Ofcom outlines new plans to combat scam calls

landline phone
(Image credit: Shutterstock.com / Gajus)

Ofcom has outlined proposals to make it harder for criminals to make scam phone calls, issuing new guidance for the telecoms industry and examining how new technologies can address the issue.

As many as 45 million people across the UK said they were on the receiving end of a nuisance communication during the summer of 2021, with fraudsters adopting more sophisticated methods of spoofing genuine organisations and taking advantage of current events.

For example, lockdown has given rise to fake delivery scams while criminals have preyed on financial and health fears that emerged during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some even provided false information about vaccinations.

Nuisance calls

The regulator says the problem is hard to eradicate due to the constantly evolving methods employed by scammers, but says it wants to strengthen protections and raise awareness.

“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,” said Huw Saunders, Ofcom director of network infrastructure and resilience.

“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.”

Under the new guidance, all telephone providers will be expected to block any number suspected of being involved in a scam. For example, this could be a call made from abroad without caller ID or a number that does not meet the standard UK format, or any number that is on Ofcom’s existing watchlist.

Meanwhile, providers will also be expected to take reasonable steps to stop UK phone numbers from being misused. Ofcom says all available data should be used during initial checks and providers should take proactive action should they uncover evidence of illicit activity.

Looking forward, Ofcom believes the migration of the UK telephone network from PSTN to a new digital infrastructure will make it possible to employ new technologies that authenticate a user’s identity before connecting any call.

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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.