Almost 45 million people have been on the receiving end of potential scam texts or calls in the last three months, new Ofcom research reveals.
More than eight in 10 (82%) said they had received a suspicious message, in the form of either a text, recorded message or live phone call to a landline or mobile. This represents an estimated 44.6 million adults in the UK.
Scams are more commonly attempted via text messages with seven in 10 people (71%) saying they have received a suspicious text, and three quarters (75%) of those aged 16-34 saying they were targeted.
More than four in 10 (44%) who had received a suspicious text message reported receiving such a message at least once a week.
Ofcom’s research also shows that suspicious calls continue to be a threat for landline users, with older people particularly susceptible. Three in five (61%) people aged 75 and over reported receiving a potential scam call to their landline.
More than half (53%) of respondents who received a suspicious live phone call on a landline over the last three months said that they got a call at least once a week.
Four in 10 (43%) reported getting a suspect call to their mobile phone.
More than half of people who received a suspicious text either deleted the message (53%) or blocked the number (52%).
Almost half (49%) of those who received a suspicious live voice call, and more than four in ten (44%) who received a suspicious recorded message, blocked the number.
But, in the last three months alone, 2% reported following the scammers’ instructions in a message or call. This equates to almost a million people who risk financial loss and emotional distress if a scam attempt is successful.
The research also revealed that almost eight in 10 (79%) mobile phone users are not aware of the 7726 number used to report a suspected text or call – although a similar figure (81%) agreed that reporting messages is helpful in preventing people being scammed in the future.
Says Nick Baker, telecoms expert at Uswitch.com:
“Scam texts have exploded during lockdown. Millions of us have received messages claiming to be from the tax authorities, parcel delivery firms and even the NHS.
“Many of these messages are cleverly disguised, but clicking on the links can result in your data or even your money being stolen.
“The volume of nuisance calls on landlines has increased in the same period too – in fact one in five landline customers have told us they avoid answering their phone in case it’s a scammer.
“Surprisingly, more people told us they received suspicious calls on their landline than they did on their mobile phones.
“If you’re struggling with scam calls on your landline, make sure you have registered for the Telephone Preference Service, which should reduce the amount of sales and marketing calls you receive. If you suspect you’re being targeted by a scammer, hang up immediately.
“Never give out personal details on the phone unless you’re 100% confident that you’re talking to an official caller, and be just as suspicious of links in texts and emails.”