Causeway Chronicle

Be aware of false text scams!

Text messages are a favoured tool for scammers. The mobile network EE reported that it blocked more than 45 million scam texts in 2023.

Texts sent by fraudsters, also known as smishing, can be devious scams seeing you lose money immediately by entering your details into a dodgy website, or over months by being groomed by criminals pretending to be a job recruiter.

Here we detail the text scams we’ve seen recently and share advice on how to spot and avoid a text scam.

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1. Fake bank texts

A typical recent example of a fake bank text claims to be from HSBC. It’s sent from a random mobile number and tells you that you’ve spent a certain amount of money at a particular brand.

It states that the transaction was attempted on your account and to call a number if it wasn’t you who made the transaction. This most likely leads to a vishing scam where a scammer then calls you impersonating the bank, and your personal and financial details will be asked for.

It also includes a fake reference number to appear legitimate. On Who Calls Me, a website which collects data on scam numbers, a recipient reported that after calling the number they were then asked for their card details for a suspicious payment to be checked.

The police force in Jersey recently warned of a scam circulating around the Channel Islands after it received 14 individual reports of a particular bank impersonation text scam between 4 and 9 January. Victims’ total losses amounted to £138,000. 

The police noted that the scam texts it had come across cited ‘CryptoCom’ as the company the suspicious transaction had been paid to, and that the message asked you to reply ‘Y’ if you made the transaction and ‘N’ if you didn’t. A response then prompted the scammer to call you.

2. Recruitment scams

Out-of-the-blue messages that claim to be from recruitment companies are also circulating. Sometimes the texts impersonate a legitimate person or company.

These texts are the start of job scams, which go on to steal your money in various ways. Once you engage with the fraudster, they may ask you for money upfront, such as for work equipment, and then vanish after the money is sent. Or they ask for scans of documents like passports or driving licences to steal your identity.

Fraudsters also send texts that advertise simple work-from-home jobs such as completing surveys. These will appear legitimate as you start doing the ‘job’. However, you’ll eventually be asked to invest some of your own money to complete more tasks, for example, and you’ll never be able to withdraw what you’ve earned.

3. Missed delivery texts

As so many of us wait for deliveries, scammers bank on us clicking on dodgy links in ‘missed delivery’ texts. These scam messages impersonate popular delivery companies including DPD, UPS, Evri and the Post Office.

In one message we found, a text impersonating the Post Office and the Royal Mail tells you that your parcel is unable to be delivered and prompts you to follow a malicious link to ‘reschedule a redelivery’.

The link leads to a convincing fake Royal Mail website which asks for your postcode before asking you to pay £1.45 for your parcel to be redelivered. This is where your personal and financial data will be stolen.

We’ve also seen scam texts imitate delivery company Evri, which also leads to dodgy phishing websites impersonating the brand. Both texts ask you to follow the link to arrange the redelivery of a missed item and are sent from random mobile numbers.

Which? shared this scam with the Post Office and it confirmed that it was a scam. It also advised that it doesn’t deliver mail, so a message like this claiming to be from the Post Office is a definite scam. 

4. Wrong number scams

Scammers attempt to groom you into their elaborate fraudulent schemes by sending ‘wrong number’ texts.

These texts begin by saying something you would say to a friend, such as: ‘It was nice seeing you the other day,’ in anticipation of you replying asking who it is.

The scammer will then say a random name and you’ll tell them that they have the wrong number. This typically leads to a conversation which ends with a dodgy crypto investment scheme being promoted by the scammer.

5. HMRC refund text

Scammers are impersonating HMRC in a bogus tax refund text which tells you that you’re owed £277.

It then prompts you to follow a malicious link to ‘claim your tax refund’.

If you receive a text claiming to be from HMRC, log in to your official HMRC online services account to verify any information in it.

HMRC does send texts to some customers, but it will never ask for personal or financial information. Never click on links in messages claiming to be from HMRC. 

Avoiding and reporting scam texts

Unsolicited texts are always something to be wary of. If you do receive a text like this:

  • Avoid following any links in the message.
  • Be suspicious of texts asking for personal information.
  • To verify the legitimacy of a text, contact the company that it claims to be from directly or log in to your online account with the company using its official website.
  • Don’t reply to the message as this will let the scammer know that the number is active.

You report scam texts by forwarding the message to 7726. 

If you have been scammed, call your bank immediately using the number on the back of your bank card and report it to Action Fraud, or call the police on 101.

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Maurice Bradley