More than a million scam texts will be sent in the UK this week in the run-up to Christmas, with more than half using parcel delivery ploys to trick customers.
Cyber-security firm Proofpoint is seeing 10 times more scam texts than last year and warned consumers to be vigilant of “smishing” fraud through the festive season.
Proofpoint said just over a million scam texts will be sent this week, 56 per cent of which will be fake delivery messages.
Vice president of operations Jacinta Tobin said a mix of Covid and Christmas makes the messages more tempting to click on.
“We are totally susceptible, because we trust and we act quickly,” she said, with 98 per cent of people reading a text within three minutes.
She added that businesses have only recently begun using texts, and with that scammers too, who have become very effective.
“Smishing” or “SMS phishing” is where fraudsters send texts to mobile phones in the hope that people will click on a link and download malicious software or give away private data believing they are engaging with a legitimate courier service.
In August a 20-year-old computer science student was jailed for £185,000 worth of smishing fraud texts to defraud the public, using the likes of Royal Mail and HMRC. Abdisalaam Dahir’s arrest formed part of a week of action in May led by officers to crack down on individuals suspected of committing smishing scams.
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.”
In the first half of this year, UKFinance’s dedicated crime unit made several arrests, taking down 24 criminal gangs and preventing £85m worth of fraud. But the scams keep evolving with the Christmas period forecasted to be particularly difficult.
Consumers are also being urged to 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.
Jacinta Tobin of Proofpoint advised consumers to be “very sceptical” of mobile messages that come from unknown sources and warned that engaging with such messages can confirm to scammers that you are a real person they can take advantage of.