September 28, 2021

New ‘159’ Anti-fraud Hotline Will Connect People Directly To Their Bank If They Fear They’re Being Scammed

Dial 159, Stop Scams UK, Fraud, Mobile
  • People urged to stop, hang up, and call 159 to check calls are for real
  • Pilot scheme, launched by Stop Scams UK and the Global Cyber Alliance, brings together major banks and telecoms firms

A telephone hotline, launched today, is a new tool in the fight against fraud.

A simple, memorable number – 159 – will connect people directly and securely with their bank if they fear they are being scammed.

The 159 campaign has a clear message for consumers: If you are contacted by someone who claims to be your bank or encourages you to transfer money, stop, hang up and call 159 to check it’s for real.

Last year, according to Stop Scams UK, criminal gangs stole over £470m from individuals and small businesses by pretending to be a bank or other service provider, encouraging them to make a payment or transfer money.

In the first half of 2021 money lost to APP fraud – where people are tricked into transferring money – rose 71% on the same period last year. UK Finance, a trade body, say criminal gangs are ‘focusing their activity’ on APP fraud.

One major bank says that ‘safe account scams’ (a type of APP fraud) comprise one in ten of all fraud cases and account for £15 of every £100 they refund to customers.

Criminal gangs use a combination of technology and sophisticated ‘social engineering’ scripts to pressurise customers into parting with their money.

Calling 159 will help people break the fraudsters’ spell, stopping the scammers in their tracks. It’s a practical way people can stop, challenge and protect themselves and their money. A genuine bank or authority figure will never mind if you hang up, call 159, and call back later using a trusted number.

159 is an unprecedented collaboration between banks, telecoms firms and technology companies. It is spearheaded by Stop Scams UK, the anti-fraud coalition, which counts BT, Google and major banks amongst its members.

159 is a pilot scheme which will run for at least a year. The majority of consumer telecoms firms are involved and over 70% of UK primary current account customers are covered in the first phase, with more banks and telecoms firms expected to join as the pilot progresses. If the pilot is successful, Stop Scams UK will ask Ofcom to make 159 a universal number offered by all telephone providers, similar to 101, 111 or 999.

People are being urged to call 159 if:

  • Someone contacts them purporting to be from their bank – even if they are not suspicious.
  • They’re contacted by someone claiming to be an authority figure (e.g. the police) and told to transfer money – even if it seems genuine

Ruth Evans, Chair of Stop Scams UK, said:

“Criminal fraudsters destroy lives and cause untold harm, we’ve set up 159 to give people a new way to fight back. If you ever feel pressured into transferring money or giving out personal details, you should hang up and call 159 to check it’s for real. Criminals rely on forcing people into heat of the moment decisions, and calling 159 is a simple, practical tool to break their spell. 159 is the result of an unprecedented collaboration between major banks and telecoms firms who are working with Stop Scams to put a stop to fraud.”

Andy Bates, Chief Sustainability Officer, Global Cyber Alliance, said:

“Criminal fraudsters steal savings, wreck lives and cause untold harm, we are determined to stop them. 159 is a powerful new tool that puts power in the hands of ordinary people, giving them a way to get out of a pressurised phone call and speak directly with their bank. 159 is just one of the ways the industry is working with banks, telecoms and technology firms to take the fight to the fraudsters. I'm proud that an idea we initiated has been delivered by the industry working together”

Gareth Elliott, Head of Policy and Communications for Mobile UK, said:

"Protecting customers from fraudulent mobile scams is a top priority for all operators. We are pleased to be working with Stop Scams UK to put in place the dial 159 single-dial service to ensure that customers have a trusted space to verify and test suspicious calls. It is important that all mobile customers remain vigilant, and dialling 159 provides yet another opportunity to prevent mobile network customers falling victim."

David Bale from Peterborough was contacted by fraudsters who had stolen his personal information and used it to trick him into transferring £6,000 of savings to them.

Speaking about how 159 could have helped him, David Bale said:

"It was truly awful when criminals tricked me into transferring thousands of pounds into their account, I felt like I'd been taken for a fool, lost my family's money and let everyone down. All the time the fraudsters were on the phone to me I felt something wasn't quite right, but it was like being sucked into a whirlpool - they put me under so much pressure and I had no idea how to get out.
"Had I been able to call 159 things could have been totally different, quite early on in the call I would have rung off and called 159 for a quick check with my bank. 159 would have given me a simple, easy-to-remember way to escape. I think this is going to make a huge difference to people who get caught up in fraud scams in future, to break free from the fraudsters they simply need to stop, hang up and call 159.”

Notes to Editors

  • The companies participating in the project 159 pilot are:

About Building Mobile Britain

Building Mobile Britain logo

Building Mobile Britain is a campaign created by Mobile UK seeking to work with national and local government, as well as interested industry groups to overcome the challenges we face with expanding the existing mobile networks, while also developing innovative services for customers.

See here for further information - or #BuildingMobileBritain

Media Contacts

Gareth Elliott
Head of Policy and Communications
Tel: 07887 911 076

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