Scam alert as vital secure phone line can ‘cut off’ banking fraud

How to use the159 scam phone service

Britons have been urged to make a note of a vital scam prevention phone number that could help them avoid being taken in by fraudsters pretending to be from their bank.

If a person gets a suspicious call purportedly from a bank, they can hang up and then call the 159 phone service, which will securely connect them to their bank to verify the situation.

Stop Scams UK created the phone line. Simon Miller, director of Policy and Communications at the group, told “The 159 number cannot be spoofed or impersonated, so it provides a route back to safety for customers.

“It provides a quick and secure way to be put through to currently 16 bank brands and to check what you have been told.”

He warned a bank would never phone its customers so if a person receives a call they are unsure about, they should stop and take the time to check what is going on.

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These are the 16 banks that can currently be reached on the 159 service:

  • Barclays
  • Bank of Scotland
  • Co-operative Bank
  • First Direct
  • Halifax
  • HSBC
  • Lloyds
  • Metro Bank
  • Nationwide Building Society
  • NatWest
  • Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Santander
  • Tide
  • TSB
  • Ulster Bank.

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Mr Miller said scammers often pose as authority figures, such as a Government agency or a bank’s fraud department, to try and lure people in.

The fraudsters may then tell the victim something is wrong such as their bank account is at risk, to panic them into handing over details or sending them money.

He said: “They deliberately want to make sure you do what they ask and to do that they use language that is similar to grooming.

“But there really is no urgency and if this really is your bank they won’t mind you checking it all out.

“By cutting off the call you have stopped a scam-in-the-making. They will move on to someone else but you will have cut off the risk of handing your money to criminals.”

He said using the 159 service can also help in the wider reporting of fraud as people who fall prey to scams are often too embarrassed to report it.

Asked what common scams people should look out for at the moment, Mr Miller said: “Now that we are in school holidays we can expect a spike in scams related to payments for holidays that don’t exist.

“Over the next week I also expect scams to pop up that purport to be offering compensation for cancelled packages to the Mediterranean where wildfires have caused holiday chaos.

“Scammers always take advantage of things that people are worried about in real life and they get right into things that are immediate and topical. None of this is new in scams, it’s just new content for conning you.”

Another current issue scammers are taking advantage of is the rental crisis as demand outstrips supply.

Mr Miller warned: “Scammers are taking advantage of the scarcity in this cost of living crisis by demanding payments just to get ahead of a queue to view properties.

“You may never see your money back and indeed the room or flat may not be available, if it even does exist.

“This might spike toward September as young people move across the country to university.”

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