45 million Brits were targeted by scam calls and texts this summer

Almost 45 million people in the UK were targeted by scam phone calls or texts in the past three months, according to the telecoms regulator Ofcom.

Landline users are the most likely to fall victim, with elderly people especially vulnerable. The survey found that 61% of people aged 75 and over had received phone-based phishing attacks (known as ‘vishing’) over their landline.

More than half of those people said that they had received such a call at least once a week.

That’s not to say younger people aren’t at risk, though. However, they are being targeted in a different way – with text scams (known as ‘smishing’) being the most common.

Ofcom found that 71% of people aged 16–34 received a suspicious text between June and August. Additionally, 43% said they were targeted by vishing attacks on their mobile phone.

The reason for the discrepancy in the way people are being targeted should be obvious. Younger people are more likely to give out their mobile number when signing up for services, whereas older people use their landline.

Therefore, when customer databases are compromised, criminal hackers will have access to the details provided by the individual.

There may be instances where fraudsters tailor their scams based on information known about the intended victim – such as their age – but in most cases, attackers are using scripts that vary little from subject to subject.

How to protect yourself

Anyone who suspects that they’ve received a fraudulent phone call or text message should ignore it.

If you are in any doubt, you can look up the contact details of the supposed caller to verify their identify. For example, scammers often claim to be calling from your bank, and you can find their helpline number on the back of your debit or credit card.

Meanwhile, other services and suppliers should have a phone number on any emails or letters they have sent.

Commenting on the report, Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s networks and communications group director, said:

“Criminals who defraud people using phone and text scams can cause huge distress and financial harm to their victims, and their tactics are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

“Stay alert to any unsolicited contact. Put the phone down if you have any suspicion that it is a scam call, and don’t click on any links in text messages you’re unsure about.”

Ofcom also encourages anyone who believes they have been targeted by a text scam to forward the message to 7726 – the numbers on the keypad that contain the letters for ‘spam’.

Those who wish to report a scam caller can do so by contacting Action Fraud.

Doing so will help protect not only you but also other potential victims. According to Ofcom, 2% of people who received a scam phone call between June and August said they fell victim, which equates to almost a million people.