Ofcom demands telcos do more to block dodgy calls

mobile security

UK comms regulator Ofcom has introduced new rules compelling operators to identify and block calls that could be scams.

As Ofcom itself states in its announcement, phone scams are a widespread problem. In fact, it reckons three quarters of UK adults received at least one suspicious call and/or text message and/or app message on their landline and/or mobile phone in the three months up to August 2022. Of those, 700,000 acted upon the instructions of the scammers and thus got ripped off.

That’s a hell of a lot of defrauded people, which begs the question of why Ofcom is only acting now. Maybe, before resorting to imposing new rules on them, Ofcom had asked operators to do more about the problem and had been underwhelmed by their response. So now they have been given the following guidance to help them comply with the rules, which will come into force in May of next year.

  • Make sure a number meets the UK’s 10- or 11-digit format
  • Block calls from numbers that are on Ofcom’s Do Not Originate list
  • identify and block calls from abroad spoofing a UK caller ID

“Scam calls and texts are a major source of fraud, and they represent a clear and present danger to every phone user,” said Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Group Director for Networks and Communications. “Criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and it’s easy to be caught out by a scam. We’re constantly working with phone companies and other organisations on new ways to combat these scams. Blocking fake numbers can have a significant impact, so we’re making sure all phone companies apply this protection for their customers.”

Operators are also being asked to do more to prevent baddies getting hold of legitimate numbers too. Phone calls are often more effective at scamming people than texts or emails since it allows an extra level of persuasion and social pressure. Furthermore, once a person is convinced the call is legitimate, the scammer can then give them detailed instructions to do things like install software and even allow remote control of their devices.

The fact that this problem has been allowed to proliferate doesn’t reflect well on either the telcos or Ofcom. As with other security issues there is presumably an arms race going on between the baddies and the goodies. But identifying and blocking the vast majority of spoof communications is surely possible and will hopefully now be prioritised. In the meantime, Here are some top tips for consumers.


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One comment

  1. Avatar Gerard O'Neill 15/11/2022 @ 2:10 pm

    Calls displaying numbers not yet issued and shown on the Ofcom numbers database in the UK should also be blocked.

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