An urgent warning has been issued over a scam that’s putting millions of last minute Christmas shoppers at risk. Here’s everything you need to be aware of to avoid losing your money
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Doing your Christmas shopping online has become more common over the past years.
This year with surging coronavirus cases dampening shopping efforts, it’s very likely that more people have ordered their Christmas gifts online.
As many households across the country await the delivery of a huge number of parcels over the coming days, a new scam is targeting these eager shoppers.
UK Finance, a trade association representing banks and other financial firms, has warned last minute Christmas shoppers about an increasingly common scam, involving bogus texts claiming to be from parcel delivery firms.
Here’s what you need to know about it.
What is the ‘smishing’ scam targeting shoppers?
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Smishing is a form of phishing which uses mobile phones to attack unsuspecting individuals. Smishing is done through text messages or SMS which intends to gather someone’s personal information like social insurance and/or credit card numbers.
One of the most popular smishing scams in recent years, involves fake texts that claim to be from parcel delivery services. The text messages often say that the courier has been unable to make a delivery and ask the recipient to pay a fee or provide additional details in order to rearrange delivery.
There will usually also be a link to a fake website asking for personal and financial information.
This scam targeting shoppers has been over half (55.94%) of all reported “smishing” text messages in the last three months, according to figures from UK Finance. Figures have tripled since the same period in 2020, when 16.37% bogus texts were about parcels.
UK Finance has also warned shoppers to keep an eye out for purchase scams. It said that fraudsters are carrying out scams in which customer are asked via social media or auction websites to pay in advance for goods or services that are never received.
How to avoid falling victim to scams and how to report them?
Action Fraud advise anyone targeted by fraud to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to keep themselves safe:
- Stop: Take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or personal information could keep you safe.
- Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only scammers are likely to rush or panic you when you say no
- Protect: If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
Other things to keep in mind include :
- Never click on links in text messages, no matter how realistic they may seem.
- If you do want to contact the vendor who sent you the link, do it via their website. And always enter the web address/URL manually.
- For any offer codes, the best practice is to type them directly into the site.
- Most importantly, don’t respond to strange texts or texts from unknown sources.
Those who have been targeted by a fraudulent message can report it directly to their mobile phone provider by forwarding the hoax text free of charge to 7726.
The reports will help the National Cyber Security Centre to take down any fake website URLs and prevent further losses to scams.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.