Which? calls for action to cut off fake phone numbers

Which? is calling for more action to tackle ‘number spoofing’ as Ofcom estimates as many as two billion nuisance calls are made each year using fake numbers.

So far Which?’s Calling Time on Nuisance Calls campaign, which has more than 220,000 supporters, has seen the Government and regulators take action to crack down on this every day annoyance, however, our latest research reveals a new menace in the form of ‘spoofed calls’.

Spoofed calls happen when call centres use software to fool the caller ID system to hide their real identity and number. Nuisance callers use this technology to trick us into accepting calls we’d normally reject, including by giving a false number with a local area code. Faking a UK phone number can help nuisance callers bypass many call blocking devices, which help protect people from unknown or withheld numbers and in the most serious cases these tactics are being used by criminals to obtain people’s bank details and commit fraud.

The number of nuisance calls using spoofing technology is rising, with Ofcom estimating as many as two billion such calls are made each year. If you think you’ve been the victim of a spoof nuisance call, our advice is to:

  • Hang up immediately;
  • Phone the company’s official number but wait five minutes to ensure the line is clear as some scammers don’t put the phone down;
  • Never give out your personal information, especially PIN numbers or online passwords.

Which? wants to see the caller ID system made more secure, with companies being legally obliged to present a valid number when they make outbound marketing calls. This will help people to decide whether to answer the phone and make it easier for them to report unwanted calls.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“Number spoofing is yet another twist on the modern day menace of nuisance calls. At best this practice is frustrating for people who are already sick and tired of getting nuisance calls, and at worst it could lead to you being the victim of fraud.

“We want the Government to keep its promises on making firms give an accurate number when making outbound marketing calls. We also need senior executives to be held personally accountable if their company makes unlawful sales calls.”

Note to Editors

  1. Which?’s Calling Time on Nuisance Calls campaignhas more than 220,000 supporters and people can report unwanted calls for free on the Which? website at  www.which.co.uk/callingtime
  2. Our Consumer Rights websitehas lots of advice on how to avoid phone or vishing scams:  http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/problem/phone-scams
  3. Companies aren’t obliged to give caller ID details but, if they do so, under Ofcom rules they must present numbers accurately or face a fine of up to £2 million. To date, no companies have been charged with this offence as number spoofers are often based overseas and difficult to identify.
  4. Not every company that alters its caller identification does so for malicious or devious purposes e.g. an organisation may display a freephone 0800 number so customers can call back without charge.
  5. Full article can be viewed here.

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