A new emergency fraud hotline has been set up to help tackle surging financial scams in the UK.
UK citizens who believe someone is maybe trying to trick them into handing over money or personal details can now be automatically connected with their bank’s fraud prevention service by dialing 159.
The service will work in a similar way to non-emergency police (101) or NHS (111) inquiries, offering a memorable and secure number to receive help and advice quickly.
Anyone who receives a call or message from someone asking for money to be transferred or any other financial matter is being urged to hang up immediately and dial 159. They will then be connected to their bank’s fraud prevention service to advise them on what to do.
The scheme is being sponsored by Stop Scams UK, a coalition of banking and technology companies. It is initially being run as a 1-year pilot, and if successful, will be made into a universal service.
Currently, the banks involved in the initiative are Barclays, Lloyds (including Halifax and Bank of Scotland), NatWest (including Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank), Santander and Starling Bank. These banks represent over 70% of UK primary current account holders. TSB will join up in January, and Stop Scams UK is hoping that more will sign up over the course of the pilot.
Most major consumer telephone firms are taking part, and more than 80% of UK mobiles and landlines will be able to use 159 at the outset. It is hoped this will reach 100% during the pilot.
Stop Scams UK also emphasized that 159 “will never call you.”
The BBC quoted Ruth Evans, chair of Stop Scams UK, who stated: “Criminals rely on forcing people into heat-of-the-moment decisions, and calling 159 is a simple, practical tool to break their spell.”
The initiative aims to stem surging fraud cases during the past 18 months. A recent analysis by money.co.uk found that Brits have lost over £1bn to fraud and cybercrime in the first six months of 2021.
Commenting on the news, George Patsis, CEO of Obrela Security Industries, said: “The pandemic created a perfect breeding ground for cybercrime. Not only were people getting more deliveries to their homes, banks were also offering new services to help people cope financially through the pandemic. However, this created a multitude of new avenues for cyber-criminals to thrive, and the latest figures show that they succeeded.
“Today, banking fraud scams are rife, and thousands of people are falling victim to them every day, losing millions of pounds with little information on whom to contact to report attacks. However, this new emergency line will address this issue.
“The government also needs to work with banks so information is clearly communicated about how victims can get their money back, as this is another grey area that leaves many people confused.
“It is also vital that banks continue to educate customers on the techniques fraudsters use to trick people into handing over money and their account details because the more people know about these scams, the less likely they are to fall victim.”