Stopping Scams using ‘Call Blockers’ for Landlines

This is another positive news story from our friends at the National Trading Standards (NTS) Scams Team. They conducted a unique 6 month experiment to capture and analyse real life data on the harm, anxiety and financial consequences of malicious cold calling. It reduced signifcant previous consumer losses to ZERO. We summarise below what was achieved, what was revealed and the conclusions which show the huge cost to the UK of letting these frauds continue to disrupt and ruin far too many lives.

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Overview

The NTS Scams Team released a summary report on the results of their study into the effectiveness of call blockers which was funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.  The programme was designed to test how well call blocker hardware did in preventing nuisance calls, improving victims’ wellbeing and providing intelligence to support investigations against scammers.  The team invited applications from vulnerable people, their families and carers. Eventually, 1,000 call blocking units were installed.

Ofcom suggests that the average number of nuisance calls received by the general population is 7.4 per month.

In this study:

  • Before the units were installed, 33% of participants said they received between 26-43 scam calls per month.
  • After six months of call blocking the data showed that 23 scam or nuisance calls were blocked by each unit each month. The true picture was worse than expected for this especially vulnerable group of people.
  • In total 283,700 calls were received by the participants.
  • It was reported that 35% of these calls (99,194) were unwanted nuisance or scam calls
  • The units blocked 98,701 (99%) of them.

Financial impact of fraud

It is estimated that between £5-£10 billion is lost by UK consumers every year to fraud and scams. Fraudsters use personal data to access accounts or trick people into handing over money.

The team ran a survey of all the participants before the programme began.  There were 76 of them who were willing to share details of the financial losses they had suffered from fraud. On average they lost £7,000+ each, in a colossal total of £547,000 that had been stolen.  After 3 months of call blocking, the report showed there had been ZERO losses to fraud across ALL the participants.

Scams which were foiled

The dominant source of calls which were blocked during the test period of 2019/2020, came from the ‘Home Cover  industry’.  This is an umbrella term as many of these types of caller have been found to be fraudulent and misleading,  and often do not provide any form of service at all.  It is an unregulated area and the scams which persist include the ‘provision’ of cover plans – and dubious warranties – for a range of white goods and domestic appliances.

The NTS Scams Team identified 147 individual entities who were making calls to target consumers with these specific types of scams.  These entities were subject to further investigation and the telephone numbers associated with breaches of the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) were shared with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).

From March 2020 evidence emerged from the trial which made the NTS Scams Team aware of several new scams, including criminals impersonating health workers selling fake PPE for anything between £29.95 – £49.95.  The criminals were estimated to be making 170,000 calls a week.  They were investigated and the telephone number, which originated in the Philippines, was terminated.  The total savings from this one investigation were estimated to be £6.8million based on the scammers successful conversion rate.  This case study shows the benefits of using the call blocking data as an investigative tool and highlights the value of the units for prevention, detection and disruption of these scam and nuisance calls.

Louise Baxter, Head of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, said:

“This pilot clearly demonstrates that call block devices can eliminate the vast majority of scam and nuisance calls and protect victims from these crimes, over 70s are far more likely to be preyed on by nuisance callers, damaging their emotional and physical wellbeing.

We’re calling for call blocking devices (like trueCall) to be made available to people in vulnerable situations to stope unwanted scam and nuisance calls getting though to the consumer’s landline.”

The latest data from trueCall’s devices nationwide show that the proportion of scam and nuisance calls have returned to levels seen before the first lockdown.  In April 2020, when lots of call centres were suddenly closed as a result of restrictions imposed by governments to halt the spread of coronavirus, 10% of calls received by trueCall devices were categorised by the software as scam or nuisance calls.  By October 2020, this figure rose dramatically to 35% – an increase of 250% – taking number of nuisance calls back up to levels experienced before the pandemic.

Conclusion

Scams and nuisance calls cost the UK dearly. There are significant financial losses to individual victims but the damage to their confidence, trust in others and mental and physical wellbeing just adds to these losses. Call blocking hardware that stops 99% of these scams reaching their victim at home on a landline is a huge win. The cost benefit analysis which followed the study showed that for every £1 spent, UK citizens and society saved £32 in losses, follow-on health care costs relating to physical and emotional distress. For the £640,000 spent, a saving of over £20m was realised by the taxpayer!

IPS Summary

The NTS Scams Team are doing some hugely impressive work for the benefit of UK citizens and they align completely with what IPS and our members believe in. The termination of the scam in the Philippines was a success that we want to see repeated over and over and will be championing whenever we get the opportunity.

Have your say

As an IPS member, you can leave us your thoughts, comments and experiences in the commments section below

One Response

  1. Christina Thomson says:

    I’m getting many spam calls some 2 or 3 times a day saying they are going to be disconnecting my Internet as a fraud has been detected same old same old press whatever number to contact us basically Amazon scam but for the Internet I’m still getting the occasional call telling me I’ve had an rta that wasn’t my fault damn right it wasn’t I’m housebound so unless I had a rta in my lounge really getting fed up with it all

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