Warning over phone number ‘spoof’

British consumers are increasingly being targeted by a ‘number-spoofing’ scam in which criminal gangs fool telephones into displaying the numbers of legitimate organisations, an anti-fraud body in Britain is warning.

The con works by fraudsters cloning the telephone number of a trusted organisation such as a bank and then making that number appear on the victim’s caller ID display, according to Financial Fraud Action UK, the name under which the financial services industry co-ordinates its fraud prevention efforts.

The criminal will gain the victim’s trust by drawing their attention to the number, claiming it is proof of their identity, before trying to defraud them.

Banks have reported seeing an increase in the scam, which is a new variation on telephone frauds where criminals cold call people and pose as bank staff, police officers, or other trusted organisations to persuade their victim to part with financial and personal details.

Often, criminals pretend they are phoning to tell the victim that a fraud has been detected on their bank account. Once they have their victim’s confidence, they will try to elicit information such as the victim’s Pin number, online passwords or other sensitive information which will then be used to steal from their bank account.

Some criminals will also trick victims into sending money to other accounts or to hand over cash or cards to a courier for “safe-keeping”, whereas in reality the courier is delivering the card straight to the fraudster.

The watchdog’s intelligence unit the Financial Fraud Bureau has seen evidence that the scam has become increasingly common in recent weeks, with organised criminal gangs making use of it. It warns people never to assume that someone is who they say they are just because their number matches that of an organisation.

If someone tries to draw a consumer’s attention to the number on their caller ID display, the consumer should immediately treat this as a warning sign of a scam.

A bank or the police would never call someone and ask for their four-digit Pin, full online banking passwords or ask them to transfer or withdraw money or to hand their card over to a courier.


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