Industry initiative blocks 400 scammer IDs

Industry initiative blocks 400 scammer IDs

More than 400 mobile sender IDs have been identified by a cross-industry group fighting scams, many seeking to exploit the coronavirus crisis.

In a joint initiative, the mobile industry and banking sector are working to identify and block fraudulent text messages, including those from criminals impersonating trusted brands and government organisations.

They set up a blacklist to block fraudulent messages and found among the 400 IDs identified to date, 70 related to coronavirus scams.

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The initiative from the Mobile Ecosystem Forum, Mobile UK and UK Finance, and supported by the National Cyber Security Centre, warned scammers employed a technique known as ‘spoofing’ making fraudulent messages appear legitimate.

They also detected scammers imitating genuine sender IDs, so that their texts appear in an existing chain and follow previous communications from a legitimate sender.

Separately, the MEF developed a white list for organisations to register and protect their sender IDs used to send genuine texts. So far 50 bank and government brands have signed up.

Ian Levy, technical director at the National Cyber Security Centre, said: “We are pleased to be supporting this experiment which is yielding promising results. 

"The UK government’s recent mass-text campaign on Covid-19 has demonstrated the need for such industry collaboration in order to protect consumers from these kinds of scams.”

Mike Fell, head of cyber operations at HMRC, said the initiative built on the success of an HMRC pilot, which saw a 90 per cent drop in reports of convincing text scams impersonating the organisation.

Last month the FCA warned of fraudsters exploiting the coronavirus pandemic and urged consumers to be vigilant for scams. Scam text messages have also been sent by fraudsters purporting to be from HMRC and targeting the self-employed by asking for bank details.