How Three is taking action against fraudsters
The pandemic has seen dramatic changes to the way people go about their daily lives. Face to face interactions are being replaced with online and remote transactions, which is leaving people more susceptible to being the victim of online fraud. And while fraud is an important issue for us here at Three, its impact is felt beyond the telecoms industry. In fact, in 2021 alone, more than £2.3 billion was lost by victims of fraud. Not only that, but the emotional impact can also be just as bad as the financial one, which is why we are taking steps to protect our customers and investing significant sums of money to do so.
We’ve seen a huge rise in smishing attempts (SMS phishing), where texts are made to look like they are from a reputable company designed to obtain personal information, often used in conjunction with a delivery scam. During 2021 we deployed additional technology that has enabled us to successfully filter and block inbound spam and fraudulent SMS traffic on our network. As a result, we saw a year-on-year increase of 33% in blocked SMS messages since 2020, with millions more prevented from reaching customers. Despite a rise in scam messages, since April 2021 our efforts have seen up to 5.8m messages blocked per month, with that rising to 14 million during some of bigger attacks, such as ‘Flu bot’.
With cyber criminals increasing their use of fraudulent websites to try and gather personal information or money, companies have a responsibility to protect and monitor their brand online. We have set up and resourced a dedicated team that monitors and detects websites that impersonate our brand with the intention to capture personal information from our customers. Last year we blocked and removed 358 phishing websites and since 2018 we’ve taken down 3177 fraudulent websites. We recognise how important it is that we do our part to keep customers safe and urge other brands to do the same.
In addition to the new technology deployed, we have been protecting our customers against fraudulent activity by:
- Continuing our customer education. This included launching targeted customer communication campaigns on fraud and security topics including smishing, staying safe from fraudsters (tips and tricks), nuisance calls and alerts to known scams (such as Flubot)
- Working in conjunction with industry and Law Enforcement & Government on:
- Fraud Sector Charter – Supporting a Home Office initiative to reduce and design out telecoms fraud. Three are working collaboratively with the Home Office and other major network operators in producing a Fraud Sector Charter in support of the Government’s Fraud Action plan for 2022-2025. The charter is made up of 9 elements to provide customer protection support, advice, and guidance. It will target Smishing, phishing and scam calls, improved shared intelligence and law enforcement engagement.
- 159 service launch – In collaboration with industry and Stop Scams UK, a new emergency hotline has been launched for people to report and check financial scams as they happen. Anyone who receives a call or message from somebody who suggests money should be transferred is being urged to hang up and call 159. This memorable short code will then give them the option to be transferred directly to their bank’s fraud team and validate the request.
We’re making great strides in tackling fraud, but more is still to be done. We’re keeping our customers as informed as possible on how to protect themselves, including creating dedicated pages on our website, and urge all customers to keep themselves as safe as possible.
Darren Purkis, Chief Financial Officer, Three UK