Promoting trust in telephone numbers

The phone rings and a number flashes up on your screen. Thank goodness it’s a number you recognise; that of your bank. This is one call which you can answer, not like those other scam calls which seem to appear almost on a daily basis.

Hang on a minute, is this call really from your bank? They seem to be asking lots of intrusive questions such as your pin number or your date of birth and now they are asking you to transfer money to another account. No, this is yet another scam call but they have managed to disguise the number they are calling on as being one that you trust. And unless you’re careful, within seconds your savings could have flown out the door.

Don’t think you wouldn’t be fooled, and don’t think that such scams only affect individuals. There are considerable numbers of businesses which have also fallen prey to telephone fraud. Sadly, despite a considerable amount of publicity, people are still falling for the same tactics. On the other side of the coin, thanks to the publicity people are becoming less trusting of telephone numbers; something which could have a detrimental effect should there be a genuine need for their bank or other legitimate body to telephone them.

As a result the communications watchdog, Ofcom, has launched a consultation setting out measures which they believe will help to restore trust in telephone numbers and to make it easier to tackle scam telephone calls. Key among the proposals is one to establish a common numbering database. The intention would be for this database to be in place by 2020, by which time it is expected that the majority of calls would be rooted via IP technology over the internet. This Ofcom say would enable “telecoms providers to progressively implement measures so they can verify that CLIs (calling line identities) are valid and authentic.” Ofcom also anticipate a side benefit of simplifying number porting.

This consultation is only one of three launched by Ofcom on 11 April. The others look at the factors that may influence future regulation and the way in which numbers may need to evolve in the light of future technological changes. All three consultations have closing date in June.

In the meantime, it is worth reiterating the standard advice from banks in respect of telephone line security;

  • Never give out information such as your pin, your online login banking details, details of your debit or credit cards or any code from your card reader.
  • Never transfer any money at the request of someone who has telephoned you.
  • If you suspect a call is not genuine put the telephone down and then verify it independently. This means firstly ascertaining the correct number either from the back of your bank card or by looking it up online before telephoning your bank, preferably on another line. Remember fraudsters can stay online even when you think you put the telephone down so if you are unable to call for a separate line, firstly ring someone else that you know to ensure that the line has cleared.
Written by Alison