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Four in five people targeted by scam calls or texts this summer

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Written by: Emma Lunn
21/10/2021
Almost 45 million people have been on the receiving end of potential scam texts or calls in the past three months, according to Ofcom.

The telecoms regulator found that more than eight in 10 (82%) people said they had received a suspicious message, in the form of either a text, recorded message, or live phone call. This represents about 44.6 million adults in the UK.

Text scams are the most common with seven in 10 (71%) people saying they had received a suspicious text. More than four in 10 (44%) who had received a suspicious text said they had received such a message at least once a week.

Ofcom’s research also showed that suspicious calls continue to be a threat for landline users, with older people particularly susceptible. Three in five (61%) people aged 75 and over reported receiving a potential scam call to their landline.

More than half (53%) of respondents who received a suspicious live phone call on a landline over the past three months said that they got a call at least once a week. Four in 10 (43%) reported getting a dodgy call to their mobile.

Although about half of people blocked the number responsible for a suspect text or call, in the past three months alone 2% admitted they followed the scammers’ instructions. This equates to almost a million people , who risk financial loss and emotional distress if a scam attempt is successful.

Ofcom is encouraging anyone who receives a suspicious text message to report it by forwarding the message to 7726, which directs the message to the mobile provider. These numbers can then be investigated and potentially blocked if found to be a persistently rogue number.

If you’ve received a scam call, you can report it to Action Fraud, which is the reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Reports of fraud and any other financial crime in Scotland should be made to Police Scotland via 101.

Stop Scams UK recently launched a new number that enables customers to directly contact their bank to check the authenticity of a call. Customers of many of the UK’s largest banks can dial 159 to speak to an operator who can confirm whether the contact is genuine.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s networks and communications group director, said: “Criminals who defraud people using phone and text scams can cause huge distress and financial harm to their victims, and their tactics are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

“Stay alert to any unsolicited contact. Put the phone down if you have any suspicion that it is a scam call, and don’t click on any links in text messages you’re unsure about. Report texts to 7726 and scam calls to Action Fraud or Police Scotland.”

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “This latest research reinforces how dramatically scam calls and texts have risen during the pandemic – with fraudsters relentless in their efforts to trick people into giving away their money and personal information.

“Businesses and the telecoms industry must do more to protect consumers, by making it harder for fraudsters to exploit systemic weaknesses to reach potential victims and by improving how they use telecommunications to reach their customers. Which? is calling on businesses to sign up to its SMS best practice guide and commit to taking steps to help prevent their customers falling victim to fraud.”

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