Emergency hotline launched to protect people from scams



Banks will launch a new emergency hotline for people to report fraud online, with the latest figures revealing Suffolk victims being swindled out of £ 17.6million in the past 13 months.

The new number 159 will put customers directly in touch with their bank’s fraud prevention department to see if they are being targeted by scammers.

The issue, which will launch on Thursday, is being promoted by industry body Stop Scams UK and will run for a 12-month trial period.

The group said fraudsters have exploited the Covid-19 pandemic to find new ways to defraud people.

It is hoped that the new program will prevent the theft of money from customers after victims across the UK were scammed over £ 1.26bn last year.

If the pilot is successful, Stop Scams UK, which is a coalition of banking and tech companies, said it would ask Ofcom to make 159 a universal number, similar to 101, 111 or 999.

Participating banks include Barclays, Lloyds, NatWest, Santander and Starling Bank.

Suffolk has seen a 30% increase in the number of frauds and hacking offenses during the Covid-19 pandemic, statistics show.

Continuous data from Action Fraud revealed that there had been 4,636 reports of fraud and cybercrime in the past 13 months, with reported losses of £ 17.6million.

Ruth Evans, Stop Scams UK, said: “Criminals rely on forcing people to make urgent decisions, and calling 159 is a simple and convenient tool to break their spell.

“Fraud is cruel, it destroys lives and we are determined to help people fight it.”

Fraudsters have used the Covid-19 pandemic to find new ways to scam customers
– Credit: Getty Images / iStockphoto

Speaking in July, a Suffolk Police spokesperson said: ‘We understand that fraud has a significant impact on both individuals and businesses and we are working hard to understand this and support victims during of these long and complex investigations.

“We closely monitor fraud reports in collaboration with Action Fraud. Due to the way fraud is reported, the large number of online reports are often not based on Suffolk, so the local focus is on prevention and protection in these cases.

“The complexity, change and reliance on technology and the sophistication of criminals’ tactics have resulted in an increase in all fraud nationwide and constitute a global crime where criminals are not bounded by geographic boundaries.

“It can cover romance fraud, various scams or ‘phishing’ and even blackmail.

“Suffolk has a dedicated cyber team in addition to fraud specialists who seek to prosecute those who commit such offenses, as well as alerting the public to fraud prevention where possible. “

For more information on cybercrime, visit the Suffolk Constabulary or Action Fraud websites.


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