A complete guide to recognising and reporting scam texts

29 August 2023


Atom bank
Atom bank
A man holding a phone with a scam text alert.

A complete guide to recognising and reporting scam texts

Unfortunately, scam texts are becoming increasingly common and difficult to identify with scammers and their sneaky tactics on the rise. Often disguised as delivery services, phone providers or banks, they target people for their personal information and banking details.

There has been a 57% rise in scam text fraud post-pandemic with many phishing attacks capitalising on vulnerable people amidst the cost of living crisis. And, the consequences of having personal information stolen can be scary and can even lead to identity theft or loss of money.

To help you avoid being sucked in by fake messages, we’ve put together this guide on the dangers of phishing and how to spot those pesky scam texts.

What is phishing?

Let’s start by looking at what phishing is: it’s when fraudsters send texts (or emails) with the aim of getting someone to reveal valuable personal information, like passwords or bank details, for their own gain.

Scammers tend to target vulnerable people who are less likely to detect that the message isn’t legit. They’ll often structure the message with a sense of urgency or suggest that there’s a problem to get an immediate reaction from the recipient.

4 common scam texts to be aware of in 2023

Now, let’s expose some of those crafty schemes that scammers are using to trick people. There are lots of different types of scam texts doing the rounds at the minute, from Amazon scam texts to scammers pretending to be family members. It’s important to be able to weed out these suspicious messages to avoid becoming a victim of fraud and to help you protect any vulnerable people in your life.

1. Delivery company scams

Scam texts and emails from delivery companies, such as Evri and Amazon, are common, and can be especially convincing if you’re waiting on a parcel. You can often tell that a text hasn’t come from the company it’s claiming to be, by the way it’s worded. However, they are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

If you’re unsure, double check the phone number the message has come from by searching the number. Most of the time, if the number has scammed others, it’ll have been reported online. Make sure you don’t click on any links within the message and contact the company directly to report the suspicious activity.

2. Competition scams

Winning a competition is exciting, but not when it’s a scam. A recent trend we’ve noticed is texts or emails claiming to be from companies, such as Boots and Sainsbury’s, saying that you’ve won a competition.

If you’ve not entered a competition with these retailers, it’s likely these texts are a scam trying to lure you into clicking on a dangerous link or handing over personal information.

3. Family member scams

These scams involve the fraudster texting something along the lines of:

“Hi mum, I’ve broken my phone, please message me on this number.”

If you get chatting, the scammer will go on to ask for money to be sent to their own bank account, leaving you out of pocket.

If you receive a message like this, you’ll likely be able to tell that it’s a scam message. Be sure to call the family member or friend the text is claiming to be from on their original phone number (not the one you received this message from). It’s always good to double check the situation with them!

4. Number spoofing

Number spoofing scams involve fraudsters cloning the phone number or ID of a business you trust, commonly a bank, to trick you into moving money out of your account and into theirs.

Never believe someone is who they say they are just because their details match the business they say they’re from. If it feels suspicious, take your time, don’t agree to anything and go out of your way to double check you’re speaking to a trusted source.

Read our guide to find out all the details on protecting yourself from number spoofing scams.

Scam texts: the do’s and don’ts

It’s hard to know the best thing to do in response to suspected scam texts, so we’ve outlined a couple of do’s and don’ts to help you stay safe and secure:

The do’s

  • Do stop to think

Scammers love urgency! So, while it can be second nature to automatically reply to text messages — especially from names or companies we recognise — it’s always best to pause and consider if this could be a scam. Be especially cautious of texts that claim immediate action is needed. Scammers often use this tactic to pressure victims into providing information.

If something seems dodgy with the text message, it’s always best to confirm any requests with a registered company number.

  • Do block suspicious phone numbers

Blocking a phone number will prevent it from sending you any future unwanted texts. However, keep in mind that this doesn’t prevent the same scam being tried by a different number.

