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How to spot a mobile phone scam

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Mobile phone scams are on the rise. Sadly, more and more people are falling victim to some sort of mobile phone scam, from dodgy text messages to fraudsters on the phone. Criminals are getting increasingly creative with their efforts to trick you into signing over important details or, even worse, your hard-earned money.

There are a number of scams doing the rounds at the moment, with many being so sophisticated even tech savvy people are falling for them. With that in mind, it's really important that everyone stays aware of the types of scam you could be targeted with, the things to look out for, and measures to take to stay safe.

Text scams

scam text

Fraudsters are increasingly using SMS texts and messaging platforms to target people with scams.

Scammers are getting more and more sophisticated with their attempts to steal your cash. They can use technology known as ‘spoofing’ to make it look like their texts are actually from the organisation they are pretending to be.

From traditional text messages to Facebook Messenger to WhatsApp and others - scammers will try a number of platforms.

How to spot a text scam

Scammers are using more cunning methods, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still catch them out. Look out for unexpected messages, texts full of typos, suspicious links, and messages that ask for personal information.

Here are some things to look out for when you think you may have received a scam message - and what to do about them.

Unexpected messages

If you suddenly get a text message from your bank, or a delivery service asking you to input some details or call a number regarding a service you have not bought or signed up for, it could be a scam. You should be particularly wary if you’ve never received a text from that company before.

Find the organisation’s contact number via the official website and give the customer service team a call to check if the text was legit. A genuine organisation will certainly never ask for personal or financial details from you via text message.

Look out for typos

Professional organisations will almost never make spelling or grammar mistakes in any communications they send you. If you get a text you’re not sure about, give it a quick scan for typos and grammar. Even something seemingly innocent like a stray capital letter or a comma in the wrong place could be an indication that it’s not really who it claims to be from.

Never click links

Clicking a scammer’s link could lead to your phone being infected by a virus, or direct you to a fake website that will attempt to steal your details or even your money.

Whenever you receive a text message that asks you to follow a link, you should contact the company independently to verify its legitimacy .

Never share your personal info

A text message asking you to hand over personal details like your address, pin number or banking details is almost certainly a scam.

Genuine financial organisations, like your bank, will never request personal information via a text message. It’s as simple as that.

Never reply to the text

You might think replying is a good way of verifying the text. Or perhaps you’ve already figured out it’s a scam and wan’t to let them know you won't be fooled. Don’t.

By replying to a scammer's text message, you’re letting them know that your phone number is in use and active. This could lead to future scam attempts. Block the number, screenshot the message, delete it, then report it.

Reporting scams

You should always report scam messages so that organisations can keep track of the type of messages fraudsters are sending out. You should either send it directly to your mobile phone network, forward it on to Action Fraud or both.

Types of scam text

Scammers are inventive. They pretend to be from all sorts of organisations in an attempt to trick you out of giving your money over. Here are some recent scam texts that have been reported.

A text from your bank

Major high street banks including Barclays, NatWest, HSBC and Lloyds have all warned their customers about scam texts. These texts will often claim that a payment has been made from your account, a new device has accessed your account, or a new payee has been added to your account. It will then ask you to click a link to confirm the action.

Remember, your bank will never do the following things over text:

  • Ask for your banking details, online banking password or pin number
  • Ask for your personal information
  • Text you a link that then asks for your personal or banking details
  • Request you to transfer money
  • Ask you to download an app

The delivery text scam

One text scam in particular has been reported in extremely high numbers over the last few months. It’s a text that will claim to be from Royal Mail, DPD, ParcelForce or another delivery/courier company. The text will say there is a package set to be delivered to you that requires a small payment (something minor like £2). You’ll then be asked to click a link to make the payment so you can receive your parcel.

This scam is highly sophisticated because it will send you to a website that looks legitimate. And with such a small payment requested, it can seem genuine. However, reports suggest that this is the first step of a bigger scam.

If you follow the link and make the small payment on the imitation website, you’ll fill in all your payment details and personal details. You may also be asked for banking details that are never required to complete a transaction, such as a sort code and account number (huge red flag).

In the days that follow, you may then be contacted by someone claiming to be from your bank. They will likely phone from a number that looks legitimate, suggesting you have fallen victim to the mail fraud text. They’ll reel off your personal details to ‘prove’ they’re from the bank (the personal details you handed over to the fake website) and then tell you the only way to keep your money safe is for you to transfer it into another account. This is where you could lose all your money.

Remember, scammers can ‘spoof’ phone numbers now. So even if it looks like it’s the bank calling it could not be. There are key points to look out for with this scam:

If you’re not expecting a package, it’s very unlikely you’ll receive a text about one, especially not one asking for payment You should never have to type in your sort code and account number when making a small online transaction Your bank will NEVER ask you to transfer money into another account to keep it ‘safe’. It’s the bank, they can do this themselves if they ever had to

The FluBot text scam

Another version of the parcel delivery scam asks you to download an app instead of diverting you to a webpage.

This app will then infect your phone with malware. However, it currently only affects Android devices. Luckily, since it’s not a legitimate app in the Google Play Store, actually installing the app requires a complicated process that should put most people off. However, it only takes a few people to fall for a scam for the fraudsters to get a big payday.

As with other scams:

  • Be wary of delivery notifications when you’re not expecting a package
  • Even if you are expecting a package, you should always check the validity of a text on the delivery service’s official site
  • Never install apps that aren’t from official sources

Phone call scams

Scammers are also using phone calls to swindle people out of their savings. Recent accounts include automated calls to inform you that:

  • HMRC is investigating you for fraud
  • There is a warrant out for your arrest
  • An Amazon delivery that needs to be paid for

You will then be told that the only way to address the matter is to ‘press 3 to discuss’. This is a scam.

A company like HMRC or the police will never alert you about an investigation or an arrest warrant via an automated phone message.

If you are worried about a call like this, just hang up and get in touch with the organisation the call claimed to be from. You’ll almost always then discover it was a scam attempt.

For more information on scams and how to report them, you can visit the UK Government’s National Cyber Security Centre, Action Fraud and Friends Against Scams.

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