82 per cent of people in the UK subject to scam texts or calls: report

David Murphy

Almost 45m people have been on the receiving end of potential scam texts or calls in the last three months, new research from Ofcom reveals. The number is based on a survey of  2,000 adults in the UK carried out by Ofcom between 18 and 19 September 2021. All responses covered suspicious calls or messages received in the three months prior to the survey. 82 per cent of respondents said they had received a suspicious message, in the form of either a text, recorded message or live phone call to a landline or mobile. This represents an estimated 44.6m adults in the UK.

Scams are more commonly attempted via text messages with 71 per cent of respondents saying they have received a suspicious text (75 per cent for those aged 16-34). 44 per cent of those who had received a suspicious text message reported receiving such a message at least once a week.

Ofcom’s research also shows that suspicious calls continue to be a threat for landline users, with older people particularly susceptible. 61 per cent of people aged 75 and over reported receiving a potential scam call to their landline. 53 per cent of respondents who received a suspicious live phone call on a landline over the last three months said that they got a call at least once a week. 43 per cent reported getting a suspect call to their mobile phone.

More than half of people who received a suspicious text either deleted the message (53 per cent) or blocked the number (52 per cent). Almost half (49 per cent) of those who received a suspicious live voice call, and more than four in ten (44 per cent) who received a suspicious recorded message, blocked the number.

But, in the last three months alone, 2 per cent reported following the scammers’ instructions in a message or call. This equates to almost a million people, who risk financial loss and emotional distress if a scam attempt is successful.

The research also revealed that almost 79 per cent of mobile phone users are not aware of the 7726 number used to report a suspected text or call – although a similar figure (81 per cent) agreed that reporting messages is helpful in preventing people being scammed in the future.

Ofcom is encouraging anyone who receives a suspicious text message to report it by forwarding the message to 7726, which directs the message to the mobile provider. These numbers can then be investigated and potentially blocked if found to be a persistently rogue number – helping to flush out fraudsters and prevent more people being exposed to scam attempts.

Anyone who receives a scam call can also report it to Action Fraud, which is the reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Reports of fraud and any other financial crime in Scotland should be made to Police Scotland via 101.