Fighting the scammers: new 159 hotline

A bevy of banks and anti-fraud organisations come together to launch a new scam-reporting service. 

What is the 159 campaign? Who is aimed at and how does it work?

“So, 159 is a service led by Stop Scams UK and the Global Cyber Alliance, allowing customers to quickly connect with their bank if they suspect that someone is trying to scam them out of their money. It’s meant to feel similar to 999 or 111. At the moment, it’s still in pilot phase, but currently about 80% of mobile providers support it and almost 100% of landline providers. When the customer dials 159, they’ll be presented with a list of options to connect to different banks – for instance, press X for Royal Bank of Scotland. You’ll be asked if you’re a business, Premier or personal customer, or if the suspected scam is on a credit card, and from there you’ll be routed through to the relevant bank point of contact.”

What sorts of fraud is the service designed to combat?

“Several types, but the biggest one we’re targeting is scams. So that’s where a customer is duped into paying away their own money by phone, as opposed to somebody hacking into a bank account or using card details without permission. So if the customer receives a call from a phoney bank or someone pretending to be from the police, or they want to make sure they’re definitely talking to their genuine bank, they can dial 159.”

How big a problem is fraud in the UK? And how might 159 reduce the problem?

“You’re more likely to fall victim to financial fraud than any other crime in the UK, and it’s a growing problem. So there’s been a conscious effort from banks over the past few years to put more money and resources behind preventing fraud and scams – and it’s important that banks, telecoms companies and other bodies work together. Often we compete with other banks, so to have this service launched and for people to use it is fantastic.

159 allows customers to quickly connect with their bank if they suspect someone is trying to scam them. It’s meant to feel similar to 999 or 111

Catherine Livesey
Bank fraud prevention team

“We have a duty to allow families and businesses to thrive without the detrimental impact of fraud. As a bank, we have a huge focus on financial capability as well. We want people to feel confident about their finances, knowing that they’re able to contact the bank quickly and securely should they need to. Ethically, it’s important to remember that money that is scammed often goes towards things like terrorism, human trafficking and the illegal drugs trade.”

How else is the bank helping out around fraud?

“We work really closely with loads of different industry bodies, such as UK Finance and the Global Cyber Alliance, and law enforcement. We’re also one of the founding members and signatories of the voluntary APP Scam Code, which commits banks to do more to protect customers from authorised push payment scams, and also to look at reimbursement. We invest a lot of money in our fraud detection systems, and have lots of pillars and threads of customer education. 

“Our business customers, for instance, can sign up to free webinars from our commercial awareness team, to make sure businesses are able to learn about some of the latest fraud and scam trends as well.”

What resources can you share with people to explore?

“Royal Bank of Scotland’s Security Centre has lots of top tips on fraud prevention, as well as details on how the bank is developing new services like the 159 number. It’s also got a list of the latest scam techniques to look out for, so people can reduce the threat of losing their money.”

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