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BT taps Hiya to tackle spam calls

Cold caller concept

UK incumbent BT is ramping up its war on scammers, as Ofcom preps new rules that will hold telcos to a higher standard.

The telco on Tuesday announced it will implement Hiya Protect, a network-level monitoring solution that can flag and block suspicious-looking calls. It will be rolled out to fixed-line customers as well as EE mobile customers.

According to Hiya’s own research, 29 percent of all phone calls in the UK are spam, and 50 percent of those are fraudulent, the highest fraud rate in Europe.

There is no shortage of stats highlighting the extent of the problem. In November, a survey from smartphone comparison site Green Smartphones found the average Brit receives six nuisance calls per month. It estimated the total number of nuisance calls for 2022 at around 4.03 billion.

Unsurprisingly, this issue is not lost on Ofcom. The telco regulator also keeps tabs on fraudulent activity, and calculated that in the three months to August 2022, three quarters of UK adults had to deal with at least one incident of suspicious activity on their mobile and/or landline, whether that was a call, text message, app message, or some combination of more than one of those. Unfortunately, 700,000 of these people fell for the scam and were ripped off.

As such, Ofcom is urging operators to do more to get to grips with the problem. In May, new rules come into force that require operators to pay closer scrutiny to calling line identification (CLI) data. More specifically, telcos must ensure the caller’s number matches the UK’s 10-11-digit phone number format. They must also block calls that are on Ofcom’s Do Not Originate list, and identify and block calls from abroad that spoof UK numbers. It is designed to make it harder for scammers to pass themselves off as legitimate businesses, like banks, for example.

“Improving the accuracy of CLI data would also improve confidence in CLI data and trust in telephone services,” said Ofcom in November. “This would benefit consumers, legitimate businesses and other genuine users of telephone services, as their calls are more likely to be answered.”

By tapping up Hiya, BT should be able to offer even better protection than what Ofcom has demanded.

“Partnering with Hiya is the next step in our strategic commitment to protect our customers against fraud. Using Hiya’s call labelling technology alongside our existing innovations, gives our mobile and Digital Voice home phone customers extra reassurance when answering their phone,” said Christian Thrane, managing director of marketing at BT and EE, in a statement.

It’s a big deal for Hiya because the deal marks the company’s first UK telco customer, and UK telcos don’t come much bigger than BT and EE. Hiya said its technology now protects one in three UK subscribers. Globally, thanks to partnerships with the likes of AT&T, Masmovil and Telenor, among others, Hiya’s global coverage extends to 250 million subscribers.

“Consumers deserve certainty in knowing who is on the other line when they pick up the phone,” said Hiya president Kush Parikh. “BT and EE are leading the way in the UK by implementing the most advanced voice security platform to fight the growing problem of spam and fraud calls, while helping legitimate calls get through.”

The agreement comes after Hiya struck a deal with Ericsson to integrate its Hiya Protect solution with the latter’s IMS architecture, giving any mobile operator that uses Ericsson IMS the ability to provide network-based call protection.

“The need to eradicate fraudulent calls, clearly label nuisance calls, and provide better labelling of unidentified calls outside of the address book has never been greater,” Parikh said.

 

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