By Liam Rawsthorne, Head of Fraud, Virgin Media O2


You get a call, out of the blue, from your mobile provider with an exciting offer. To reward your loyalty, they’re offering you an exclusive time-limited deal, perhaps an upgrade to the latest handset or a big saving on your airtime plan. The caller is cheery, but there’s a sense of urgency as the deal ends today and you don’t want to miss out.

It’s an offer that’s impossible to ignore, particularly right now when the price of everything seems to be going up. And the friendly caller has all your details so they must be legitimate, right? Before you know it, the salesperson says they’ll place your order right now – you just need to read them the code that they’ve texted to your phone.

Would you read that code to them?

Here at O2, we call that code your OTAC – a One Time Authorisation Code. It’s something that we will never call you for to ask you to read out over the phone.  Keeping code safe is so important that before we send it to you, we also send a separate message warning you not to read it to any unexpected callers.

The OTAC is designed to keep your account safe from fraudsters. So if you’ve taken a call from O2 and they ask for an OTAC, hang up immediately as it’s a fraudster.

If a fraudster gets hold of this code, they can order a new phone in your name. Often that device will never arrive. If it does, you’re likely to get another call from the fraudster letting you know there is a “problem” with it and it needs to be returned to the address they give you.

Of course, they won’t give you a real O2 return address or will use a fake courier to collect it. This will be the last you hear from them, and you’ll be left to pick up the pieces.

The criminal gangs running these sophisticated scams know many people are looking to save money right now, so if a deal feels too good to be true, it probably is. If you get a suspicious call, we’re urging customers to clam up, hang up and call back.

CLAM UP: Stop talking – don’t share your OTAC or confirm any of your details. Fraudsters need information from you to complete their scam so the less you say the better.

HANG UP:  Put the phone down – fraudsters often try to get you to do something urgently without having time to think about it.

CALL BACK: Call us direct on 202 (from your O2 mobile), 789 (from your Virgin Mobile) or 150 (for Virgin Media customers) to verify the call, and help keep your account safe.

Worried you’ve fallen victim to a scam?

CIFAS believes there are thousands of victims of this scam, with all phone providers targeted and customer losses reaching into the millions. It is a loss few of us can afford, so if you’re concerned that you’ve shared information with someone you shouldn’t have, follow the checklist on our security hub to get back on track.

With fraud on the rise, we’re working with law enforcement to try and keep you safe. Together, let’s stay vigilant and help stop fraud in its tracks.

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