Fall in scam calls following Ofcom action

08 October 2020

Scam calls using a particular set of phone numbers have reduced dramatically, after Ofcom introduced new rules a year ago.

Data published by international communications provider BICS suggests fraudulent calls using 070 numbers fell by 75% between October 2019 and September 2020 – this equates to ten million fewer scam calls.

This follows our decision to cap the wholesale cost of connecting 070 calls, which came into force in October last year.

070 numbers are designed to be used as a ‘follow me’ service, where calls are diverted from one number to another, so the person being called can keep their own number private. But they are often mistaken for mobile numbers (which begin with ‘07’), even though they can be more expensive to call.

We were concerned about these numbers being used to defraud people, having uncovered evidence of scams, such as missed calls and fake job adverts. Before the introduction of our price cap, an estimated minimum of 20% of 070 calls involved some form of fraudulent activity.

To address this, we set a cap on the wholesale prices companies can charge for connecting 070 calls. This is now at the same level as calls to mobile numbers – currently around 0.5 pence per minute – which removed the incentive for scams by significantly cutting the money that could be made from using these numbers.

BICS’ findings were crowdsourced from over 900 providers worldwide.

Katia Gonzalez, head of fraud prevention at BICS, said: “Ofcom’s regulation is a brilliant step forwards, and will hopefully inspire other regulators to adopt similar rules.”

Some phone companies now include calls to 070 numbers in free minute call allowances. However, some don’t, and calls can still cost around 50p per minute from a landline or 86p per minute from a mobile. So, you should always check with your provider before you dial.