  • Do report the text

If you receive what you believe to be a scam text, it’s a good idea to report this directly to your phone provider. This will allow them to investigate the claim further and prevent any future criminal activity.

The don’ts

  • Don’t respond to the text

Responding to a scam text shows the scammer that your phone number is live, which puts you at greater risk of being targeted again. Don’t try to request further information or respond out of anger to suspicious texts. Instead, it’s always best to block and report these numbers.

  • Don’t share personal information

You should always be suspicious if a text prompts you to share any personal information. For example, your bank details or passwords. No legitimate company will ever ask you to reveal personal or security information over text.

  • Don’t click on any links

Scammers often impersonate legitimate organisations. For instance, Post Office and Amazon scam texts may direct you to sites that look legitimate, but this doesn’t mean you can trust these texts.

Clicking on a link in a scam text could lead you to spoof sites designed to steal your personal information, compromising your device’s security and privacy.

  • Don’t transfer any money

Once money has been transferred, it can be tricky to get it back. As a general rule, never send money if someone is asking for it, unless you can be sure that the person or company is genuine.

Confirmation of Payee is a name checking service introduced in 2020 to help you verify the details of the account you’re transferring money to. This can add an extra layer of protection against scammers using false names for accounts by helping you double check the payee name during a transaction. At Atom bank, we use this service to check incoming and outgoing payments, but not every bank offers this service, so make sure you’re also doing your own research.

How to report scam texts

Reporting scam texts is a breeze and totally free. All you need to do is forward the text message to 7726. Operators will use these reports to investigate suspicious senders and block these numbers from their networks, preventing future scam activity.

Alongside reporting texts, there are also regulatory bodies to which you can flag any misleading or scam adverts you may come across. The ASA has a simple scam reporting form that anyone is able to fill out online. Information taken from these reports will be shared with key industry partners to remove any reported scam ads and stop similar ones from appearing.

How are scam texts phrased to catch you out?

Scammers can be crafty wordsmiths. Their aim is to try and lure you into completing whatever fraudulent activity they have planned, whether it’s clicking a link, sharing your bank details or transferring money.

For example, last year, an Apple Pay scam text saw fraudsters telling iPhone users that their Apple Pay Wallet had been suspended and to click the link to resolve this. The wording in the message gave no indication that it was a scam, no typos, grammatically correct, and straight to the point as you would expect from Apple (or any business).

If you think you’ve been scammed

If you’re worried that you might have fallen victim to a scam text or other fraudulent activity, notify Action Fraud ASAP. You have two options for reporting: dial 0300 123 2040 or go to the Action Fraud website.

Action Fraud serves as the official platform for reporting instances of fraud and cybercrime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For individuals in Scotland encountering fraud or any other financial crime, you should contact Police Scotland via 101.

Checking your privacy settings

Privacy settings mean you can choose what personal information the source (website, browser, platform) you’re visiting can collect, use and store. This often varies depending on the source and what it’s used for, which is why it’s important not to overlook or simply ‘accept’ this step when using your device online. If you’re picky with your privacy, it makes it harder for potential scammers to access your private details.

Whether or not you’ve fallen victim to a scam text, as a starting point, we would recommend checking your privacy settings on each of your devices, as well as the platforms that you use a lot This will limit the risk of sharing information you don’t want to be tracked and minimise the amount of scam texts you receive, if any.

These can usually be found within either your device settings, browser settings (such as Google Chrome), or in-app settings. For example, Facebook and Instagram are often labelled under privacy and/or security settings, so be sure to read through them carefully before selecting your preferred option.

Why should you report scam texts

Your actions can make a difference! Reporting scams makes you a tough target and reduces the number of scam texts. Plus, you’ll be safeguarding others from falling prey to these tricks. It’s a win-win!

Take a moment to report scams via the National Cyber Security Centre’s Report a Cyber Incident service. Together, we can put a stop to these fraudsters!