIM cards after detecting 42 million fraudulent text messages since July.
The company, which is owned by BT, uses scanning technology to find and block suspicious messages.
BT’s director of customer service change Christopher Howe told the PA Media news agency that many of the sims that were banned were on pay-as-you-go agreements.
Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at consumer group Which ?, said Ofcom research showed that fraudsters were “tireless in their efforts to get people to give their money and personal information “.
She added: “Businesses and the telecommunications industry must do more to protect consumers, by making it harder for fraudsters to exploit systemic weaknesses to reach potential victims and by improving the way they use telecommunications to reach their clients.
Lindsey Fussell, Director of Ofcom’s Networks and Communications Group, said: “Criminals who defraud people using phone and text scams can cause enormous distress and financial damage to their victims, and their tactics become more and more sophisticated.
“Stay alert to any unsolicited contact. Put the phone down if you suspect it is a scam call and don’t click any links in text messages you’re unsure of.
Ofcom said suspicious texts could be forwarded to 7726 and would be investigated by mobile phone providers, while fraudulent calls could be reported to Action Fraud or Police Scotland.