UK Finance is warning consumers to be on the lookout for “smishing” text message scams from criminals exploiting the coronavirus outbreak.
Smishing is when criminals use text messages impersonating other organisations to trick people into giving away their personal and financial information or money. These scam texts often claim to be from government departments, banks or other trusted organisations, offering payments related to the coronavirus outbreak or claiming to be issuing fines.
Often the messages will include a link to a fake website that is designed to trick people into giving away their financial and personal information such as bank details, passwords and credit card numbers. Criminals are also using a technique called “spoofing”, which can make a message appear in a chain of texts alongside previous genuine messages from that organisation. The banking industry continues to work closely with mobile network operators, government and other industry stakeholders to crack down on this type of fraud.
UK Finance is urging consumers to avoid clicking on any links contained within text messages, and to always log into their bank account to update their information or make any legitimate payments. Customers can report suspected spam text texts to their mobile network provider by forwarding them to 7726.
Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime, UK Finance, said:
“Criminals are callously exploiting the coronavirus outbreak to commit fraud, including using scam text messages imitating government departments, banks and other trusted organisations.
“We are urging consumers to remain vigilant and avoid clicking on links in any unsolicited text messages in case it’s a scam.
“It’s always safer to log into your bank account directly or contact the organisation on a trusted number or email such as the one on their official website.
“Always follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information. If you receive a suspicious text message, report it to your network provider by forwarding it to 7726.”
Consumers are reminded to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police.
Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse, or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.
For more information please call the UK Finance press office on 020 7416 6750 or email [email protected]
Notes to Editor
- UK Finance is the collective voice for the banking and finance industry. Representing more than 250 firms across the industry, we act to enhance competitiveness, support customers and facilitate innovation.
- Smishing is when criminals pretend a message is from your bank or another organisation you trust. They will usually tell you there has been fraud on your account and will ask you to deal with it by calling a number or visiting a fake website to update your personal details. It’s also very easy for fraudsters to send you a scam text, manipulating the phone number or displayed sender name to look like one you already recognise. So always take a moment to stop and think whether a message could be a scam, and if in doubt contact the organisation directly on a number you can trust like the one on the back of your card or on their official website.
- The banking industry, law enforcement and mobile phone companies continue to collaborate closely to tackle “smishing” and number spoofing. In November 2018, the Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF) and Mobile UK announced an initiative with the banking sector called PhishGuard, to combat SMS-based phishing attacks.
- The banking industry is also tacking fraud by:
- Investing in advanced security systems to protect customers, including real-time transaction analysis, behavioural biometrics on devices and technology to identify the different sound tones that every phone has and the environment that they are in.
- Introducing an industry voluntary Code, launched on 28 May 2019, that has introduced significant new consumer protections against authorised push payment (APP) fraud. Victims received £41 million in compensation in cases assessed under the APP voluntary Code between 28 May 2019 and 31 December 2019.
- Delivering the Banking Protocol – a ground-breaking rapid response scheme through which branch staff can alert police and Trading Standards to suspected frauds taking place. The system is now operational in every police force area and has prevented over £100 million of fraud and enabled 664 arrests since it began being rolled out in 2016.
- Helping customers stay safe from fraud and spot the signs of a scam through the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign. 27 major banks and buildings societies have signed up to the new Take Five Charter, bringing the industry together to give people simple and consistent fraud awareness advice. Signatories are required to use the Take Five campaign’s clear information on their websites, digital banking facilities, ATMs, social media, in branch displays and staff communications.
- Sponsoring a specialist police unit, the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), which tackles the organised criminal groups responsible for financial fraud and scams. In 2019, the unit prevented an estimated £31 million of fraud, secured 75 convictions and disrupted 23 organised crime groups.
- Hosting and part-funding the government-led programme to reform the system of financial crime information sharing, known in the industry as Suspicious Activity Reports, so that it meets the needs of crime agencies, regulators, consumers and businesses. This forms part of the national Economic Crime Plan, an ongoing partnership between the government, law enforcement and private sector.