Steve Sullivan

What does this new Strategy mean for business and those of us involved in the management of contact centres?

Steve Sullivan, Head of Regulatory Compliance

The UK new anti-fraud strategy looks to ban (a) ban the cold calling of financial services products, (b) ban SIM farms, mass texting and number spoofing and (C) utilise Action Fraud services.

A few days ago, the UK Government announced its new strategy to help combat fraud. It’s not surprising that this provoked generated a lot of publicity, as current estimates are that fraud accounts for 40% of all crime and scams have already cost UK consumers over £4 billion since March this year.

So, what does the Strategy mean for business and those of us involved in the management of contact centres? 

In truth the strategy is a mixed bag of things that were already in train, things that should have already happened and some promised new innovations.

1. Ban on the cold calling of financial services products

This is the proposed measure which created most media interest. Even in the age of mass digital adoption, unwanted or ‘nuisance’ calls continue to be an irritant to consumers – and the outbound channel continues to be attractive to fraudsters.

The government’s Strategy, which is currently a proposed set of measures under consultation rather than an agreed series of changes, is a little unclear on specifically what falls under the scope of this measure. At times the government has suggested any financial services product will be banned from cold calling and at others it has referred specifically to investment products – which would seem to be a very logical extension of the current ban on pensions cold calling.

However, even as the GDPR and the 2018 Data Protection Act still slowly percolates its way into the consciousness of some people who’d still prefer to forget all about them, hadn’t true ‘cold calling’ supposed to have stopped anyway? In any event, none of us should be calling consumers ‘cold’ to offer them financial services products, now, because the FCA bars the activity anyway. (see its Handbook and the imminent Consumer Duty).

Although if you call a customer or prospect that you deem to have a relationship with and who you think will anticipate hearing from you by phone and they don’t agree, then that’s a different matter! And if you use a business partner to provide you with sales leads – especially for financial services products – then some rigorous due diligence is called for.

2. Bans of SIM farms, mass texting and number spoofing 

Sim Farms

Another key proposal contained in the strategy is a plan to ban both SIM farms and mass texting. It would be hard to work out what legitimate reason anybody would have to operate a SIM farm, which is a cheap device that allows mass calls and messages to be generated using numerous SIMs and mobile numbers. The USP of a SIM farm is that it allows the CLIs (outbound calling / texting numbers) to rapidly rotate, thus avoiding detection and the risk of being blocked by the networks.

Mass Texting 

Likewise mass texting is to be reviewed. As the government acknowledges there are obvious, beneficial use cases for the use of mass texting, but not many in the arena of sales and marketing.

Number Spoofing 

Fraudsters love the apparent ease with which legitimate calling numbers can be ‘spoofed’, so that the real origin of scammers’ calls are hidden. You might think that spoofing can best be addressed by the network operators, and you would be right. This proposed change is just a reflection of work Ofcom has finally started to focus on, getting the networks to deploy technical measures to stop spoofing. As well as applying more pressure on the networks and their re-sellers to undertake proper due diligence of contact centres and communication providers using numbers.

3. Action Fraud action (again) 

Like Mark Twain, reports of the death of Action Fraud are greatly exaggerated. Action Fraud is a fraud reporting service run on behalf of the City of London police. It carries out a triage and assessment function, helping collate the volume and type of fraud, nationally, as well as providing data and insights. However, only a small minority of the c.1,000 cases reported to it each day by consumers go on to be actively investigated by the police.

Now the government has pledged to invest £30m over 3 years to replace Action Fraud with “a state-of-the-art reporting centre, including a simple to use reporting website and upgraded call centre with reduced waiting times”. In fairness, while that doesn’t sound especially ambitious it will a step-change improvement over the current service.

So, if you might benefit from a chat about how you handle your outbound calling, CLI treatments, how you assess marketing permissions for proactive communications including by SMS – or anything else the new Strategy touches on – then just let us know (unless you’re a fraudster, of course).

You’ll need to tailor that approach according to sector, profile and demographics, but speaking to people is where you start to bring all that hard work together.