A new fraud hotline will let you check whether a call from your bank is genuine, as the industry battles against unprecedented levels of authorised fraud. Stop Scams UK and the Global Cyber Alliance have launched the ‘159’ pilot scheme with backing from major banks and technology firms, including BT and Google. The hotline is designed to disrupt impersonation scammers who pose as banks or other firms to trick customers into sending them money – known as bank transfer or authorised push payment (APP) scams. The latest industry figures show that although purchase scams account for 49% of all APP cases, fraud involving impersonation of banks or the police spiked by 129% in the first half of 2021.
How will ‘Call 159’ work? Described as a ‘powerful new tool that puts power in the hands of ordinary people’, 159 offers a practical way to check whether a caller is a fraudster. Remember that 159 will never call you. But you can ‘Call 159’ if: Someone contacts you saying they’re from your bank – even if they are not suspicious. You receive a call asking you to transfer money or make a payment – even if it seems genuine. You receive a call about a financial matter and it seems suspicious. It will run as a pilot scheme for at least one year. Calls to 159 are charged at the national rate call, usually part of the included minutes in most phone tariffs. The banks participating in the 159 pilot are: Barclays; Lloyds (including Halifax and Bank of Scotland); NatWest (including Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank); Santander; and Starling Bank. If you don’t bank with one of these brands and you call the service, you will be advised how to contact your bank directly. TSB helped to develop the 159 scheme and plans to implement the number from January 2022. You can call 159 from your phone if your contract is with one of the following companies: BT, including EE and Plusnet; Gamma; O2, including Giffgaff; TalkTalk; Three; Virgin Media; and Sky. More banks and telecoms firms are expected to join as the pilot progresses. If the pilot is successful, Stop Scams UK will ask Ofcom to make 159 a universal number offered by all telephone providers, similar to 101, 111 or 999. Find out more: further details on 159 can be found at stopscamsuk.org.uk/159.
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