July 20, 2022
Industry implemented strengthened customer protections result in substantial reduction in scam texts
New measures put in place by mobile operators, including new firewall solutions, joint working with national enforcements agencies, and activity based on reported scams from the 7726 service have resulted in a substantial drop in scam texts reaching customers.
One provider blocked 142 million fraudulent texts in the space of nine months, and another disconnected 60,000 SIM cards that were sending scam texts.
Another network reduced fraudulent texts by 97% and cut smishing from other networks – when fraudsters send text messages claiming to be from reputable companies to gain access to personal information - by 76%.
Critical to achieving these figures is the reporting of suspicious activity through the industry’s 7726 anti-scam text service, which provides operators with information and intelligence to tackle fraud. Figures show that reports to the 7726 anti-scam text service have dropped by nearly 90% - 500,000 reports down to 50,000 since August last year. This is in line with the reduction in scam messages reaching customers.
7726 is a free service that allows mobile users across all operators to report suspicious texts or calls they might receive. Customers are being advised to remain vigilant and report all suspicious activity so that providers can use that information to tackle the ever-changing threat from fraudsters. This is in addition to the work of the National Cyber Security Centre takedown service which removed 2.7 million scams online in the past year.
Fighting back against a wave of fraudulent and suspicious text messages which peaked during the pandemic, network providers, in collaboration with the Government, brought in a series of measures over the last 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 said:
“Using text scams to defraud people is a devious crime. Government and industry are directly working to reduce the threat of text scams while going after the offenders behind this shameless crime.
“I am committed to tackling the scourge of fraud and to protecting the public from these crimes. We will shortly be publishing a strategy setting out further actions we can take with industry to crack down on this despicable crime.”
The Telecommunications Fraud Sector Charter was developed in response to a dramatic rise in scam texts during the pandemic which saw consumers defrauded of around £2.35 bn 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.
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.
The firewall solution also assisted in the fight against the “FluBot malware” used by criminals to infect and take over a victim’s phone to steal credit or debit card details with one network blocking 7.1m SMSs relating to the FluBot over a seven-day period.
The Telecoms industry has pledged to work together to implement more anti-scam measures as part this Government partnership and as part of their wider commitment to protect customers from scams and fraud.
Hamish MacLeod, Chief Executive at Mobile UK said:
“As an industry, we take fraud seriously.
“We have been investing in new measures to detect and block texts from reaching our customers, and to educate customers on how to identify and report suspicious activity. We’re committed to working with the Government, Ofcom, and law enforcement agencies to reduce the threat that scammers pose to the public.
“We urge customers to be vigilant and to help us act by texting reports of nuisance SMS and calls to 7726 and reporting nuisance calls.”
Notes to editors
The Telecommunications Fraud Sector Charter can be found here:
Ofcom’s scams survey published in October 2021 can be found here: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/news-centre/2021/45-million-people-targeted-by-scams
Mobile UK and member operators urge customers to remain vigilant and help them act by texting reports of nuisance SMS messages to 7726 and reporting suspicious calls.
Scam texts can be forwarded to 7726, and phone numbers operating scam calls can be reported by texting ‘CALL’ to 7726 and following the prompts.
The Government encourages people to report cases of fraud and attempted fraud to Action Fraud, the national reporting service for fraud and for cybercrime. Reports submitted to Action Fraud are considered by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) and evaluated to assess the information available which could assist an investigation.
You can report fraud, including scam texts and calls, or cyber-crime to Action Fraud any time of the day or night using our online fraud reporting tool at https://reporting.actionfraud.police.uk/login. You can also report and get advice about fraud or cyber-crime by calling 0300 123 2040.
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