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People across the UK should be on the lookout for a new text scam. A number of people have received messages telling them that they have missed a call and now have a voicemail waiting for them. The text also includes a link, supposedly to play the recorded message.
However, the link sends users to a website designed to steal sensitive personal information, like credit or debit card numbers, emails or passwords. Hackers can then use this data to break into online accounts, or to attempt another scam – by pretending to be your bank. Scam artists can use some of the details you’ve provided to them, like a credit card number, to trick you into thinking it’s a legitimate call from your bank and providing them with the last missing parts of the information – like the CVV number on the back of the card, or the answer to a security question to access your online accounts.
The spate of messages claiming that “you have received a new voicemail” are part of an ongoing flood of text scams plaguing the UK. The pandemic has forced millions of us to work from home and change our habits. It has pushed more people to rely on web services, such as online banking apps, online supermarket shops, and more. That has created a greater opportunity for scam artists.
And they’ve seized that opportunity with both hands.
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Mobile networks EE, Three and Vodafone all warned customers about the flood of fraud texts. Text messages designed to look like a missed delivery notification complete with a link to reschedule the parcel were sent to thousands across the UK. With a quick skim-read, it can be easy to fall for these scams. We’ve all ordered something online and then promptly forgotten about it.
And if there are delays with stock or slow shipping, it can be easy to forget when an order is due. Not only that, but if you need to leave the house to collect kids from school or grab some shopping, you’ll want to know exactly when that doorbell is going to ring. These text messages prey on our forgetfulness to trick us into following the link.
Other versions of these scams don’t mention tracking with the link, but instead, push users to click the URL to settle unpaid postage on the package.
Between June 2020 and January 2021 alone, Action Fraud – the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime – received 2,867 crime reports mentioning delivery firm DPD. Similar scams involving Royal Mail, Hermes, and other courier brands have also circulated in the same timeframe.
This concerning trend is known as smishing – a portmanteau of scam messaging.
The Money Advice Service warns that “smishing can be difficult to spot, particularly if it’s someone who would normally contact you by text. But, like email scams, there are some tell-tale signs. For example, there might be spelling mistakes or the text just addresses you as Sir or Madam. Real messages from these companies will usually address you by your full name.
“You can also look at the phone number it’s been sent from. First, it won’t be the same as the one on your bank card. Second, it might be sent from an overseas number. Fraudsters won’t just pretend to be your bank. Sometimes they’ll claim to be from an online account such as PayPal, or a service you subscribe to, such as Netflix. Fake text message scams have also been reported targeting customers of government organisations such as HMRC and the DVLA.”
The Money Advice Service, which is the largest single funder of debt advice nationwide, warns anyone who is suspicious of these messages to avoid clicking on any links found in the text. If in doubt, go directly to the website and login as normal – navigating to the Hermes website separately and inputting the order number from the text will soon rumble it as a fake. And since you didn’t follow the link from the text message, you can be sure you’re on the genuine website and your bank details are safe, for example.
If it’s already too late and you’ve fallen for one of these growing number of text messages, you need to act fast. First up, report the scam to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040. If you’ve entered your payment details into a website or online form that you believe was set-up by hackers, you should contact your bank to flag the mistake. This ensures they will be on high alert for any potential fraud.
It also means they can provide you with a new card if they believe the details are already compromised.
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