New emergency 159 hotline launched to protect people from scammers

Trading Standards officials have urged residents to be vigilant against scams Picture: GETTY IMAGES

A new emergency hotline has been launched by banks to fight online fraud - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Banks will launch a new emergency hotline for people to report online fraud as latest figures revealed victims in Suffolk were conned out of £17.6milllion in the past 13 months. 

The new 159 number will put customers directly through to their bank's fraud prevention service to check whether they are being targeted by scammers. 

The number, which will launch on Thursday, is being promoted by industry body Stop Scams UK and will run for a trial period of 12 months. 

The group said fraudsters exploited the Covid-19 pandemic to find new ways to scam people

It is hoped that the new scheme will prevent money being stolen from customers after victims across the UK were scammed out of £1.26billion last year. 

If the pilot proves successful, Stop Scams UK, which is a coalition of banking and technology companies, said it will ask Ofcom to make 159 a universal number, similar to 101, 111 or 999.

Banks taking part include Barclays, Lloyds, NatWest, Santander and Starling Bank.

Suffolk saw a 30% increase in the number of fraud and computer hacking crimes during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to statistics. 

Rolling data from Action Fraud revealed there were 4,636 reports of fraud and cyber crime made in the past 13 months, with reported losses of £17.6m.  

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Ruth Evans, from Stop Scams UK, said: "Criminals rely on forcing people into heat-of-the-moment decisions, and calling 159 is a simple, practical tool to break their spell.

"Fraud is cruel, it wrecks lives, and we're determined to help people fight it."

People are being advised to be alert for scams linked to coronavirus and the COVID-19 pandemic in Su

Fraudsters used the Covid-19 pandemic to find new ways to scam customers - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Speaking in July, a spokesman for Suffolk police said: “We understand that fraud has a significant impact both on individuals and businesses and we work hard to understand this and support victims during these long and complex investigations.

“We closely monitor fraud reporting in conjunction with Action Fraud. Due to the way fraud is reported, the large numbers of online reports are often not Suffolk-based, so focus locally is on prevention and protection in these cases.

"The complexity, change and reliance of technology and sophistication of tactics by criminals has led to rise in all fraud nationally and is a global crime where criminals not restricted by geographical border.

"This can cover romance fraud, various scams or ‘phishing’ and even blackmail.

"Suffolk has a specialist cyber team in addition to specialist fraud trained officers who look to prosecute those found committing such offences, as well as alerting the public about fraud prevention wherever possible."

For more information on cyber crime, visit the websites of Suffolk Constabulary or Action Fraud