Ofcom warning over latest scams

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The UK telecoms regulator Ofcom is warning the public not to trust caller ID on their phones as it tries to stop people becoming victims of fraud.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4’s Money Box, Huw Saunders, a director at Ofcom, says caller ID should not be used as a means of verifying a caller’s identification.

Fraudsters are increasingly changing their caller ID to disguise their identity, known as number spoofing.

‘This problem is global in its scope,’ says Mr Saunders. ‘It’s an unfortunate place to be in, but the same message is being given by our counterparts in the US, Canada, France, Australia and elsewhere.’

However, he admits the UK is behind other countries, such as the US, in tackling the problem.

‘It’s going to take a few years. If you look at a comparable situation in France, for example, they now have a timetable for the implementation of a particular technical solution and that is over a three-year period.’

In the UK, the current phone network – Public Switched Telephone Network – is being updated to a new system – Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). Mr Saunders says when VOIP is in place, with a target date of the end 2025, the industry will be able to stop number spoofing.

‘It’s only when the vast majority of people are on the new technology (VOIP) that we can implement a new patch to address this problem [of spoofing].’

Despite other attempts by the telecoms industry to stop number spoofing, a recent report from industry body UK Finance suggested the number of reported cases of impersonation fraud – including spoof calls – nearly doubled last year to 40,000.
Each case can involve the theft of thousands or even tens of thousands of pounds, leaving the financial and emotional lives of victims ruined.

With a boom in internet shopping during the pandemic, the regulator is also warning about a rise in text-message scam that infects Android mobile phones with malicious software.

The text message, which pretends to be from a delivery company, includes a link that claims to allow you to track a parcel.

However, this is an attempt to infect your phone with malware, which occurs if the link is clicked on. The scam text has been received by customers on all major UK networks. One example of this text claims to be from DHL.

The malware, called Flubot, can allow criminals to access personal information on your phone, including online banking details.

If you receive one of these text messages, take the following steps:

Do not press the link. Report the text by forwarding it to 7726. Delete the text from your phone.