Wholesale carrier BICS has issued a press release crediting Ofcom with a 75 percent fall in fraudulent calls after the UK regulator capped wholesale prices for calls terminating on the 070 number range. This range is used for various services including ‘follow me’ personal numbers that are typically redirected to different phones used by the same person, and this personalized aspect is the reason the regulator used the same two digits for this range as for mobile phone numbers beginning 07. The 070 range became a notorious magnet for fraud because of the high prices that were historically charged for terminating calls on this range and because victims assume call costs will be the same as for calls to regular UK mobile phones. Per BICS’ press release:
The findings – gathered from BICS’ FraudGuard platform, which crowdsources and anonymises intelligence from over 900 service providers – show that fraudulent attacks leveraging the UK numbering range plummeted by 75% between October 2019 and September 2020. This in turn resulted in 10 million fewer scam call attacks in the space of a year, benefitting operators and subscribers around the globe.
This decline can be directly attributed to Ofcom’s decision to introduce price caps on the wholesale cost of calls to 070 numbers, which came into force on 1st October 2019.
The price controls were largely motivated by a desire to reduce bill shock for customers, but it was also hoped they would reduce fraud. The data from BICS highlights the extent to which fraud can be mitigated by simply reducing the cost of calls, and hence the profits that fraudsters can make. Katia Gonzalez, Head of Fraud Prevention at BICS, asked for other countries to emulate the UK.
Ofcom’s regulation is a brilliant step forwards, and will hopefully inspire other regulators to adopt similar rules.
Although a 75 percent reduction in fraud is substantial, the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG) lobbied for a more fundamental change that would stop the confusion caused by allocating numbers beginning 070 to services which are dissimilar to mobile telephony. Changing the number plan would undoubtedly be more expensive, but it is still necessary to tackle the fraud that still persists on this range. Ofcom’s lack of interest in fraud was evident when they explicitly stated they did not want to take targeted enforcement action against serial abusers of the 070 range.