Smishing on the rise as DIY mobile phone masts used to send scam texts

phone scam
phone scam

Fraudsters are building their own mobile phone masts to send scam texts to victims.

In what is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, a telephone mast was constructed to act as an “SMS blaster” to send scam messages to potential victims.

By using their own DIY mast, the alleged fraudsters were able to bypass mobile phone networks’ systems in place to block suspicious text messages.

The move comes amid a record number of frauds, with the Office for National Statistics estimating there were 3.2 million offences in 2023.

Fraud now accounts for 40 per cent of all crime and is estimated to cost the UK more than £200 billion a year.

Scam texts, known as smishing, is estimated to account for around a fifth of all reported frauds.

These are fake mobile text messages to trick people into downloading malware, sharing sensitive information or sending money to cyber criminals.

The term “smishing” is a combination of “SMS”, or “short message service” – the technology behind text messages – and “phishing”.

The latest alleged scam was uncovered by City of London Police, which hosts Action Fraud, the main reporting system for scams.

Officers from the force’s dedicated card and payment crime unit worked with mobile network operators, Ofcom and the National Cyber Security Centre to crack it.

‘Complex ways to trick the public’

Temporary Det Chief Insp David Vint, head of the unit, said: “The criminals committing these types of crimes are only getting smarter.

“They are working in more complex ways to trick unknowing members of the public and steal whatever they can get their hands on.

“It is vital we work with partners to help prevent the public from falling victim to fraud.

“Remember, a bank or another official authority will not ask you to share personal information over text or phone.

“If you think you have received a fraudulent text message, report it by forwarding it to 7726.”

One arrest was made on May 9 in Manchester and on May 23, a further arrest was made in London. One man has been charged and the second released on bail.