New 159 Emergency Fraud Helpline Launches

Could the new emergency number help to cut fraud?

September 28, 2021
New 159 Emergency Fraud Helpline Launches
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A new emergency helpline has launched to help customers identify whether they are the victims of attempted fraud.

The new number will serve as a hotline straight through to a bank’s customer services department, so that they can quickly identify whether a phone call, a text message or an email is actually from the bank or is an attempt to defraud the customer.

The number is 159 and is being run by Stop Scams UK, a body that was founded jointly by banking firms in 2020.

Initial Pilot Period

The new emergency number is designed to be memorable in the same way that other services are – such as 101 for the police or 111 for the NHS. It will redirect customers to the fraud prevention teams at their bank who can then advise on whether a communication is genuine.

Customers are advised to hang up any call that they might believe is an attempt at fraud and dial the 159 number immediately. The bank can then confirm whether the attempted contact was from the bank or whether they have avoided a scam, and then advise on how to report it.

The number is an initial 12-month pilot, after which it will be reviewed to measure the success. It is also not available to all bank customers currently, although it does work for most of the largest banks in the UK. This includes Barclays, Lloyds, Halifax, Bank of Scotland, NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank, Santander and Starling – the only digital challenger to be involved.

Stop Scams UK estimates that this will cover around 70% of UK primary account holders. The aim is for the 12-month pilot to demonstrate the success of the number and collect evidence that it does work, at which point it would become a universal emergency helpline for all banks.

Why Is The Number Needed?

The new 159 number has launched after a rapid rise in fraud cases over the last 18 months. In 2020 customers lost around £470 million, much of which banks have avoided repaying by arguing that customers are at fault for giving out personal details they have been warned to keep private.

The cases have risen further in 2021, which is why banks are taking measures to try and prevent fraud – especially as they are under pressure to improve their rates for the amounts returned to customers. Banks are ultimately the losers if that becomes the case as they cannot always recover the funds from scammers.

Customers are being advised to therefore always use the 159 number even if they are convinced that the call is genuine. The more users of the number, the more it will eventually help to prevent fraud and save both customers and banks money.

The number does not work on every telephone network, but so far has been extended to 80% of landlines and mobiles, with a view to connecting other networks ASAP. It works on BT, EE, Plusnet, Gamma, O2, GiffGaff, TalkTalk, Three, Virgin Media and Sky.

Ian Lewis
Ian Lewis
Ian is an experienced writer with 15 years’ experience working in journalism and marketing. He’s worked in-house in financial institutions as well as writing freelance pieces for a variety of banking and financial trading websites.

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