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Cifas warns consumers of mobile phone scam

29 April 2021

Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, is issuing a warning about a scam which could see victims hand over personal details and have mobile phone contracts set up without them receiving the phone they are promised.

Telecoms providers are reporting a number of phone users receiving calls from scammers offering deals on the latest phone models. After the victim agrees to the contract and provides their personal details, and in some instances also makes an upfront payment, they then receive confirmation that their order has been placed. These are then followed by texts from a delivery company to let them know their order is safely on its way.

When the phone is received, it’s not the model the victim was expecting, as the scammer has used the victim’s details to apply for a cheaper model at the price the victim was expecting to pay for the more valuable handset. Minutes after the delivery, the fraudster calls the victim to advise the incorrect phone has been sent and asks for the phone to be returned to an address in return for the correct model.

The new phone never arrives, and when the victim calls the real mobile phone network, they are told the address they returned the phone to is not an official company address.

This scam is designed to both steal the personal and financial details of victims, as well as provide the scammers with a handset which could be sold for a profit or used to commit further criminal activities.

Cifas is reminding consumers to remain vigilant when receiving unsolicited calls and to look out for the following warning signs:


  • Pay attention to the phone call – calls from scammers will often be poor quality
  • Check the transaction with your bank or on your banking app – the payment should show as a telephone purchase to the company you were speaking to. If the transaction appears as an online purchase, or is sent to a name other than the company you were dealing with, this could be an indication of fraud
  • Be cautious if you receive a call telling you the wrong phone has been sent – it is unlikely that a genuine company will call and advise this is the case
  • Expect a prepaid envelope to return the phone to the company – if you are asked to send the phone back then question who you are speaking to, and remember that a genuine company will normally send you a prepaid envelope.

Phone users contacted about similar offers should hang up and call their network provider using the phone number available on their official website to ensure the call is genuine.

Users should also call the phone company if they have received a call advising the wrong package has been sent and are asked to return it to an address. Upon return of the phone to the correct address, the phone company will cancel any contract set up in the victim’s name under their customer money back policy.

Anyone that believes they have been a victim of a scam must tell their bank or credit card supplier immediately and report the incident to Action Fraud or Police Scotland. Victims may also consider adding their details to the Cifas National Fraud Database to help protect themselves against further use of their identity without their knowledge.

Mobile phone operators are engaging with each other and Cifas to gather intelligence, drive involvement with law enforcement and raise awareness of this scam. It is believed there are potentially thousands of victims of this scam, with losses reaching into the millions. The respective fraud teams at each mobile phone operator are continuing to identify fraudulent applications and are cancelling orders prior to delivery.

Head of Fraud Intelligence for Cifas, Amber Burridge, said: ‘Over the past year criminals have increasingly turned to phone fraud to target victims. These scams often involve the promise of a new phone or item of technology which will be easily believed as most of us continue to work from home.

‘I would urge anyone receiving these calls to take a moment to stop and think about the consequences of parting with their personal and financial information. Challenge anything that seems suspicious. If you are a victim then you must tell your bank immediately and report the case to your mobile phone company and Action Fraud.’

Notes to editors

Case Study

In a similar scam technique Amy*, 54, from London, received a package including an iPad and a SIM card. While Amy was out of the home, she called the provider to let them know she hadn’t ordered the item and was advised by the provider to not give the package to anyone until she had heard back from them with further instructions.

However, by the time she had contacted her family at home to convey the message, another courier had already arrived advising the device was to be recollected as it had been delivered to an incorrect address. Unaware of the conversation Amy was having with the provider, a family member gave the package back to the courier who was dressed in the correct uniform and had presented identification.

This was an incredibly stressful experience for Amy whose business had been impacted by the pandemic and had reduced her income. The thought of criminals using Amy’s personal details to create accounts in her name was particularly worrying.

Amy contacted Action Fraud to report the incident, as well as her bank to cancel her card, and took out a Cifas Protective Registration marker to protect herself from identity fraud.

*details of the victim substituted to protect their identity

About Cifas

Cifas is the UK’s fraud prevention service. We lead the fight against fraud by sharing data, intelligence and learning. The organisations that collaborate with us are drawn from all sectors, operating in both the public and private sectors working together to stop fraud. A full list of our members can be found on our website.

Organisations that work with Cifas, contribute to and benefit from the UK’s largest databases of fraud risk data and intelligence. We are committed to the principle of collaboration, which connects and drives our community, and enables the sharing of:

We enable the secure sharing of high quality, trusted data to fight fraud. Our databases are the most comprehensive and diverse sources of fraud risk data in the UK.

We provide research and dynamic intelligence that influences the threat picture and strengthens the response against fraud.

We are a leading provider of accredited education and trusted training.

Posted by: Cifas Press Team

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Posted by: Cifas Press Team

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