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Banking customers warned about spike in text scams

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Customers of Barclays, Halifax, HSBC and Lloyds are being targeted in banking scams sent via text messages.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) said it had received “considerable evidence” of text-based banking scams over the last month.

These messages tend to be phoney security messages, where scammers pose as the bank and request confirmation of a payment made from a digital device which has not been used before. 

The text message includes links that take the recipient through to a spoof web page where they can supply their bank login details, which the CSTI noted could put them at risk of theft and banking fraud.

Katherine Hart, lead officer at CTSI, said that not only had she received “so many reports” of this scam, but she had already received multiple versions of it on her own phone.

She pointed to the increasing use of online payments made over the last year due to the pandemic, and suggested that this meant that people were even more vulnerable to this sort of scam.

Hart continued: “Fraudsters change the form and methods of their scams to match shifting consumer behaviour. The surge in online shopping and payments means that the public must be more vigilant when making online payments and receiving messages claiming to be from their bank.”

The CTSI has recently highlighted growing numbers of Royal Mail ‘parcel’ text scams.

How can I spot a scam text message?

There are all sorts of different ways that scammers can try to dupe you with a text message. In some cases, as with these latest reports, they pose as banks or other financial institutions and highlight some sort of potentially worrying activity involving your account.

Other scams may seem they pretend to be from HMRC and offer the promise of tax refunds or perhaps some form of financial support, should you click on a link and fill out your details.

The National Cyber Security Council points out there are certain common traits to look out for from text message scams. For example, the senders will tend to pose as being someone in a position of authority, whether that’s a bank, the taxman or some other important organisation, to attempt to trick you into doing what they want.

There is often an air of urgency involved too. You are urged to respond swiftly, whether that’s to claim a rebate or ensure that some unexpected activity on your account is legitimate. This can panic you into acting without thinking clearly.

Text scams may also rely on some form of current event too. So around the end of the tax year, there tends to be a spike in rebate-related scams, while the start of 2021 saw a spike in Brexit scams. The last year has also seen a host of home testing and vaccine-related scam attempts.

What to do if you receive a scam text message

If you receive what you believe to be a scam text message, then it’s worth contacting your bank directly ‒ not through any links contained within the text ‒ to establish whether it is genuine or not.

It’s also a good idea to report the scam. You can do this by forwarding the text to 7726, a free reporting service run by Ofcom, the communications regulator.

You can also report the text to Action Fraud.

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