Three in five people have received fake delivery texts during past year – Which?

Three in five (61%) people have received fake delivery company texts over the past year, according to Which? research.

With many households relying on deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic, fraudsters will pose as couriers and delivery companies to con people.

Of those who received the scam texts, four in five (79%) realised it was fake immediately – but 3% said they lost money to the scam.

Which? also conducted its own experiment, setting up four new Sim cards with major network providers.

The consumer champion said despite the numbers not being shared with anyone, two out of the four received at least one scam text message in just a two-week period.

Scammers use computers to generate combinations of numbers and send messages in bulk using “Sim farms” – devices that operate several Sim cards at a time, Which? said.

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Numbers are often masked or “spoofed” to avoid detection – so someone may appear to have received a text from a delivery company, when it is actually a scammer.

Of those surveyed who said they received one or more scam texts, seven in 10 (70%) had received one purporting to be from the Royal Mail.

Messages usually request a small payment for a parcel to be delivered, with a link to a copycat Royal Mail website, and victims are then called by scammers to try to trick them into sending large sums of money.

DHL, DPD and Hermes were the other most commonly impersonated companies in the consumer group’s survey. Some other scam texts impersonated UPS.

Fake texts can also spread harmful malware.

Spyware circulating through a message claiming to be from delivery service DHL could access sensitive information on devices after being downloaded, Which? said.

Which? said that although companies being impersonated do not have legal responsibility to deal with such scams, they could find better ways to communicate and help raise awareness.

It added that consumers would be better protected if it became standard practice for certain types of companies, such as banks, not to include links or payment requests in texts generally.

The telecoms sector should also continue to work to help protect consumers, Which? added.

Which? has a scam alert service to help consumers understand the latest tactics used by fraudsters.

The consumer champion has also launched a scam sharer tool. More than 5,000 scams have been shared with Which? since the tool was launched in March.

Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert, said: “Couriers and the telecoms industry must take further steps to protect consumers, by making it harder for fraudsters to exploit systemic weaknesses to reach potential victims, and by making people more aware of how to spot such scams.”

More than 2,000 people were surveyed across the UK in May.

Royal Mail told Which?: “We remind our customers that Royal Mail will only send email and SMS notifications in cases where the sender has requested this when using our trackable products that offer this service. In cases where customers need to pay a surcharge for an underpaid item, we would let them know by leaving a grey ‘fee to pay’ card. We would not request payment by email or text.

“The only time we would ask customers to make a payment by email or by text is in some instances where a customs fee is due. In such cases, we would also leave a grey card telling customers that there’s a fee to pay before we can release the item.”

DHL said: “We’re alerting our customers via social media and on our public websites that there are fraudulent SMS messages circulating.”

DPD said: “Our focus has been on providing parcel recipients with a safe alternative to text and email notification and raising awareness of safe links.”

Hermes said: “Hermes would never ask for payment for redelivery and we advise customers to remain vigilant.”

UPS said: “While we are not liable for the actions of third parties, we work to prevent and detect fraud where possible.”

Mobile UK said: “As an industry, we have been taking action to fight the ever-changing scourge of spam texts and calls for many years and educating customers on how to identify and report suspicious activity.”

Here are some scam text tips from Which?: 

– Report the scam text by forwarding it to the network provider on 7726.

– If you have fallen victim, contact your bank to ensure the scammer cannot take any more money from your account and ask to be reimbursed. Many banks have promised to reimburse blameless victims by signing up to a voluntary code protecting bank transfer scams. However, banks may challenge customers if they think the customer did not take precautions.

– If you are unable to get your money back from the bank and feel this is unfair, you could complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.