Posted: 26 June 2020

Scams Awareness Fortnight 2020: Combatting scammers during COVID-19

By Mark Johnson, Head of Security Operations

At TalkTalk, the security, safety, and welfare of our customers is a key priority. That is why we fully support Citizens Advice’s Scams Awareness Fortnight 2020 as we work together across industries to combat scammers and empower customers to protect themselves. This is especially important during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Scammers have evolved their approach using COVID-19 to their advantage. Many scams exploit the feelings of unease and anxiety caused by the sudden and seismic shift in many people’s lives. Scammers lure victims with phishing emails imitating official COVID-19 communications, preying on people’s fears and insecurities.

As ever, we have taken steps to respond to these scams head-on while also equipping our customers with the knowledge they need to spot an attack. Our Chief Executive Tristia Harrison has also been in regular touch with our customers during the pandemic with advice on how to stay safe online.

Raising awareness is crucial – now more than ever – as Action Fraud reported in April that alone they received more than a thousand Coronavirus related reports, which amounted to losses of more than £2.3 million. 

Measures taken to beat scammers

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been a global shift in scam activity. While the number of scam calls seems to be reducing significantly, the number of reported phishing attacks increased significantly as fear of the pandemic grew.

  • Through our partnership with an industry-leading supplier, we deliver spam and phishing filtering on our customer email platform, additionally we stop attackers from spoofing our official consumer email addresses and customers can report suspected phishing emails to our customer security team. From this, we can block our customers from accessing phishing domains while they are using our network and we request that phishing sites are taken down by the site’s hosting provider.
  • We also actively capture scam calls to gather intelligence about how scammers operate and automatically block calls that contain typical scam call indicators. As a result, we have seen a 65% drop in contacts from customers relating to scam calls since the end of last year.
  • One of the most significant ways we can improve overall digital safety and security is through the products and services we offer. CallSafe is a free security feature available for customers that screens inbound calls so they filter out unwanted or nuisance callers. Our HomeSafe tool helps to filter web content including blocking adult content, virus protection and scam protection.

It is important that customers are armed with the knowledge and tools they need to spot scams themselves. Our Community pages offer advice and guidance on how to identify scams and what to do – see here for avoiding COVID-19 scams, help with phishing emails and scam phone calls.

Working together

  • A great deal more can be done if we join forces, which is why we also actively collaborate with other companies, government agencies and industry forums, for example Action Fraud and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). The NCSC’s newly launched Suspicious Email Reporting Service for example has seen consumers passing on more than 1 million suspect emails, leading to the removal of over 5,000 links to fraudulent sites.
  • TalkTalk is also a member of the Stop Scams UK initiative, a new industry and regulatory initiative supported by Ofcom and the FCA, with the aim of sharing best practice across the telecoms and financial services industries so we can all tackle scams as effectively as possible.

As the battle against scammers rages on, we’ll continue to innovate through our technology and partnerships to tackle ongoing threats. We are committed to keeping consumers armed with the latest intelligence to protect themselves and their families.