A sneaky SMS “spoofing” tactic designed to con unwitting people out of cash appears to have surfaced in the UK after doing the rounds in Australia.
The message appears on your phone from a sender called “Mum” asking you for money because they brought the wrong card to the shops. It also gives you the payment details for a bank transfer, including the account number and sort code.
The shocking scheme involves scammers using a method known as “spoofing” to make messages look as if they were sent by someone you know. Fraudsters typically use this tactic to masquerade as legitimate businesses, such as your bank or a retailer.
However, the latest twist in this alarming technique has involved criminals pretending to be loved ones as they may be more likely to elicit an instinctive response.
In this case, the message from your “mum” states: “I’m out shopping and brought the wrong card with me.” It then asks you for a specific sum of money, with your “mum” promising to “pay you back when I get home.”
The scam SMS was first spotted in Australia last year with variations on the places mentioned in the text, including local retailers and the petrol station. It also echoes a similar WhatsApp scam aimed at parents in which tricksters pretended to be kids asking for money from the bank of mum and dad.
How to report a scam text message
In most cases, you should see a warning when you open a suspicious text prompting you to report it to your mobile network provider.
But, if you miss or ignore that alert, there are still ways to have it investigated and the number blocked.
The UK government’s National Cyber Security Centre directs people to forward suspicious texts to the number 7726. This is the SMS scam reporting service operated by UK mobile network providers.
To forward a text, just hold down the message bubble, then select “more” on iPhone or the three vertical dots at the top right of your screen on Android. Next, tap forward, input 7726, and press send.
The 7726 service has removed 17,000 scams based on reports from the public.