Experts are warning people to be wary of unexpected text messages ahead of Christmas – with those claiming to be from delivery firms the most likely to be a scam
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More than one million people will receive a scam text message between now and Boxing Day as cyber criminals go into overdrive over the busiest spending season of the year, analysis shows.
UK Finance is warning people to be wary of unexpected text messages ahead of Christmas – with those claiming to be from delivery firms the most likely to be a scam.
It comes as shoppers shun high streets in the wake of the new Omicron variant, meaning many will be expecting parcels at their door.
Figures provided to UK Finance by cybersecurity company Proofpoint show that so far in the final quarter of this year, over half of all reported ‘smishing’ text messages claimed to be from parcel and package delivery firms.
This proportion has more than tripled compared to the final quarter of 2020. It’s followed by messages purporting to be from banks, consumer brands and media companies.
Often these fake text messages claim 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.
There is then a link to a very convincing but fraudulent website asking for personal and financial information.
Proofpoint operates the 7726 text message system on behalf of mobile phone operators, which allows customers to report suspicious texts. Each year within the UK it receives millions of text messages reported as spam.
Reports to the 7726 system are being used by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to take down fraudulent website URLs and prevent further fraud losses.
Consumers are also urged be on the lookout for purchase scams. Social media platforms, online and auction websites are increasingly used by criminals to carry out these scams, where a customer pays in advance for goods or services that are never received.
Katy Worobec, managing director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said: “Scrooge-like criminals are using the festive season to try and trick people out of their cash. Whether you’re shopping online or waiting for deliveries over the festive period, it’s important to be on the lookout for scams.
“Don’t let fraudsters steal your Christmas – always follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and stop and think before parting with your information or money.”
Jacinta Tobin, vice president of Cloudmark Operations for Proofpoint, said: “Consumers need to be very sceptical of mobile messages that come from unknown sources. And it’s important to never click on links in text messages, no matter how realistic they look.
“If you want to contact the purported vendor sending you a link, do so directly through their website and always manually enter the web address/URL. For offer codes, type them directly into the site as well. It’s also vital that you don’t respond to strange texts or texts from unknown sources. Doing so will often confirm you’re a real person to future scammers.”
The Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign urges the public to remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police.
Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.
Consumers can report suspicious text messages by forwarding the message to SMS number 7726, which spells out SPAM on a phone keypad.
Consumer group Which? says these are the warning signs of a fraudulent SMS message. Remember these can be sent as a text or a message on an app such as WhatsApp. The same rules apply, if you don’t recognise the sender or a person suddenly claims to be contacting you from a reputable source such as HMRC, do not reply. You can always contact the firm’s official number to verify it yourself.
1. Message from an unknown number
Most organisations protect their ‘Sender ID’ so text messages should be from ‘HSBC’ or ‘Royal Mail’ instead of a generic number.
Don’t always trust the number though as Sender ID names can be hijacked on smartphones.
If in doubt, contact the organisation directly using a verified number from the organisation’s official website.
2. Urgent requests for payments or details
This is a tactic that tries to worry you so you feel the need to act fast.
Genuine organisations rarely ask you to pay or make account changes via text message without first logging into your account.
3. Is there a website address?
Does the website address match that of the organisation? Make sure the website link belongs to that of the organisation’s official domain – for example, www.hermes.com.
Always look up an organisation’s details independently to double-check the details.
4. Spelling errors and odd wording
Banks, government departments and couriers will rarely make spelling or grammatical errors.
If the message doesn’t make sense, it’s a strong giveaway that it’s a scam.
Likewise, if the message does not refer to your by your name, you should question it. If your name is used, you should still act with caution as they often buy your details from databases online.