The reality behind the smishers

We are all familiar with the scam text messages that have become so common over the last year. The fraudsters have adapted their business models, realised that quantity rather than quality is the way forward and have bombarded us with requests for payment for undelivered parcels, fines for social media transgressions, payment requests to jump the Covid testing and vaccination queues and all such variants. Many of the texts have been poorly written with spelling and grammatical errors, whilst some just use URLs that are clearly not right. Those scammers are reliant on the less clued up recipients not checking or realising what they are doing.

The motivation for the fraudsters is always financial gain. Even if by following a URL there is no request for payment or money, the chances are that somewhere, someone will profit from your action. That may be simply confirming that the mobile number is genuine and can be sold on to another fraudster, or that there has been a download of malware onto the recipients computer, which in turn could be used to gain resellable or reusable personal and financial information. In worst case scenarios, personal medical information could be shared which is incredibly valueable to fraudsters.

The warnings about these scams are being broadcast but they are often lost in the noise of every day life. If you are suspicious of any text message you receive, you can report it to your mobile network operator by forwarding the text (in the UK) to 7726. Your network operator will then investigate.

But is is rare that we hear of major successes in talking this simple form of fraud. But last week police in Manchester raided a hotel room and arrested a man as well as removing equipment that had been used to send over 26,000 text messages in a single day claiming to be from courier and logistics firm Hermes, asking for payment to re-arrange a delivery. These such text scams have been on the rise in recent months, with the fraudsters trying the tactic of asking for a small payment (usually under £2) and hoping that it will not raise any concerns. However, the small payment is only the start of a bigger scam, as the fraudsters then have personal and financial information they can exploit even further.

Example of a Hermes text message received last week

Not only did the arrested individual have the equipment capable of creating the fraudulent text messages but also had over 44,000 mobile phone numbers stored, ready for more smishing attacks. Whilst this was a major success for the police, it is only the tip of the iceberg. There is likely to be hundreds of similar individuals up and down the country who are operating similar operations at the moment, creating havoc on a daily basis.

The diligence of the police and authorities is key in the war against fraud, but we all need to be ready and willing to take to the battlefield in the fight. That means questioning every suspicious text we receive, reporting them if necessary but most importantly, not giving the fraudsters any fuel to continue their operations by not engaging in any ways with them.

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