Few of us have escaped the plague of spam texts, including those from companies trying to get us to sign up for services we don’t need or designed to rip us off.
These are usually easy to spot. They’ll typically tell you you’re entitled to compensation of some form, for mis-sold payment protection (PPI) or an accident you recently had. Or they might suggest you’ve got debt they can write-off. You won’t recognise the number the message has been sent from, and it may even come from abroad.
The company behind the message usually won’t identify itself. It’ll typically offer a phone number to find out more.
Unfortunately, there isn’t an official opt-out for these messages, as they’re often sent to large groups of random numbers. Or they may be sent from pay-as-you-go mobiles registered abroad.
Yet it is possible to reduce the number received, so here are some tips...
Whatever you do, don’t reply. The messages might say you can reply ‘STOP’ to put an end to their contact, but this only confirms you’re a real person.
They may be sent to a stack of randomly generated numbers, so by doing this you play into the rogue firms’ hands. If you reply you’ll risk your details being sold to other firms and increase the number of unwanted texts received.
Find out how to stop unwanted marketing texts.
Avoid giving your number out
We are usually asked for our contact details when filling in a multitude of forms, but consider where these may end up.
Unless essential, don’t give your number out. This should reduce the number of unwanted texts and calls received.
Don’t list your number online
This includes the likes of Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else that might suggest you add your mobile phone number.
Dodgy firms have various ways to access your number, but often it’s a matter of guesswork on their part. Don’t make it easy for them.
Receiving nuisance calls? Read our guide to stopping them.
Complain about scam and spam texts
You can complain to your mobile operator and/or the Information Commissioner.
The more mobile users do this, the more spam messages can be stopped in the future.
By complaining to the ICO, the company will be investigated, and may be hit with a fine of up to £500,000. This threat is aimed at those sending millions of unlawful spam texts.
However, the ICO can only target companies sending texts within the UK or on behalf of UK-based companies, and many come from abroad.
Alternatively, you can forward the message to your network provider at 7726, ensuring this includes the senders’ number to report them.
If you receive a suspicious email claiming to be from HMRC, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org or forward the message to 60599 (you will be charged your network rate).
Contact HMRC at email@example.com if you think you’ve given any personal information in reply to a suspicious text.
Watch out for banking scam text messages
According to Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA), in the last few years 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.
The text scam works like this. Victims get a text 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 clicking a link to 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.
How can you spot the fake bank scam
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.
Protect yourself from the bank text scam
- 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 at actionfraud.police.uk.
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