Authorities and organisations are issuing warnings to Brits to remain vigilant over the Christmas period as scam parcel delivery texts are set to spike.
You may remember that in 2020 – and continuing into 2021 – there was significant rise in sophisticated scamming and phishing activity throughout the pandemic, with scammers found to have been carrying out fraudulent activity under the guise of just about everything from Amazon Prime, and hot tub sales companies, to social media platforms such as Facebook, and even the NHS.
But one of the most prevalent scams was fake delivery texts.
It’s all part of what’s known as ‘Smishing’ – or ‘SMS phishing – and it’s where fraudsters send texts to mobile phones in the hope that people will click on a link to download malicious software, or give away their private data.
It was even found, thanks to a survey by consumer group Which?, that 60% of Brits received fake texts as scammers impersonate delivery companies during the pandemic.
And that, unfortunately, only looks set to continue over the festive season, as it’s being reported by the BBC that more than a million scam texts will be sent in the UK in just this week alone.
More than half of those will use parcel deliveries to try to trick consumers.
One cyber-security firm, Proofpoint – which works with regulators and retailers, collating and analysing ‘smishing’ texts – says it is seeing ten times more scam messages this year than last, and its Vice President of Operations, Jacinta Tobin, said a mix of COVID and Christmas makes the texts more tempting.
“We are totally susceptible, because we trust and we act quickly,” she said, with 98% of people reading a text within three minutes.
“And up to only a few years ago texts were used by friends and families.”
Ms Tobin also pointed out that fraudsters use fear to manipulate us, and this is just one way to spot a scam, adding: “We don’t want to miss that parcel or present [and] we are seeing more and more urgent messages warning packages will be returned unless action is taken.”
While we know that the run-up to the big day is a time when fraudsters will be hard at work, Proofpoint is also warning Brits that after Christmas, there is also expected to be a spike in scam texts regarding Boxing Day sales, deals, and discounts.
Scam texts related to the new Omicron variant are also said to be expected.
So, what’s the advice then? And what are delivery companies saying about the scams?
This past year, the Royal Mail says it has been contacted by 60,000 members of the public concerned about texts or emails pretending to be them, and as a result, 40,000 websites have been taken down or blocked within 24 hour that claim to be for Royal Mail parcel fees.
Adam Christie – Privacy Manager at the Royal Mail – said consumers will never receive just a text or email from them asking for money or more information.
“The business is doing everything it can to deliver Christmas to people,” he said, “but we would urge people to be suspicious and not to click on any links they are sent unless they are 100% certain it’s from us.”
A spokesperson for Hermes also said: “We’re aware of a phishing attempt claiming to be Hermes where individuals are receiving a text message including a link to pay for parcel delivery.
“We would never ask for payment in this way.”
Royal Mail, UKFinance, and Proofpoint are currently all urging consumers to forward dodgy texts so that they can take action.
Featured Image – Unsplash (Kelly McClintock)