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Martin Lewis: If you need to call your bank, you can just dial 159

Portrait of a smiling young african woman wearing sweater standing isolated over green background, using mobile phone

If you need to call your bank, just dial 159. That's the message MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis gave in the second episode of his new series of The Martin Lewis Money Show on ITV.

Martin Lewis talks about the 159 telephone service
Embedded YouTube Video

The clip above has been taken from The Martin Lewis Money Show on Thursday 30 September 2021, with the kind permission of ITV Studios. All rights reserved. You can turn on subtitles by selecting the keyboard image at the bottom right of the video. You can also watch the full episode on the ITV Hub.

159 is a new scheme to check calls from banks are legitimate

When calling the 159 service, you'll be taken through to an option menu where the name of every bank that has signed up to the service is read aloud. You are then able to use your telephone keypad to be put through to your bank. The idea behind the scheme is to help those who believe they have been contacted by scammers claiming to be their bank, or by fraudsters who encourage them to transfer money.

But as you'll be directed through to your bank's customer service department, Martin says it may be the best way to call your bank in the first place.

Speaking on his show last night, Martin said: "If you need to call your bank now, just dial 159, which is in a diagonal [on your keypad]. This is a pilot scheme for people to check calls are real. Banks and certain telecoms firms will do it – but not all of them will.

"Now what they're really saying is, if you get a call from someone who says they're your bank but you're worried, you can just dial 159 in return."

Note that calling the service will cost the same as making a national rate call, which means if you've got inclusive minutes it'll be taken from those.

Be warned, this may not prevent sophisticated scammers from contacting you

However, be mindful that simply hanging up on a suspicious call and dialling 159 might not protect you. Martin warned: "This does not guarantee you safety, because sophisticated scammers can spoof a dialling tone so you think you're calling your bank – but the scammer provides a ringtone and an answer.

"To be totally safe, dial 159 on another phone, or you could call a friend's phone first and if they answer 'Hello Barclays' you know there's a problem. Or you can just could wait 20 minutes and try 159 on the same phone."

See our 25+ ways to stop scams guide for what to look out for, how to protect yourself, and what to do if you're a victim of a scam.

Many banks are taking part in the scheme – but not all are signed up

Here's a table detailing the firms currently taking part in the 159 service – and the major providers that aren't:

Is my bank taking part in the scheme?

Banks taking part Major banks not yet taking part
  • Bank of Scotland
  • Barclays
  • Halifax
  • Lloyds Bank
  • NatWest
  • Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Santander
  • Starling Bank
  • Ulster Bank
  • Atom
  • Bank of Ireland UK          
  • Co-op Bank
  • Danske Bank
  • HSBC
  • Metro
  • Monzo
  • Tandem
  • TSB (i)
  • Virgin Money

(i) TSB intends to join the service in early 2022.

You can call 159 if you're a customer of most major telecoms firms

The majority of telecoms firms are participating in the scheme, which enables you to call 159 from handsets and landlines if you're a customer. Here are the firms taking part:

  • BT (including EE and Plusnet)
  • Gamma
  • O2 (including Giffgaff)
  • Sky
  • TalkTalk
  • Three
  • Virgin Media
  • Vodafone

When to call 159

People are being urged to call 159 if they encounter the following:

  • Someone contacts you claiming to be from your bank – even if they do not seem suspicious.
  • You are contacted by someone claiming to be an authority figure (such as the police) and told to transfer money – even if the request seems genuine.
  • You receive a call about a financial matter and it appears suspicious.

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