Criminals are sending out fake text messages claiming to be issuing fines for going outside or offering payments related to coronavirus, financial firms are warning.
“Smishing” text messages claim to be from legitimate organisations such as banks or government departments. They aim to trick people into giving away their personal and financial information or money.
Some texts may claim that the recipient has to make a “penalty payment” after having been seen leaving their house on several occasions.
Others may claim that the recipient is due to a Government payment as part of efforts to support people affected by Covid-19.
Trade association UK Finance, which issued the warning, is urging people to avoid clicking on any links within texts, and to always log into their bank account to update their information or make any legitimate payments.
Customers can report suspected spam text texts to mobile network providers by forwarding them to 7726.
UK Finance also warned that criminals use a technique called “spoofing”, which can make a message appear in a chain alongside previous genuine messages from organisations.
It said the banking industry continues to work closely with mobile network operators, Government and other industry bodies to crack down on frauds.
Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime, UK Finance, said: “Criminals are callously exploiting the coronavirus outbreak to commit fraud, including using scam text messages imitating government departments, banks and other trusted organisations.
“We are urging consumers to remain vigilant and avoid clicking on links in any unsolicited text messages in case it’s a scam.
“It’s always safer to log into your bank account directly or contact the organisation on a trusted number or email such as the one on their official website.
“Always follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information. If you receive a suspicious text message, report it to your network provider by forwarding it to 7726.”
Which? head of money Gareth Shaw said: “Criminals are exploiting the chaos caused by coronavirus to trick people with a range of scams, so it’s important that consumers are on their guard when they receive texts claiming to be from their bank or other trusted organisations, especially those including a link asking for personal or financial information.
“With millions of people at increased risk of losing money to sophisticated fraudsters, it’s vital that banks also provide strong safeguards for their customers. This includes the whole industry signing up to the protections offered by the bank transfer scams code, and all banks working to swiftly introduce name-check security.”
UK Finance is reminding people of the advice from the national Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign:
– Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
– Challenge: Could it be fake? It is OK to reject, refuse, or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
– Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you have fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.