Phone providers are to automatically block online calls from overseas that appear to come from UK numbers, as part of efforts to tackle rising overseas scams.
Communications regulator Ofcom said it was working with telecoms companies to tackle the “complex problem” and would introduce the new measures “at pace”.
The Telegraph, which first reported the news, said the regulator is also considering whether customers should be required to show ID when buying multiple SIM cards, which can be used by fraudsters to send millions of text messages to the victims.
Ofcom revealed last week that fraudulent calls and texts had targeted 45 million people in the UK over the summer, and said it was particularly concerned about a “significant increase” in fraudulent communications over the past of the last 18 months.
The regulator said the tactics used by fraudsters had become increasingly sophisticated, such as spoofing the numbers of well-known UK businesses and organisations. Foreign criminals are increasingly deploying internet-based technologies to carry out their scams.
Fraudulent calls continue to plague seniors, many of whom still use landlines. About 60% of people over 75 said they had received a suspicious call on their landline in the past three months.
Young people are more vulnerable to SMS fraud. Three quarters of 16 to 34 year olds have been targeted by such scams.
Ofcom said tackling the problem of overseas phone scams required coordinated efforts by police, government and the telecommunications industry.
“We have worked with telecommunications companies to implement technical solutions, including blocking suspicious international calls masked to a UK number at source,” said Lindsey Fussell, director of Ofcom’s networks and communications group.
“We expect these measures to be introduced as a priority, and at a pace, to ensure better customer protection.”
Rocio Concha, director of advocacy and policy at consumer group Which?, said: “As we have seen during the pandemic, consumers are being bombarded with scam calls and text messages – and unfortunately we have seen people losing large sums as a result.
“It is encouraging to see Ofcom and the telecommunications industry working together to develop solutions, which should make it harder for fraudsters to exploit systemic weaknesses to reach potential victims. It is important that companies implement the new measures as soon as possible, in order to prevent even more scams and ensure consumer protection.”