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Criminals impersonating telecoms customers is increasing rapidly

9 July 2024


  • Over 17,000 cases recorded to Cifas National Fraud Database in 2023
  • Mobile users aged 61+ are most targeted
  • Consumers can stay safe by following seven easy tips to help protect themselves from growing telco threat

The latest data from UK-leading fraud prevention service, Cifas, shows a sharp rise in criminals targeting the telecoms sector to carry out facility takeover fraud.

More than 374,000 cases were filed to the National Fraud Database (NFD) in 2023, and of this, cases of facility takeover fraud – where a criminal utilises compromised personal data to hijack an existing account or product – increased by 13%. This was primarily attributed to a 59% rise in filings from the telecoms sector, which now accounts for 2 in 5 of all facility takeover cases.

Previous data showed identity fraud was the favoured tactic for criminals when fraudulently obtaining mobile phones and products. However, while this type of fraud still accounts for 64% of all cases recorded to the NFD, 2023’s figures reveal that criminals prefer to impersonate telecoms customers and abuse their personal data for their own nefarious purposes.

Additionally, mobile users aged 61 and over were most at risk of being defrauded, accounting for nearly one in four (27%) of all facility takeover cases last year.

Duncan McLellan, Senior Intelligence Analyst at Cifas, said: ‘The data shows how quickly criminals are prepared to adapt their methods to exploit innocent people. By impersonating network operators, often via carefully devised scripts, their aim is to build trust and collect personal information before using it fraudulently to reap ill-gotten gains.

‘When reports suggest there are now more mobile phones in the world than people, the telecoms industry remains a lucrative market to exploit. That’s why sharing fraud data and intelligence remains critical if we’re to put a stop to organised crime and the wider impact it has on society.’

Hamish MacLeod, Chief Executive of Mobile UK, said: ‘Mobile UK calls on all mobile consumers to remain vigilant. Fraudsters are an ongoing problem faced by all UK phone networks, but we hope that by sharing tips and guidance it may help prevent mobile network consumers falling victim.

‘Protecting customers from fraudulent mobile scams is and remains a top priority for all operators and they continue to invest in new measures to help monitor and protect them.’

Andy Mayo, Head of Fraud at Sky UK, added: ‘The nature and appeal of mobile devices means that fraudsters are constantly evolving tactics to get their hands on the latest handsets. We are regularly updating our defences to stop as much fraud as possible, but there are important steps that all consumers can take to help keep themselves protected too.’

Seven ways mobile users can protect themselves from facility takeover

1. Never divulge personal information or hand over any bank details.

2. Don’t feel rushed/pressured into a decision you might regret later.

3. If you do sense something isn’t right, hang up and call the company they claim to be from to check if it is a scam or not.

4. Check your credit file and bank account regularly.

5. Report any fraud to Action Fraud here or call: 0300 123 2040.

6. Read the latest advice from the ‘Stop! Think Fraud’ campaign.

7. Protect your identity through Cifas’ Protective Registration service which costs £30 for two years’ cover.

Overall, cases of facility takeover recorded to the NFD increased by 13% compared to 2022. See all the data in the 2024 Cifas Fraudscape report. In 2023, Cifas member organisations prevented more than £1.8bn of fraud losses.


Notes to Editors

For more information, please contact Hayley Paterson, Cifas Press and PR Manager, on 020 4551 7072 or

About Cifas

Cifas is the largest not-for-profit fraud prevention service in the UK. It has more than 750 members who represent various industries including banking, retail, insurance, and telecoms. Cifas protects businesses and individuals from fraud through effective and secure data and intelligence sharing between the private, public and third sectors. Additionally, the independent organisation offers a range of products and services to help businesses prevent fraud and delivers specialist training for counter-fraud professionals through its Cifas Fraud and Cyber Academy.

Cifas’ data is included in the Office of National Statistics England and Wales Crime Statistics of police recorded crime and it works alongside law enforcement agencies in tackling fraud. In 2023, Cifas members prevented more than £1.8bn of fraud losses.

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Fraudscape is Cifas’ annual report which combines data from its National Fraud Database (NFD) and Insider Threat Database (ITD), alongside intelligence provided by Cifas members, partners, and law enforcement.

Posted by: Cifas Press Team

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