Ofcom press-gangs phone networks into scam call war

call 2Ofcom’s fight against telemarketing crooks is being dialled up to the max with a multi-pronged attack designed to further strengthen its crusade to rid the UK of what has been branded “the scourge of nuisance calls”.

Under the proposals, which are currently out for consultation, phone networks will have to do far more to tackle the issue, which, despite the best efforts of all concerned appears to be getting worse.

One of the key measures will see networks forced to run “know your customer” checks on business customers, verifying them through details on Companies House, fraud risk databases and the FCA’s Financial Services Register to test whether a “high risk of misuse” exists.

Meanwhile, networks will also be forced to block numbers that are clearly spoofed; the technique widely used by telemarketing rogues and scammers so they can hide their real number.

While not all spoofed numbers can be detected, Ofcom insists many are easy to spot. This might be because they are numbers that have not been allocated for use to anyone or where a UK number has been used in a call which originated abroad.

The regulator is proposing to strengthen its rules and guidance so that providers do more to detect and block the most obviously spoofed numbers.

In addition, Ofcom wants to updating its scheme to protect legitimate numbers that are most likely to be spoofed by scammers.

The consultation states: “People may be more likely to trust a call coming from a number associated with a known organisation, such as a bank. We worked with UK Finance on a ‘Do Not Originate‘ (DNO) list to record numbers used by these organisations, including banks and government agencies, to receive calls but never to make calls.

“The list allows providers to check incoming calls against the numbers on the DNO list and block the call. We have updated our guidance for using the list and will consider whether it can be expanded to include numbers from a wider range of organisations.”

Finally, Ofcom says it is exploring the introduction of technical standards that make it possible for the network originating the call to confirm the caller’s authenticity before passing it to the network of the person receiving the call, referred to as CLI authentication.

It plans to issue a call for inputs in Q4 2022 seeking views on the role of CLI authentication and what would be required to implement the technology across industry.

Last year Ofcom, estimated that 44.6 million UK people had received scam calls and text messages during just the three months of summer, while the Information Commissioner’s Office received a record 131,491 complaints under PECR, the legislation which covers electronic marketing. This compares to 103,733 complaints in 2020, 129,354 in 2019 and 124,363 in 2018.

While most of the major UK network operators have implemented measures to tackle rogue calls, the tactics used by fraudsters have become increasingly sophisticated, including the use of multiple communication channels and spoofing well-known companies and organisations.

Ofcom director of network infrastructure and resilience Huw Saunders said: “The threat posed by scammers has grown significantly in recent years, and the sophisticated tactics used by these criminals can have devastating consequences for victims.

“We’re taking action so phone companies have stronger systems in place to disrupt scams. While there is no silver bullet that will end the scourge of scam calls completely, we’re working with industry on how we can use technology to make it as difficult as possible to reach people.”

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