Stay Alert - How to Protect Yourself From the Latest Phone Scam

September 06 2021  

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau issue warning 

Stay alert for scam phone calls that seem to be coming from numbers that look similar to their own.

If you have a mobile phone, you’re going to want to listen up. There is a new scam technique in town and this one is very sneaky – anyone could fall victim to it. The phone number of these calls look similar to the recipients own phone number, typically copying the first 7 digits. Not only does this cause confusion with the recipient, as the number looks very similar to their own, it looks like a legitimate number, which can encourage them to pick up the phone and land themselves in hot water with a scammer. Phone scams can easily fool anybody – even the most tech-savvy – and in this day and age, scammers techniques are becoming ever-more convincing. Not only are scammers attempting to target people via traditional phone calls, they are also using messaging applications, such as WhatsApp and text messages. It’s more important than ever to educate ourselves on phone scams to prevent ourselves falling victim to them.

It can be tempting to simply not pick the phone up to any numbers that are unfamiliar to us, but this could result in missing important phone calls, such as from the doctor. Instead, we can learn what to look out for with this latest phone scam and learn how to protect ourselves and our information from scammers. So, without further ado, let’s explore the features of this new phone scam, so you know how you can effectively protect yourself from becoming a victim.


Neighbour Spoofing

When it comes to scam phone calls, scammers tend to steal the beginning of recognised phone numbers, in order to encourage victims to trust that the call is legit. This technique is known as neighbour spoofing. Once the victim has picked up, the scammer tends to impersonate insurance companies, online retailers, such as Amazon, law-enforcement agencies or government organisations. The effects of a phone scam can be absolutely devastating, both for the public and for businesses who utilise mobile phones. Once scammers have you on the line, they will ask for personal or financial information, in order to get access to bank accounts or even take remote access of the device. If you keep sensitive information or use mobile banking on your business mobile phone, this could make company data and funds vulnerable to criminals and also cause severe implications with data security and GDPR compliance.

In May 2021, Action Fraud – the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime – received 2,110 scam call reports where the callers number matched the first 7 digits of the recipient’s own phone number. Out of those 2,110 calls, 68% of them claimed the scammer tried to impersonate HMRC or an agency enquiring about National Insurance. Once the recipient had picked up the phone they are warned of a consequence that is going to be applied to them, such as a fine. They are then usually presented with an option, such as ‘press 1’ to speak to an advisor or authority figure, such as the police, in order to take action and prevent suffering the consequence.

Unfortunately, there is no way to completely block the scammer that is ringing you as they tend to have a plethora of phone numbers that they use or use ‘spoofing’ – taking advantage of caller ID to impersonate a trustworthy source, in order to convince victims to trust the phone call. If you block the number, all you are achieving is preventing that particular number from calling your phone. Furthermore, once you have picked up the phone to one of these scam numbers, the scammers can confirm that your number is ‘live’ (in other words, there’s somebody on the end of the phone) and its worth targeting again. So, what can you do to prevent falling victim to a phone scam?


Education is Protection – What to Look Out For with a Scam Call


The effects of a successful scam can be devastating to an individual or a business. The best protection is to arm yourself with knowledge of the different types of scams so you can easily identify them” Phil Scanlon | Commercial Director – IT Services | Elite Group


First of all it’s vital to remember that no UK Government or law enforcement agency will ever let you know if you are going to incur a fine or are owing any payment via a call or a text. You will usually receive these notifications in a letter via the post, which will let you know how to contact them to rectify the situation. Therefore, if you do receive any scam calls or texts that notifies you of a fine/outstanding payment, it’s fine to reject these or find out the contact details of the supposed caller (ensure that you find the contact details from a reputable source!) and find out if there is any truth behind the fine/outstanding payment.

If you take a call that is asking you for personal or financial information or asking you to complete a transaction, always, always, always take a moment to stop and think whether this is legitimate caller or not. Don’t be afraid to ask the caller to prove themselves or question why they need the information they are asking for. If you don’t feel comfortable giving out your information, for whatever reason, or you suspect that the call is a scam you can refuse to continue and reject the call.

A call from a governing body, insurance company or law enforcement agency that comes out of the blue can be a clear red flag of a scam call. Another tell-tale sign is an automated message rather than a human voice speaking to you over the phone. It’s also crucial to remember that only criminals will try to rush, panic or threaten you in order to force you to give out your personal or financial details. Whether it’s handing over personal information, paying money or any other action, the caller could try to rush you or act aggressively in order to encourage you to do as they say. They may become impatient if you question the reason for the call, ask why you need to complete the action or request that they prove who they are. If this is the case, hang up and find out whether the number is legitimate.  The best thing you can do, if you’re not sure who the caller is, is to avoid picking up the call and find out the source of the call by doing a quick search for the number on Google.

If you receive a call regarding topics, such as your credit/debit card, bank account, insurance policies or other financial matters, hang up on the call and ring your bank or provider immediately. Ensure you find the number from a legitimate source, such as a bank statement, genuine document or official website.

Do not follow any links from text messages you do not trust. Again, legitimate businesses, government agencies and authorities will not send text messages asking you to follow a link to transfer money. These links tend to lead to scam websites that will ask for personal information or bank details in order to steal money, hack into your device or infect it with harmful software, like ransomware.

Finally, some scammers will a deploy a technique known as ‘one ring scams’. This is where they will ring your phone and immediately hang up, in the hope that you will ring them back. However, the numbers used in these scams are usually high-toll numbers that charge you an expensive fee to call. This racks up money for the scammer, which is charged to your phone bill, so you will only realise that you have been scammed once you receive your bill and see the large charge.


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