Beware of scam texts that could cost you thousands of pounds

Lynn Wright / 03 March 2016

Don’t fall victim to fake text messages claiming to be from your bank or building society. Follow our top tips to keep your privacy and money protected.



If you think spam and phishing emails are the only way cybercriminals attempt to steal your money or identity, think again. 

According to Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA), there has been a sharp rise in the number of fake text messages sent to bank customers on their mobile phones in an attempt to defraud them.

Top five scams in the UK today.

How do text scams work?

The text scam works like this. Victims get a 'text alert' claiming to be from their bank alerting them to suspicious activity on their account. The text advises them to verify their bank account details by visiting a website or calling a number. 

Both the website and telephone number are controlled by fraudsters, and are designed to trick people into sharing their account details so they can access the victim’s bank account.

Other fake texts trick recipients into expecting a call from their bank’s fraud department – the fraudster then calls the victim and tries to trick them into revealing their bank details.

Read our tips to beat nuisance callers.

How can I tell if a text is fake?

Spotting these scam texts can be tricky. To make them look authentic, criminals cleverly alter the sender ID so the name of your bank appears as the message sender. Your phone then adds it to existing, genuine text messages that you’ve previously received from your bank or building society.

Be wary of fake text messages claiming to be from government departments, in particular from the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), informing you of a tax rebate or penalty and requesting your personal or bank details.

Your bank or building society will never ask for your bank account number, sort code, PIN or password in a text message or email. Nor will any UK government department request personal or financial information in this way.

Five things your bank will never ask you to do.

What can I do to protect myself?

Follow our advice to keep your bank accounts secure:

  • Be wary of any text message that asks you to ‘update’ or ‘verify’ account details.

  • Never provide personal information, passwords or answers to security questions if requested to do so in a text message.

  • Never click on any link in a text message.

  • Never call a telephone number given in text message that claims to be from your bank or building society. Check the message is authentic by calling them on a telephone number that you trust – such as the number on the back of your bank card or on a bank statement.

  • Never transfer money to a new account because someone claims there’s been fraudulent action on your current account, even if they claim the new account is in your name. Your bank or building society will never ask you to transfer money to a new account.

  • Fake text messages typically demand you take immediate action. Be wary of texts that say ‘urgent action required’ or ‘you only have two days to reply’.

  • Report suspicious text messages to Action Fraud on 0300 123 20 40 or at http://actionfraud.police.uk.

  • If you receive a suspicious email from HMRC, forward it to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk Contact HMRC at security.custcon@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk if you think you’ve given any personal information in reply to a suspicious text.

For more tips and useful information browse our technology articles and consumer rights section.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.