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29 Sep 2021

New ‘159’ anti-fraud hotline launched

A new telephone hotline will connect people directly to their bank if they fear they’re being scammed.

A telephone hotline, launched today, is a new tool in the fight against fraud.

A simple, memorable number – 159 – will connect people directly and securely with their bank if they fear they are being scammed.

The 159 campaign has a clear message for consumers: If you are contacted by someone who claims to be your bank or encourages you to transfer money, stop, hang up and call 159 to check it’s for real.

Last year criminal gangs stole over £470m from individuals and small businesses by pretending to be a bank or other service provider, encouraging them to make a payment or transfer money. UK Finance recorded almost 150,000 separate instances of APP fraud – where customers are tricked into transferring money – a 22% increase on the year before.

One major bank says that ‘safe account scams’ (a type of APP fraud) comprise one in ten of all fraud cases and account for £15 of every £100 they refund to customers.

Criminal gangs use a combination of technology and sophisticated ‘social engineering’ scripts to pressurise customers into parting with their money.

Calling 159 will help people break the fraudsters’ spell, stopping the scammers in their tracks. It’s a practical way people can stop, challenge and protect themselves and their money. A genuine bank or authority figure will never mind if you hang up, call 159, and call back later using a trusted number.

159 is an unprecedented collaboration between banks, telecoms firms and technology companies. It is spearheaded by Stop Scams UK, the anti-fraud coalition, which counts BT, Google and major banks amongst its members.

159 is a pilot scheme which will run for at least a year. All major consumer telecoms firms are involved and over 70% of UK primary current account customers are covered in the first phase, with more banks and telecoms firms 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.

People are being urged to call 159 if:

  • Someone contacts them purporting to be from their bank – even if they are not suspicious.
  • They’re contacted by someone claiming to be an authority figure (eg the police) and told to transfer money – even if it seems genuine.

Ruth Evans, Chair of Stop Scams UK, said:

“Criminal fraudsters destroy lives and cause untold harm, we’ve set up 159 to give people a new way to fight back. If you ever feel pressured into transferring money or giving out personal details, you should call 159 to check it’s for real. Criminals rely on forcing people into heat of the moment decisions, and calling 159 is a simple, practical tool to break their spell. 159 is the result of an unprecedented collaboration between major banks and telecoms firms who are working with Stop Scams to put a stop to fraud.”

Andy Bates, Chief Sustainability Officer, Global Cyber Alliance, said:

“159 is a memorable, safe way to speak directly to your bank if you think you might be at risk of fraud. It’s a powerful new tool that puts power in the hands of ordinary people, giving them a way to get out of a pressurised phone call. 159 is just one of the ways we are working with banks, telecoms and technology firms to take the fight to the fraudsters.”

Gareth Elliott, Head of Policy and Communications for Mobile UK, said:

"Protecting customers from fraudulent mobile scams is a top priority for all operators. We are pleased to be working with Stop Scams UK to put in place the dial 159 single-dial service to ensure that customers have a trusted space to verify and test suspicious calls. It is important that all mobile customers remain vigilant, and dialling 159 provides yet another opportunity to prevent mobile network customers falling victim."

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