UK 'biggest target' for telecom scammers

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The UK’s is the world’s biggest target for phone scams, with 15 per cent of the world’s fraudulent telecoms traffic directed at British numbers, new research has found.

BICS, a subsidiary of Belgian telco Proximus, says its FraudGuard platform analyses traffic from more than 900 communications providers around the world and found the UK was the only G20 country in the top ten, with 25 million scam calls during 2018.

It added that the number of global call attempts increased by two per cent last year, with telecoms fraud causing losses in excess of $30 billion worldwide.

Telecom scams

“The results … illustrate what a persistent – and damaging – threat telecoms fraud is to the industry, whilst continuing to prop up serious organised crime,” said Katia Gonzalez, Head of Fraud Prevention.

“Eradicating telecoms fraud is an ongoing battle, and one which will only be successfully waged with industry-wide collaboration. Sharing information and knowledge will allow the sector to take a proactive approach to minimising fraud, protecting subscribers in the UK, and globally.”

One of the reasons cited for the UK’s popularity as a target is the regulation of phone numbers. BICS says the ease at which anyone can purchase an ‘07’ number – reserved for mobile phones – combined with the higher mobile termination rates makes it difficult for operators to differentiate regular numbers and scam ones.

This exposes end user to the possibility of connecting to a premium rate phone number inadvertently.

“The UK is a long-suffering target of telecoms fraud, both in terms of its phone numbers being used to collect fraudulent traffic and its subscribers being targeted,” added Gonazalez.

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.